Unless you live in the two tower blocks overlooking it, it’s unlikely you’ll even be aware of Woolwich’s historic Rushgrove House. And as for the tranquil Mulgrave Pond, most people only ever get a brief glimpse of it from the top of a double decker bus – and even then, you have to know where to look.
But last weekend, the Grade II listed house, tucked away off Artillery Place, was open to the public for an exhibition of work by Royal College of Art students.
Built in 1816, it was enlarged over the years and bought by the Admiralty to become the home of General Sir Anthony Blaxland Stransham, commandant of the Royal Marine Barracks, which was just around the corner on Frances Street. It was sold by the army in 1986 and was used as a family home until last year.
In the grounds of Rushgrove House is Mulgrave Pond, formed in the early 1750s as a reservoir for the royal dockyard. Later, it was adapted to serve steam engines at the Arsenal, with a pipe laid under Wellington Street. It’s been a popular venue for fishing over the years.
On a gloomy Sunday, the creaky old house took on an eerie feel – with the students setting up little hammers to regularly tap on the windows, it must have been spooky after darkness fell.
Last month, Greenwich Council gave planning permission for the 10-bedroom house to be divided into two (one five-bedroom home, another four-bedroom home), so this may have been the last chance to see Rushgrove House before work starts. You can see more photos at TOWIWoolwich, while if this kind of history fascinates you, then splash out on the recently-published Survey of London volume on Woolwich- it’s worth every penny.
As of today, the place is back in the care of property guardians until the builders come in. Like Repository Woods over the road, it’s be another bit of Woolwich’s history that’s strictly out of bounds.
In case there isn’t a chance in the near future, you’ll be able to see it in the cinema – the house was used by director Mike Leigh for his as-yet untitled biopic of painter JMW Turner, starring Timothy Spall, due for release next year.