Signs of worry over Charlton House’s future

Charlton House sign

English Heritage have complained to Greenwich Council about new signs promoting Charlton House, which have been placed outside the Jacobean mansion.

The two signs, in the council’s house style, use stock photos to advertise the Grade I-listed venue’s availability for weddings, meetings, and other events.

Charlton Society chair David Gardner, which is also chair of the Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party, said he was unaware that the signs would be installed but that the heritage body had complained to the council.

The revelation came at the Charlton Society’s annual general meeting on Saturday, where the council’s management of the house was repeatedly criticised.

Plans for Charlton House’s management to be taken over by a specific trust have been scrapped by council leader Chris Roberts, with it now to be run by a trust which looks after all of Greenwich borough’s community venues.

Charlton Society president Lord Gough – a descendant of the Maryon Wilson family which owned the house – voiced his regret at the collapse of the plans, while Gardner complained the council was “not talking to us” about the future of Charlton House.

The new signs point potential customers to the council’s website, despite the council having recently launched a new website for Charlton House. A previous website for Charlton House, which cost £3,500 to develop, lasted only two years.

The meeting also saw Charlton councillor Allan MacCarthy appeal for people to get in touch with council chief executive Mary Ney (mary.ney [at] royalgreenwich.gov.uk) if they wished to complain about the Run to the Beat event, while assembly member Len Duvall said Greenwich Council and organisers should either improve arrangements and information or axe the event.

The meeting was also addressed by Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford, who spoke about the opportunities – and dangers – presented by riverside developments. You can hear some of his speech below.

  • Charlton Champion contributors Darryl Chamberlain (that’s me) and Nikki Coates, along with Andrew Donkin from the Friends of Maryon and Maryon Wilson Parks, were elected to the Charlton Society committee on Saturday. We’ll be looking at ways to breathe some new life into the organisation and get more people involved – if you’ve got any ideas, get in touch.
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    About Darryl

    Journalist, SE Londoner.
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    21 Responses to Signs of worry over Charlton House’s future

    1. Paul Webbewood says:

      Allan MacCarthy is a decent bloke but it’s irresponsible of him to wash his hands of Run to the Beat. We may as well do away with the councillors, save on their allowances and appoint Mary Ney as Borough Manager to do their job.

      • Darryl says:

        Allan was open about his opposition to Run to the Beat. Reading between the lines, I think he was implying that Ney would take more notice of residents than councillors.

        Angry residents could always get a question asked at next week’s full council meeting – email committees(at)royalgreenwich.gov.uk by noon on Wednesday.

    2. maryorelse says:

      Paul – Allan wasn’t washing his hands of the event – but he knows, as I do, and you should do, that letters from the public to the executive have a very good effect in backing up what Councillors are saying to them. I am always very very grateful to residents who tell me AND write in, Keep writing everyone!!

    3. Neil Clasper says:

      Disappointing to hear that Charlton House won’t get its own trust – seems like a missed opportunity. Charlton House could offer so much more in the way of a local community hub than it does currently; it could – and should – be the centre of local community and cultural activity, with the right investment and management.

    4. Chris says:

      Neil, ever since I moved to Charlton (in 1999) I’ve thought that this wonderful building has been completely on the sidelines. You are quite right.

    5. Peter Cordwell says:

      The advert has that dreadful corporate look to it, like a 1950s detergent ad, that suggests that Charlton House is the last place you’d want to do any of the things advertised. New life is exactly what’s needed to be breathed into it and may I suggest to Darryl and Co. that first impressions are absolutely vital. Visitors should be aware of a vibrant atmosphere the moment they step inside the place. For an example go to Age Exchange, which is now the very best place in Blackheath Village and packed every day. I’d like to help myself but I’m looking for a job.

    6. Rejory says:

      I recently visited Valentines Mansion in Valentines Park, Ilford which was in a little bit of a cultural desert.
      They have turned what was council housing offices in a georgian mansion into a fantastic multi-use cultural hub with restored buildings/gardens with cafe and museum. It does show what CAN be done with a bit of foresight (and of course motivation).

      • Joycey B says:

        Charlton House was once a hive of Activity. With a variety of Adult daytime Classes to attend.All of these are in the past. The focus now seems to be on Wedding functions Also the food in the Mulberry Cafe is not very exciting, & tea & coffee are quite expensive, compared with outside venues. Despite suggestions to restore the Summer House, nothing has been done . One good thing!.The garden in front of the House was a delight in 2013..

