The site of Woolwich Works was originally known as Woolwich Warren - but not for the reason you might expect... It was used as a domestic rabbit warren in the grounds of the Tudor house, Tower Place!
Fish, Rabbits and Horses
The house was built for Martin Bowes, who was a rich merchant and master worker at the Royal Mint, who later became Lord Mayor of London. Bowes developed his rabbit warren and dug fishponds across six acres which he enclosed around his house.
When the site became developed for military purposes, transportation relied heavily on horse drawn carts, and horses used for the artillery itself. The Royal Horse Artillery, part of the Royal Artillery, was formed in 1793 and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery is now based in Woolwich as a ceremonial unit of the army.
The original kettledrums of the Royal Regiment of Artillery were of a uniquely large scale, and were mounted on a carriage. They first appeared in 1689, drawn by six white horses. By the end of the 18th century, the Royal Horse Artillery Band had been formed as a mounted band with trumpeters and kettle drums with some forty members.
In 1770 a revolutionary horse-powered horizontal boring machine was developed which remained in use until 1843 when a steam-powered equivalent replaced it. In 1825, there was an “iron railway” which was a kind of tramway, thought to be cast iron rails on timber, carried trucks drawn by horses.
Woolwich also had an important feline workforce. In 1821, it was reported that rations were to be cut for the forty cats who patrolled the Arsenal’s storehouses, keeping pests at bay. The government refused to continue to pay 3p per week to feed them and proposed reducing the allowance to just 2p per week, a saving of 40p in today’s terms.