by Fred Mason
This may be of interest to residents who live near to Lovells Wharf.
Along the new river path there is a small inlet opposite a new reconstructed stone wall.There is a plaque telling us that this is part of a wall left over from Stone Wharf? Perhaps I can spread some light on this inlet. It is in fact the top of a large ramp, 130 ft wide. To see it in its present state no one could guess what it was in the past. As a boy in 1948/50 I had helped my father do some repairs to a boat he owned on this ramp. You could bring a boat up to the river path at the top of Cadet Place that had previously been called Paddock Street. I remember at the time my father telling me that this ramp was a public ramp. My father and is father were sailing barge skippers for Pipers, a yard close by so he would have had local knowledge. Being close to Ballast Quay I should think fisherman from Ballast Quay and Peter boats etc would have used this ramp being so close by.
In the state is now it is just a mess. It has been steel piled, had concrete added more than once prior to the Woolwich Barrier being built, for flood protection, and had been dumped on by various contractors. The big stone ramp that went from high water mark, down to the low water mark at a constant angle has been dredged up to allow ships to get onto their berth at Wimpeys Wharf. The wharf is not there now and it was adjacent down the river. The ramp could best be seen from Lovells path at low water.
Putting two and two together, I don't think think this ramp was for locals to mend boats as it was big and cost a lot of money. The ramp lined up with Cadet Place and the remains of an old stone wall, which on a map dated 1695 tells us here was a Magazine (this is a naval term for a room on a ship to hold gunpowder). I think this ramp must have been built to facilitate the building of this magazine. A great deal of materials would have been needed. As on a map it is quite large going from the river down to Banning Street and from Cadet Place to the end of what is now Babcocks.
Peeping out from the eastern end of Babcocks corrugated iron fence is a stone pier, about 5ft high, the path you are standing on has been built up 4/5 ft, so the pier would have originally been 9/10 ft high. Is this the eastern end of the magazine compound? If you want to see it, be quick, as it won't be there long.
Fred - you know I disagree with you about the site of the Government Magazine - because 1). the site of the magazine was owned by the Government and these other riverside sites were (and are) all owned by Morden College and 2) because plans of the Magazine show it alongside Tudor Bendish Sluice which could still be seen emerging out of the Enderby site underneath the steps into the river alongside the Enderby jetty - it has just been extinguished and removed by the current builders on the Enderby site (one of the last remains of Tudor Greenwich). 3) neither the plans of the Magazine nor the one picture of it, nor the records of it, mention a ramp.
I think what you say about the ramp is very interesting. And I am writing this from memory so I may be wrong. If you look at the 1880 Ordnance Survey map you will see that a site near where you mention between Pipers Wharf and Granite Wharf is marked as the 'District Board of Works' - the local authority before Greenwich Council was invented. Marked on it and heading towards the river is a ramp - in fact if you go into the same yard now you can see the remains of this ramp inland. My guess - and this is a guess - that the District Board of Works built the ramp for the dust carts so that they could take them to the river and tip the rubbish into barges to be taken off down river. Later they moved this whole operation down river to Tunnel Avenue Depot - and you can see the big new E shaped jetty still there near where the Amylum silos used to be. So your Dad could have been right - if it was owned by the Council it was a 'public' ramp.
Hope you don't mind me saying all this