On Saturday 26 October 2013, local people from both sides of the River Thames will gather in Woolwich to celebrate the 101st anniversary of the foot tunnel which links the town with its north bank namesake. The event is being organised by a recently formed community group known as the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels (Fogwoft).
The Woolwich Foot Tunnel was opened in 1912 by luminaries of London and Woolwich led by Major-General Herbert Francis Eaton, 3rd Baron Cheylesmore, then chairman of London County Council. The Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels together owe their existence to that great Victorian working class hero Will Crooks. The Woolwich MP’s vision was of a free passage under the Thames for people commuting to work in the docks and factories on the north bank.
Fogwoft’s celebration of that historic occasion in 1912 will follow similar arrangements, though without a distinguished soldier in charge of proceedings. That said, a number of contemporary local politicians have been invited to take part in our popular gathering.
For some of us the day will start with a leisurely cycle ride from Greenwich along the Thames Path to Woolwich. Together with the pedestrians assembled in Woolwich, we will walk in procession through the tunnel from south to north, to the area known to this day as North Woolwich. From the north bank of the river, we will then return to Woolwich by ferry.
A single pass through the foot tunnel was sufficient for the Edwardian dignitaries. The difference between then and now is that we shall have the dubious benefit of taking exercise down and up the tunnel stairs, whilst Lord Cheylesmore and his followers had the advantage of lifts. One day in the hopefully not too distant future, those lifts should once again be installed and working.
Those of us who survive the return journey across the river, with the necessary negotiation of around 100 stairs at each end of the tunnel, will partake of a tunnel birthday cupcake (children first). We may then take tea at either the Waterfront café, or an alternative venue for those who cycle back to Greenwich.
Pedestrians should assemble by 11:00 at the Woolwich Foot Tunnel entrance. The cyclists will depart from Cutty Sark Gardens in Greenwich at 10:00.