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A Glimpse Inside Rushgrove House (And A Walk Around The Mulgrave Pond)

November 24, 2013
A still-floating relic from when the Mulgrave Pond was a pleasure ground.

A still-floating relic from when the Mulgrave Pond was a pleasure ground.

It’s human to want what you don’t have. It’s very human to keenly desire what you can’t have. I get that way when I know something of interest exists, but all access is denied. When even a peep is impossible.

The Mulgrave Pond in Woolwich has taunted me for the last two years for this very reason. I knew it was there but not how to get to it. Peter Guillery describes it at length in the Survey of London Vol. 48 and you can see it on the satellite view of google maps. I’ve also heard locals of a certain age reminisce about this hidden lagoon as a site of childhood adventures.

The Survey of London tells us that the pond was created in the 1750s for use as a reservoir for the nearby naval dockyard. It was designed as a fire precaution and also to supply new houses nearby with fresh water. Underground conduits took the water as far afield as the Royal Artillery Barracks and even down to the steam engines at the Arsenal. In recent years, it has been more decorative than practical.

A while ago I walked all around the streets that run up against it, and could find no way in, not even a hole in a fence. It has been privately owned for a while, so it’s hardly surprising that it’s usually off-limits to nosey-parkers like me.

Yesterday, however, I learned via Twitter that the Curating students of the Royal College of Art were holding an exhibition at the listed Georgian mansion Rushgrove House, which overlooks the pond. The Survey of London says that the house was built in 1816-17 for John Cook, who had made his money supplying meat to the nearby barracks.

I thought I’d be able to steal a glance at the pond from one of the upstairs windows. I managed better than that: I was able to walk all the way around it. Oh happy day! I’m delighted to report that the pond is beautifully maintained. The water seems very clean and clear and it looks as if the owners have done some planting and soft landscaping around its edges. A handful of ducks were splashing about, contentedly enjoying their exclusive retreat.

Here are some photographs. I opted for an arty black and white filter because I feel that it highlights the property’s architectural details and time-worn textures.

A big thank-you to @5tewartChristie for the initial tweet about the exhibition.

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7 Comments
  1. Really disappointed I missed this exhibition. Is it still on?

  2. Oh wow, that must have been really exciting! I love exploring hidden places but don’t often get access to them either. I think it’s lovely that the place is well-maintained even though it’s out of sight of the public.

  3. Rushgrove House Project was Curated by RCA students Byzantia Harlow (Painting department) and Paula Lopez Zambrano (Curating Contemporary Art department)

  4. Thanks all for your comments, especially for the names of the curators. They did a great job.

  5. Gillian Richardson permalink

    I was most interesting to come across this today, as I lived in Rushgrove House for 2 years in the 50’s. My guardian, Brig REH Hudson, was Commandant there, and I was married from the RMA Chapel. Is it possible to see it still?

  6. Hi Gillian, I don’t know to be honest. Last I heard, it was up for sale, but I’m not sure who bought it, or if indeed it was sold. I’ll ask my Twitter follows and see if anyone knows. If I find anything out, I’ll post it here! By RMA Chapel do you mean the Garrison Church on the Academy? I live very near it.

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