News Story

Learn the intriguing story behind Beanfeast - the national holiday proclaimed by King George III during his 1773 visit to the site, and the namesake of one of our spaces for hire.

A Right Royal History

From its earliest days, the site of Woolwich Works was a popular and important visitor attraction. People loved its fireworks displays - and it also impressed visiting dignitaries.

In 1773 King George III visited Woolwich. Arriving by barge on 6 July, he pronounced that day as a new annual “bean-feast” holiday. It's said that the royal decree was made after the monarch enjoyed an open-air feast of beans and bacon with a group of workers. He instituted the bean-feast celebration to mark the occasion and it continued to be celebrated for many years.

In a later visit in 1805, the whole site still known as Woolwich Warren was renamed by King George the Royal Arsenal.

The Visitor’s Book, which is held by the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, has lists and signatures from visitors across the world, including:

  • King of the Maoris
  • Queen of the Netherlands
  • The Raja of Cooch Behar
  • Four chiefs of Ugundi, Nigeria
  • Sultan Sayyed Barghash of Zanzibar
  • Cetshwayo kaMpande, King of the Zulu Kingdom
  • Thirty-seven of Buffalo Bill’s Native American Indians
  • The Prime Minister of Nepal
  • Li Hongzhang, Marquess Suyi of the Qing Dynasty
  • The Prime Minister of Nepal
  • King of Afghanistan
  • Crown Prince of Serbia

As well as more local dignitaries from the UK such as Queen Victoria and other reigning monarchs. There were frequent live fire events to impress visitors. An 1841 guidebook advertised easy access, with cheap fares by ferry and rail, to the “immense number of objects of attraction worthy of being seen in the Royal Arsenal…. and the grand military spectacles often exhibited on Woolwich Common”.

One of our seven spaces for hire, Beanfeast, takes its unique name from the popular festival.

A historical book listing visits by royalty and prominent figures in 1908