Not one of my usual dives into the history of an ancient alley as this is a brand new alley that only came into existence thanks to the arrival of the Elizabeth line station at Woolwich.
When the Crossrail project was originally authorised, it didn’t include a station at Woolwich, but following a lot of political pressure, and a deal from the housing developer, Berkeley Homes to build the station box, Woolwich gained a new railway station. Part of the quid-pro-quo was that the housing development would be much larger, with a row of tall towers running alongside the station.
Two of these towers sit on either side of the alley, and while it gives both blocks of flats their entrances away from the main road, it’s quite a busy alley normally as it leads into part of the housing estate as well for many residents.
Named Crossrail Path in October 2015, it’s a name that’s stuck even as the Crossrail project was renamed the Elizabeth line just a few months later, in February 2016.
Starting at the southern entrance, it’s just a wide-open paved space recently lined with trees in planters. A couple of posh doors lead to the flats, but there are also a couple of blander doors, and they lead to corridors that run behind the row of shops that front the main road, for staff to use.
A bit further down on your left, you can peer into Woolwich’s Elizabeth line station and see the escalators that will carry people in and out of the station from tomorrow morning. It’s worth looking at the decoration on the station walls, which are a bit easier to see if you stand back, as the decoration uses images from a Dead Man’s Penny. If that sounds macabre, it’s a reference to the time this entire site was a military arsenal for the government.
At the end of the alley is an ample courtyard space with a local pub, an outlet from a chain of well known food retailers, and an oft-mocked estate agent.
What’s not entirely obvious from looking at it though is that the courtyard space is built for heavy loads. Most paved areas are designed to take a certain amount of weight on them, but this courtyard has a large open space, which is where emergency vehicles would park if there ever was a need for large heavy fire engines to park next to a railway station.
So this part of the courtyard has extra thick stone setts in the paving to carry the weight.
Candidly, this is a pretty boring alley that’s of considerable use to locals but has nothing of interest to say for it – other than it’s called Crossrail, and tomorrow, the Elizabeth line is opening.
So I wrote about it.
The only thing I will say as a local resident is that it’s also a wind canyon and there have been some stormy days where it’s really quite difficult to walk up the alley to the shops.