Greenwich History

Greenwich has a number of places of great historical significance. Some are obvious such as the Royal Observatory and The Old Naval College. Less well known, for example, is the church of St Alfege who was canonised in 1011 and martyred on the same place as the church now stands. I believe that Henry VIII was baptised in this  church. We spent a very pleasant day in Greenwich on a crisp cold day.

Our first visit was to the Royal Naval College. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, this place was originally the site of aKing Edward VII’s favourite palace, a naval hospital and between 1873 and1998 it was Royal Naval College, providing a number of courses for naval officers including being home to the Royal Navy’s staff college. During WW2, approximately 35,000 men and women graduated from the college. In 1967 Francis Chichester was knighted on the river steps of the College by Queen Elizabeth II for being the first person to single-handedly circumnavigate the world by the old clipper route.


One of the prime exhibits in the museum is the uniform worn by Lord Nelson when he was shot and killed during the battle of Trafalgar. You can just make out the bullet hole of the fatal shot under the left epaulette.


Up on the hill is the Royal Observatory. This place has been established since ‘time immemorial’ (pun) and has a mean approach to time keeping (another pun). Apart from the historic telescopes and observers residence (again designed by Christopher Wren), I was particularly interested to see the collection of clocks made by John Harrison. In the early days of sail, navigators had great difficulty determining their longitude. Latitude could easily be measured buy the angle of the sun, but longitude was a different problem. Old clocks controlled by a pendulum were hopeless keepers of time in rolling seas and the British Government created a competition with a large prize to solve this problem. John Harrison (a carpenter, and amateur clock maker) spent most of his life making a series increasingly accurate clocks that would maintain Greenwich Mean Time at sea. These are all displayed at the observatory. Fantastic pieces of ingenuity and craftsmanship! Captain Cook trialled his third iteration on one of his voyages of exploration. Another exhibit was the original telephone talking clock. I remarked to the attendant that even the Australian version spoke in a similar BBC voice.


Lunch was in a quaint stop at the Greenwich Arms. More mulled wine. This pub must have been a mad house during the recent Olympics as the park at Greenwich was used as a venue for equestrian events. It is just across the road. That explained why all the grass in the park has been removed and is being replaced.

Our final stop, in this full day of historic places, was a visit to the Cutty Sark. This very elegant tea clipper is on display in a dry dock here. It has just finished abut six years of restoration, and 36 million pounds,  and looks fantastic. We could walk underneath the ship, through its cargo deck and see the crews quarters on the top deck. It sailed in the days when there was a premium price paid for the first teas of the season to reach England, and besides, there were no shortage of sailors wanting to sail on such a beautiful ship. These tea clippers for the Formula 1 comparisons of their day.


It was dark as we caught the Dockland Light Railway back to the city for a connection to the tube line that would take us back to Kensington.


Bruce is a keen traveller and photographer. This web site describes his travel and family interests

One thought on “Greenwich History”

  1. But did you stand with one foot on one side of the prime meridian and one on the other? I loved the fact that 1492 was the date on the stone step as you come up from the river, Henry V111 birthdate I think. Columbus’s year of the Americas. The banqueting hall was used in the “The Kings Speech”
    Travel safely

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