Charlton House reopens for meetings, weddings and groups

Charlton HouseNews in from ROYAL GREENWICH HERITAGE TRUST as they start to reopen Charlton House to the public.

Royal Greenwich Heritage trust have been carefully monitoring the pandemic and rate of Covid-19 over the past six months. We are pleased to be able to announce that Charlton House has reopened to the public for pre-booked meetings, weddings, and groups.

To help ensure physical distancing and a safe, comfortable experience for our visitors and staff, we will be limiting the numbers of visitors to the house in line with government guidelines. 

These numbers are: 

  • up to 30 maximum for business meetings and legal gatherings
  • up to 15 maximum for weddings
  • up to 15 maximum for community and support groups

These numbers include RGHT staff and service operators and we will also be asking that all visitors to the house book their visit via telephone or email.

We have been preparing for weeks to safely reopen and are confident in the measures we’ve put in place for a safe reopening. We will continue to follow government guidelines, in addition to the following visitor guidelines to help keep you, our staff, and our community safe:

  • physical distancing reminders
  • hand sanitation stations
  • asking visitors and staff to wear a face covering whilst moving around the building
  • cleansing and sanitising protocols
  • introduction of a one way system

The safety of our visitors, staff and community is our top priority. To enquire about placing a meeting, wedding or group please email office@rght.org.uk or call 020 8856 3951.

We very much look forward to safely welcoming you back to Charlton House.


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Lead thieves causing more damage to Charlton’s listed buildings

Charlton Summer House
The Summer House, with St Luke’s to the left

During the summer, we reported on lead thieves causing damage at St Luke’s Church in Charlton Village. Now two other listed buildings in the village – the Summer House and the Assembly Rooms – have been vandalised by ham-fisted thieves who have caused thousands of pounds of damage while trying to get hold of lead, some of it degraded.

It remains unclear whether they will be able to cover the damage on insurance – a major setback to efforts to restore the buildings. Thieves have also targeted St Richard’s church hall in Swallowfield Road.

The Charlton Society‘s RODEN RICHARDSON looks at why each building is important – and explains the damage done.

The Summer House
With its uniquely classical proportions, this 17th century Grade I protected gem of a building is part of the Charlton House Estate and hence in the care of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, which has recently been carrying out much-needed repair and restoration work. The spectacular curvilinear roof is covered in fine, graded slate tiles, with lead flashing along its 4 curved ridges. After storms in January 2018 and tree damage to the roof, the existing and unsatisfactory asbestos felt flashing was replaced with conservation-standard lead.

However, it wasn’t long before this was torn from all four ridges by thieves in a single operation. It was all replaced in early September this year at a cost running into five figures – a sum vastly greater than the stolen lead. But then, at 2am a few days later, the thieves attacked again. No doubt expecting another easy haul, this time they didn’t reckon with an alarm that had by now been installed and they only got as far as partially lifting a short section of the flashing on a single roof ridge, which the Trust was able to repair by the following evening.

Charlton Assembly Rooms
The damage done to the Assembly Rooms

Assembly Rooms
Completed in 1881 in red, handsomely decorative brick and terracotta, the Assembly Rooms were a gift to the local community from the Maryon Wilson family, the former owners and last occupants of Charlton House. Recently Grade II listed, and now the responsibility of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, the Assembly Rooms remain a great community asset which might have been lost if that same community hadn’t saved them from demolition in the 1970s. A highly ambitious restoration project at the time, one of the key tasks was to replace the domed, multi-facetted roof cupola. This highly skilled work was undertaken at a local college by students specialising in the traditional materials and techniques required. The cupola’s dome is covered in lead, and this has now become the Village’s most recent target for attack by lead thieves.

As the picture shows, they managed to prise some of the lead away until they were either caught in the act or because it was more difficult to remove than anticipated. Once again, the value of the lead is minimal when compared to the cost of restoration and repair work, which also involves the base of the cupola structure, the fine tiled roof that the thieves scaled to reach their objective and serious rainwater damage to the parquet flooring inside the Rooms, which, like Charlton House, have been closed since the onset of Covid-19.

Edward Schofield, visitor and operations manager at the trust, says that the attack comes at a time when the charity is working towards ways of safely and reliably reopening the trust’s buildings to the community. “This criminal damage goes beyond the basic theft of materials – apart from the disruption, the overall repair and replacement costs, not least for the extensive scaffolding required, will be considerable.”

St Luke’s
Built in 1630 – a little before Christopher Wren’s Royal Observatory a couple of miles or so away on the same escarpment – historic St Luke’s is one of London’s most compelling and attractive parish churches. Not immediately visible to the eye from the outside, the roof has two ridges forming a valley and it is from here and the gulley at the side that thieves ripped out lead coverings, causing extensive damage in the process, including to the interior fabric of the building. Churchwarden Rick Newman confirms that the amount stolen was minimal but that the cost of repair will run into the tens of thousands of pounds, considerably more than the limits imposed on claims for what is being deemed as “metal theft”. St Luke’s has ambitious plans for the repair and upkeep of the building – important and essential work on the unique castellated tower has already been completed – but with other works required, this theft and vandalism is a major setback.

It has just been discovered that lead has now also been torn from above the main porch and side door to St Richard’s Church Centre at the corner of Swallowfield and Sundorne Roads. Rick Newman describes the crime as “a frustrating addendum to the current epidemic of lead thefts in Charlton”.

For more information on The Charlton Society, visit charltonsociety.org.

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Charlton House trust wins grant to continue work on summer house

Charlton House’s summer house at the subject of a restoration project

Good news from the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, the charity that runs Charlton House…

Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust is delighted to announce a £47k funding grant from Historic England, for works to the 17th century summer house on Charlton House grounds and estate.

Charlton House, built between 1607 and 1612, is considered to be the best surviving example of a Jacobean Manor House in London. Built in the 1630s, twenty years after the main house and following the new classical austerity of Palladianism, the Summerhouse has long been held to be designed by Inigo Jones. At a time when the Newton family were residing in the main house, the Summerhouse’s purpose is presumed to have been that of a prospect house, for use during the summer months for dining and enjoying fantastic views over Greenwich and the City of London.

In 1936 the building was dramatically altered to accommodate public toilets, and this particular use continued into the 1990s. During WW2, a German V2 rocket landed next to the main house causing significant damage and, repair work was undertaken by the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich in the 1940s when much of the structure was replaced with London Stock Brick.

During 2017 and 2018, thanks to generous grants from the World Monuments Fund and a donation from the Friends of Charlton House, the trust carried out works to remove the majority of the 1946 repairs, without damaging the original fabric of the building. This work was carried out by students from London South East College under the direction of architect Charlie MacKeith.

This generous grant from Historic England will allow for essential investigations, development work and repair to take place, which will form part of a much larger restoration project. The vision of Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust is to restore the building to its original condition and put the building back into use, allowing public access and enjoyment.


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– Please tell us about your news and events
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