Greenwich’s royal borough bandwagon rolls from February

There’s been a short delay in converting Greenwich from a dowdy old London borough to a shiny new royal borough, councillors heard last night – with the changeover now due to take place on Friday 3 February, a month later than previously expected.

The big day is likely to be marked with an event for councillors and “key stakeholders” at Woolwich Town Hall, where they will be able to vie the letter patent which grants royal status, assistant chief executive Katrina Delaney (who’s also the council’s head of communications) told a cabinet meeting.

As for the rest of us mere mortals, the council is considering showing the letter patent off to the public at events in Greenwich and Eltham over that weekend.

A community concert is planned for Woolwich in the spring, while a suite of music known as the Greenwich Diamond Jubilee Suite has been commissioned. It is being overseen by the Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and is being composed by Trinity Laban for performance by local schoolchildren.

Many of the royal borough plans are tied in with celebrations for the Queen’s diamond jubilee, with council leader Chris Roberts confirming at a meeting a fortnight ago that a royal visit is planned for the river pageant on 3 June.

A poplar tree – every London borough is getting one – will also be planted in Eltham, in recognition of the fact that most of the regal festivitives will be in the north of the borough.

Other ideas under consideration include the striking of a commemorative coin and holding a fireworks display (“I’d be delighted to have the fireworks back,” quipped culture cabinet member John Fahy) as well as commissioning an opera singer to perform in Woolwich town centre.

The changeover will also mean a new crest for the borough. Ms Delaney said “consultations with community groups” had uncovered a desire to build on the borough’s current crest – featuring stars representing Greenwich and cannons for Woolwich – but new elements would also feature a Tudor rose and supporters with crowns. The council was “very close to a crest acceptable to the Royal College of Arms,” she added.

“I don’t want to spoil the surprise when you all get to see it,” she told cabinet members.

Greenwich will also get new a logo in February to replace the current “green angular representation of the river“, which has been around in a couple of incarnations since the mid 1980s. Ms Delaney said after “research and consultation” that the new logo would include the river and the Tudor rose, which already appears on the council’s new website.

As for stationary and signage, Ms Delaney said legally important documents – such as parking tickets – would get the new borough name and identity first, with others as they are replaced.

I don’t know about you, but I still can’t get worked up about the idea of living in a royal borough. I suspect I may be in a minority, but I see my identity as being more about London than Britain or England.

I don’t really identify with the “borough”, either, more the places I lived in and grew up in. Talk of “key stakeholders” and “consultations” that took place largely out of sight only reinforce that view. But if I think of the borough of Greenwich, I tend to think of the river, parks, the clatter of overground trains and reddy-brown lamp posts more than the royalty who haven’t lived here for centuries.

Indeed, there’s no material benefit, no special privileges from becoming a royal borough – council leader Chris Roberts said at the last full meeting that “the primary result is one of civic pride… but our work in tourism and economic development will be enhanced by royal borough status”. Anything that brings economic benefits has got to be a good thing, but the rest of it leaves me a bit underwhelmed, and “civic pride” always feels like “the council celebrating itself again”.

I’d like to know what you think, though – if you live in the borough, please vote in my poll, and wherever you live, share your thoughts below.


  1. If there’s greater opportunity for bunting then I might deign to be a bit more excited. Bunting’s good. Other than that, I’m a bit meh. <– options to add bunting to any website 😉

    Quite interested in heraldry too so will probably tolerate a new crest quite well.

  2. I voted in your poll before I read the “if you live in the borough” line – but I watch most of my football there, buy fish and cheese there, often admire the views there, so I’m unrepentant. Actually, I wish there was a third option – as a republican I’d like to be able to say I wish it wasn’t happening and that the councillors had politely said thanks but no thanks.

    Best wishes from the People’s Republic of South Lewisham.

  3. It’s rather annoying. Greenwich used to be royal, sure, when they were the only ones living here, but they buggered off ages ago. Now we’ve got a nice modern event that’s about internationalism, civic pride and people being celebrated for their own achievements, and suddenly the feudals think it all somehow has something to do with them. At least I have an SE3 postcode, so can pretend I’m really in the People’s Republic of Lewisham. Grrr.

