(The Heart of East) Greenwich Square: What’s in a name?

"Greenwich Square"
I had a look round the Greenwich Square development (formerly the Heart of East Greenwich scheme, before that Greenwich District Hospital) last week – well, I had a look at the exhibition, anyway.

To be honest, once you’ve seen one exhibition for a new housing development, you’ve seen them all, and this didn’t feel much different, down to the Zero 7 soundtrack playing on a TV in a show flat. And, yeah, the website‘s a horror – “perfectly positioned between Greenwich Village [sic] and the Greenwich Peninsula, Greenwich Square’s location provides the best of both worlds”. Pass the bucket.

But this is what developers do. And the exhibition, in its office on Vanburgh Hill, does at least give the chance to get an idea of just what’s going to happen to the hospital site.

The shell of the first building is already looming over Woolwich Road, and the rest of it is looking equally… big. The new council leisure centre (to replace the Arches), library (to replace East Greenwich Library), health centre (to replace what’s left of the hospital building) and council service centre (like the ones in Woolwich and Eltham) will sit on the central square from which the development gets its name, while there’ll be a good number of retail units too. Full details of what’s planned are here.

Indeed, work’s under way now on excavating the basement for the gym – although you can only see that work from high up.

Greenwich Square

To be honest, the developers could come in and press crisp fivers into everyone’s hands and still find this a tough sell to jaded locals. Planning permission for this was given years ago, so the appearance of the huge shell on Woolwich Road has come a bit of a rude shock.

Pair that off with the fact that east Greenwich has already been battered by some spectacularly poor developments – often with retail units that have simply never been used – and it’s easy to be cynical. Doubly so when you remember the council’s commissioned a swimming pool that’s smaller than the one it’ll replace at the Arches, insisting serious swimmers can schlep to Eltham instead (or rather, use Lewisham’s new Glass Mill pool).

But what struck me is just how much this scheme is likely to change east Greenwich, possibly shifting its centre of gravity slightly east. My biggest fear – will the new retail units work when shops on Trafalgar Road already struggle? Six hundred new homes would suggest they’ll do alright – but there could be big changes fanning out through east Greenwich over the coming years. Better to be warned than not – but then many people are still unaware the council plans to sell off the Arches and the old library.

Hopefully, the developers will be wise to this, and talk to (and listen to) local people, and not confuse this with “talking to the council”. With the development including several new buildings and one new street, perhaps asking people for names would be a start. I don’t know whether “Greenwich Square” is fixed as a name, but come on, even “Vanburgh Square” would be better for the development at the foot of Vanburgh Hill.

With the Greenwich Wharf scheme wiping out wharf names such as Piper’s, Granite and Lovell’s, it’d be nice to see east Greenwich’s heritage recognised somewhere before it all goes. So if you had the chance to name four new blocks of homes and a street, what would you call them?

16 comments

  1. Mary

    Thanks Darryl – I have been passing possible names on to the Council naming officer and happy to send in more. Please give me some more?? A lot of names suggested turn out not to be suitable for what are usually sensible reasons – they are duplicates for others nearby, could be easily misinterpreted, are of a living person and so on. Suggestions for the old hospital site have included doctors who worked there and some 19th century Members of Parliament – but none have been quite ok enough. The original name for the field the old workhouse was built on there was Catsbrains – but I haven’t got anywhere with that one. Let me know anyway.

  2. Mary

    ps – its not just this site which needs names – there are other sites all over east Greenwich and the Peninsula.

  3. Steve

    Since the site was previously a hospital, how about:

    Appendix Avenue (I actually had my own appendix removed at this hospital)
    Cardiac Close
    Gallbladder Gardens
    Herpes Hill
    Lumbago Lane
    Rheumatoid Road
    Salmonella Street
    Whiplash Way

  4. Steve

    For the blocks, how about:
    Haemoglobin House
    Measles Mansions
    Tracheotomy Towers

  5. scared of chives

    I think they should overlay a map/diagram of the old hospital onto the current plans so that new tenants can see what went on in their ‘space’. They can then sit back with their Tesco Metro supper bought from beneath their flat and think about all the babies born, ceasing pulses, liver transplants etc and that correspond with it.

    Will pop down tomorrow and suggest it to them.

  6. Clare

    Some food for thought from the Costa del Hither Green, the development built on the site of the old Hither Green Hospital, which closed in 1997. That included a whole bunch of retail units, set back from the road, overlooking the Clock Tower, which was retained from the old hospital. A Tesco Express opened on site. A gym was promised but it never materialised, turning instead into a mini indoor golf centre (odd, yes) which not surprisingly closed a few months after opening. The developer made no effort to market the retail units. One was occupied by a dry cleaners, but they moved out to a site on Hither Green lane where the footfall was greater. The developers then argued that they couldn’t shift the retail units and got permission to turn them into more flats…

  7. Mary

    whatever and whatever – I am being pressed for sensible names for the site – PLEASE email me – mary.mills@greenwich.gov.uk. By sensible I mean sensible. Vanburgh or whatever its spelling is – apparently that is not ok because the word is used all over the area and there is a limit to the number of times it can be used.

  8. Clare

    On the HG hospital site they named blocks after wards, maybe something similar would work here (if they had names…)

  9. Joe

    OK, it’s Vanbrugh, several Greenwich streets are named after Sir John Vanbrugh, a local and apparently esteemed architect of the 18th (?) century.

    It wasn’t a suggestion for a name, just a correction based on the slight spelling error in the article. I really like Steve’s suggestions, but don’t really care what the new place is called as long as it’s not too pretentious.

  10. Jon

    Why not name them after something Olympic related? Might be the legacy now it’s moved on from Greenwich? London based Olympians, Gold medal winners or even the names of the jumps on the equestrian course? (Note I have no idea what these are so if they sound daft then maybe not!)

    Separately, how are the punters that move in supposed to et to wherever it is they’re going! Buses are already rammed, tube / DLR is a hefty walk and the SE train will be diverted shortly I thought? Seems a tad congested…

  11. Wendy

    Maze Hill station is already full to capacity in the mornings. If we want to get on a train after the 8.15 in the mornings then we have to cram our way into a carriage, or wait for a following train. Are the marketing team at “Greenwich Square” highlighting Maze Hill as the main link into London or focussing on the tube at N Greenwich?

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