Greenwich

Woolwich ferry history

Early origins

Ever wondered about the history of the Woolwich ferry?

Its origins can be traced back to the 1300s, when Woolwich was a fishing village and the town had the right to run a ferry. The ferry ran between Woolwich on the north shore and Warren Lane on the south shore.

The earliest references to the ferry can be found in the state papers of 1308, when the waterman who ran it, William de Wicton, sold his business and house to William atte Halle, for £10. In 1320 the ferry was sold again for 100 silver marks. There is no further mention of the ferry during the years that Woolwich rose to prominence as a royal dockyard under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Developments in the 1800s

Later, as London expanded, the movement of troops and supplies became a problem. In 1810 the army established its own ferry that ran from Woolwich Arsenal to Duvals Wharf.

Western ferry

In 1811 an Act of Parliament was passed to establish a ferry across the Thames from Woolwich at the Old Ballast or Sand Wharf, opposite Chapel Street (now Chapel Hill) where the dockyard then terminated.

The ferry became known as the western ferry and was run by a company that called itself The Woolwich Ferry Company. Shareholders included the Lady of the Manor, Dame Jane Wilson, her son Sir John Thomas Maryon Wilson, John Long and John Stride.

The western ferry continued to operate until 1844, when the company was dissolved after a history of inept management.

Free ferry

The free Woolwich ferry was established in the late 1880s.