  4. Apart from any personal views I might have – I meet local people all the time who think the whole royal thing is really exciting. Most days I meet residents groups or individuals in one part or other of Peninsula Ward, and people often talk about it. The other night a group of newly arrived residents were being welcomed by their neighbours with a great deal of detail about how much they would enjoy living in Greenwich – and how great it was that we were going to be royal. A lot of people seem to be much more into that than Olympics – although that may be a generational thing.

  5. Can’t say I feel the excitement. It’s not that I don’t care as such – I’d agree it’s a good thing to celebrate our heritage. There are bigger things, however.

    I do question the need for more council time and money to be spent celebrating this new-found and ultimately-meaningless status, given the number of much more important issues we are surely facing? Let’s maybe deal with our social issues, education, facilities/infrastructure and transport first, and then perhaps celebrate with what we have left over from those?

    There’s a whole lot more important work to do out there that requires time, money and attention; resources that the council seems quite happy to spend on meaningless faff like borough status, mayoral parties and the like.

  6. Can’t say I’m too bothered by this. I grew up in good old proletarian Greenwich but have been living in the Royal County of Berkshire for several years; I’ve never seen a single royal in my local Lidl.

  7. Oh. How disappointing the comments here. The topic was about Greenwich becoming a Royal Borough.

    Whilst there are lots of things wrong … And yes the Royals have moved on… This is to me about their legacy in being here- and a positive gesture which may make the difference between tourists deciding to visit here.

    This in turn generates the facilities, shops, bars etc that we all enjoy.

    We do need the council to communicate with us, and not quango stakeholders in secrecy…. We do need to see and understand the strategic plan the council should have in making this status work for us.

    But… The status itself won’t make things worse… So let’s be positive about that, eh? S

  8. What hasn’t been commented on is the blatant hypocrisy of this all. Whether or not you like the royal family (I’m neutral) , the Borough Administration have no real interest in the area’s heritage.

    That’s why they connived in the destruction of, for instance, all the bottom of Creek Road so we could get a McDonalds and a Wetherspoons, that’s why no one in the Conservation Department cares if every unlisted Georgian house in the area is defaced with plastic windows and doors, that’s why the planning officers agreed to have the Edwardian stables and banana warehouse in the market knocked down, that’s why we lose a lovely old Victorian waiting room at the Pier, and get a Nando’s.

    Some of this, of course, is down to the fact that they can’t afford appeals from developers, but the borough’s overall care of West Greenwich is patently worse than boroughs like Tower Hamlets, where they’ve done amazing work, with the Spitalfields Trust, on areas like Varden Street. In Tower Hamlets they can combine high quality new builds with the preservation of older houses – in Greenwich that simply doesn’t happen. The area around Woolwich Arsenal could have been a textbook example of how to combine new with old, but as usual, it’s an Epic Fail. Again and again across the Borough, we get cheap, nasty new buildings, which might net the council more income but in the longterm make the area far less interesting to tourists.

    In short, they might like shiny new logos, but they hate old buildings! So making the area a Royal Borough is another re-branding that will make no difference, because the product is the same old same old.

  9. Aren’t you all a little bit tired of being rather despondent and underwhelmed? It’s a little bit of good news that makes my home borough just that little bit different from those around it. Smile and the world smiles with you!

  10. How much is this all going to cost the residents of Greenwich ? I’ve heard £5 million , can anybody confirm ? Why does anyone have any time for this bunch of parasites living off our taxes and the spoils handed down over centuries from their ancestor’s global imperial pillage and robbery ?

  11. I seem to recall there was something said about some Royal Statues being commissioned. Can’t remember where I heard that but am sure it was mentioned at a meeting and the Council was going to commission an artist. Does anyone know what has happened to this project? Maybe the project was dropped when Chris Roberts insisted in having a statue of himself included.

    I like the idea if living in a Royal Borough but cant get excited by the things being proposed. Is anyone really going to be interested in seeing the letter. I dont think so. And which Community Groups have they consulted with, the local Labour Party by chance.

  12. Re: Royal Statues , I believe Bob is right about statues .
    From what I heard small-scale “proto-type” statues ( can’t remember technical name ) were made at a cost of something like £150k , but I don’t know what latest is.

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