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Hydracity Inspiral Detour 3 – Woolwich Arsenal Sailor Forbes Spirit Guide no. 236

February 28 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Sailor Forbes Spirit Guide no. 236 – Hydracity Inspiral Detour exploration:

A R&D walk for Hydracity – as Sailor Forbes Spirit Guide no. 236 – walking the Thames Path from Woolwich Old Naval Docks to the old pillbox bunker directly opposite the Barking Creek outfall from the Roding River, with detouring: this walk uncovered, and reimagining, the City of London’s origins on the South-Eastern banks of Woolwich sound. Here under the secret city of the Royal Arsenal, and reburied under the concrete of Riverside development lie the remains of the pre-Roman Celtic city.

It is here that the shaft of Woolwich foot tunnel, reaching down past the alluvial soils into a shifting gravel and clay, echoes with the tales of pre-Roman civilisation; a port HAVEN on the Thames, hillforts aligned on solstice lines, Pythagorean geometry and Iron Age meridian lines. These other histories buried beneath a shifting Thames line, now hidden beneath the military and naval industrial complex or overlain by regenerated apartment blocks describe another pre-Greenwich meridian, with roads and communication lines dictated by a strict solar geometry (as described in Graham Robb’s The Ancient Paths- Discovering the Lost map of Celtic Europe):

‘BecauseĀ of the constant threat from treasure-hunters,’ the discovery had been kept secret since 1986…(now) the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit could reveal that ‘a major fortified settlement’ had been discovered on the Woolwich Power Station site: Constructed about 250 BC, centuries before the foundation of the City of Londinium by the Romans, this major site on the south bank of the River Thames controlled the river for over 200 years. …The complete defensive circuit would have enclosed an area of at least 15-17 acres… dominated a wide area and was effectively the capital of the London Basin for part of the Iron Age. (quoted from G. Robb 2013: 260-261)

Searching among the relandscaped ground between Beresford Street and the wall of the Thames foreshore flood defences you can look up at the rising ground above the Woolwich Ferry, near the foot tunnel exit, and see the promontory of St Mary Magdalene Church Yard or to the East the rising ground of old Woolwich. Undoubtedly this location on the Thames, looking out to sea, was an ideal site for settlement. Located on the last stretch of river before the more unpredictable surging tide around the narrowing bend of the Isle of Dogs that low marshy ground, formerly known as Stebunheath, you can see far out along the Estuary. Other oppida – on the reaches of the River Roding and those yet to be located – suggest a complex of settlements entirely independent of the Roman foundation of London the City- as the original centres of a Celtic metropolis along the Thames.

So, Sailor Forbes’ impression that the Woolwich foot tunnel Southern shaft marks the centre of a pre-historic London is no longer to be doubted.

Part 2 Flotsam to Jetson; Sailor Forbes Spirit Guide no. 236 walk will be launched in Autumn 2021



February 28
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Woolwich Arsenal station
London, SE18 6EU United Kingdom + Google Map