      • Joycey B says:

        Just looked at Valentines, it will be good for a visit from Charlton Society members. look
        out for a date in our Memo..

        • Joycey B says:

          Charlton House, is not empty it is used for various activities including a weekly concert in the Old Library, which is well attended.. But if you lived on the Woolwich Road you would not want all of the extra traffic, to the new shopping complex. (Sainsburys & M&S) & now The horrible Blue Box IKEA if it gets built, on the Peninsula.

      • Spoon Taneous says:

        Valentines Mansion looks superb. I’ve just seen the website.

        I visited Charlton House today. The building is just stunning but half of it seems to be used as council offices; the whole of the first floor is off bounds and the grand rooms on the second floor seem to be used to host some training events (the ones that require a flip chart). I wonder who bought the blue chairs??? Some of those stunning rooms seem to be just stuck with those horrendous blue chairs… it is heart breaking…

        Nice tea, ok cake and really friendly staff and customers in the Mulberry rooms but the scope of the place is enormous. It is just beautiful…

        There are so many things that could be done, like linking with the local college to run the cookery/chef/ hospitality programmes and use one of the grand rooms to set up a bistro and open to the public with learners cooking and serving meals (just like the bistro Westminster Kingsway College have in Victoria) only with a much better venue….

        there could be links with the local artist studios to show case their work…

        There are some concerts running which is great but concerts on a Friday at 1pm will only attract a section of the community. Most people are at work at that time. And it seems there are some community activities during the day but again those will only attract a small section of the community.

        In my opinion, the space is fairly wasted, there aren’t any activities in the evenings and on Sundays it is just shut, period.

        It is amazing what, just around the corner, the little ‘Old Cottage Cafe’ have managed to achieve in a tiny space with not very much. Better tea, better cakes and food and a really pleasant space to be in or out. No blue chairs there!!!

        The Charlton House gardens seem to also be always shut, probably because there is nobody around anyway… so why bother opening them…

        My comment about IKEA/Sainsbury’s is really about the amount of energy used to block a project (which may be a good thing, if the project is no good) but it easier to block a project than creating one that benefits the community or suggest alternatives in a constructive way….
        The place where the new Sainsbury’s is being built was a landfill with some boarded up houses, someone referred to it as an eyesore and I agree…

    7. Neil Clasper says:

      The Charlton House website’s ‘What’s on’ page doesn’t seem to be being updated any more: http://charlton-house.org/whats-on. A poor effort.

    8. Spoon Taneous says:

      We have wonderful artists studios down the road (second floor studios) and an amazing gallery space (Charlton House) to showcase that local talent (and with tea rooms to add to the package!!!….) put 2 and 2 together and you have a cultural hub that could easily compete with the Dulwich Picture Gallery or the Hornimans Museum.

      It frustrates me to see people spending so much energy on the ‘IKEA/ Sainsbury’s issue’ whilst Charlton house is empty and its Summer House practically derelict…

      • Neil Clasper says:

        I don’t think Ikea/Sainsbury’s and future-of-Charlton House are binary issues.

        Strikes me that there’s a lack of any great ideas or leadership regarding what Charlton House could be: from the council, or from CH management. From my point of view a good start would be taking a look at what’s been done to reinvigorate Mycenae House in the last year or so, and then the same with Hall Place in Bexley. Both are some way ahead of CH in terms of their programme of events, engagement with users, and marketing and promotional efforts.

        At the time of writing, Charlton House’s website has no events beyond the end of May listed: http://charlton-house.org/whats-on

        • Paul C says:

          I am not sure when the Heritage Trust is due to take up running of Charlton House but I remember some general grumbling at the hustings that the Trust would be overseeing several different venues of very different types. A quick Google reveals that Mycenae House is managed by the Vanbrugh Community Association under contract from, and with financial help from, the council. So, given how well Mycenae House seems to work, would it not make more sense for the council to look into VCA either running CH as well or working in partnership with a similar organisation? I can imagine there would be lots of opportunities for crossover events.

        • Spoon Taneous says:

          I agree, the IKEA Sainsbury’s issue is unrelated, and your suggestion could be a good starting point.

    9. If they build the IKEA then it’ll take twice as long for anyone to get through the traffic to Charlton House. I’m not at all sure it’s an either / or question.

      • Spoon Taneous says:

        If that happened, perhaps the GLA will improve the area’s very poor public transport links currently available. If they were adequate there would be no need to use the car all the time.

    10. Pingback: What’s happening at Charlton House? And how would we know? | The Charlton Champion

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