Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian (0° longitude) and Greenwich Mean Time. The town became the site of a Royal palace, the Palace of Placentia from the 15th century, and was the birthplace of many in the House of Tudor, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The palace fell into disrepair during the English Civil War and was rebuilt as the Royal Naval Hospital for Sailors by Sir Christopher Wren and his assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor. These buildings became the Royal Naval College in 1873, and they remained an establishment for military education until 1998 when they passed into the hands of the Greenwich Foundation. The historic rooms within these buildings remain open to the public; other buildings are used by University of Greenwich and the Trinity College of Music.
The town became a popular resort in the 17th century with many grand houses, such as Vanbrugh castle established on Maze Hill, next to the park. From the Georgian period estates of houses were constructed above the town centre. The maritime connections of Greenwich were celebrated in the 20th century, with the sitting of the Cutty Sark and Gipsy Moth IV next to the river front, and the National Maritime Museum in the former buildings of the Royal Hospital School in 1934. Greenwich formed part of Kent until 1889 when the County of London was created.
- 1 History
- 2 Governance
- 3 Geography
- 4 Sites of interest
- 5 Greenwich Mean Time
- 6 World heritage site
- 7 Economy
- 8 Education
- 9 Transport
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Grenewic, or Grenevic originates with the Saxons, and is literally the green village or the village on the green. It became known as East Greenwich to distinguish it from West Greenwich or Deptford Strond, the part of Deptford adjacent to the Thames, but the use of East Greenwich to mean the whole of the town of Greenwich died out in the 19th century. However, Greenwich was divided into the two Poor Law Unions of Greenwich East and Greenwich West from the beginning of Civil registration in 1837, the boundary running down what is now Greenwich Church Street and Crooms Hill, although more modern references to "East" and "West" Greenwich probably refer to the areas east and west of the Royal Naval College and National Maritime Museum corresponding with the West Greenwich council ward. An article in The Times of 13 October 1967 stated:
- East Greenwich, gateway to the Blackwall Tunnel, remains solidly working class, the manpower for one eighth of London's heavy industry. West Greenwich is a hybrid: the spirit of Nelson, the Cutty Sark, the Maritime Museum, an industrial waterfront and a number of elegant houses, ripe for development.
Tumuli to the south-west of Flamsteed House, in Greenwich Park, are thought to be early Bronze Age barrows re-used by the Saxons in the 6th century as burial grounds. To the east between the Vanbrugh and Maze Hill Gates is the site of a Roman villa or temple. A small area of red paving tesserae protected by railings marks the spot. It was excavated in 1902 and 300 coins were found dating from the emperors Claudius and Honorius to the 4th century. This was excavated by the Channel 4 programme Time Team in 2000, and further investigations were made by the same group in 2003.
The Roman road from London to Dover, Watling Street crossed the high ground to the south of Greenwich, through Blackheath. This followed the line of an earlier Celtic route from Canterbury to St Albans. As late as Henry V, Greenwich was only a fishing town, with a safe anchorage in the river.
Alphege and the Danes
During the reign of Ethelred the Unready, the Danish fleet anchored in the river Thames off Greenwich for over three years, with the army being encamped on the hill above. From here they attacked Kent, and in the year 1012, took the city of Canterbury, making Alphege the Archbishop their prisoner for seven months in their camp at Greenwich. They stoned him to death for his refusal to allow his ransom (3,000 pieces of silver) to be paid and kept his body, until the blossoming of a stick that had been immersed in his blood. For this miracle his body was released to his followers, he achieved sainthood for his martyrdom, and in the 12th century the parish church was dedicated to him. The present church on the site west of the town centre is St Alfege's Church, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1714 and completed in 1718. Some vestiges of the Danish camps may be traced in the names of Eastcombe and Westcombe, on the borders of nearby Blackheath.
The Domesday Book records the manor of Greenwich as held by the Bishop Odo of Bayeux; his lands were seized by the crown in 1082. A royal palace, or hunting lodge, has existed here since before 1300, when Edward I is known to have made offerings at the chapel of the Virgin Mary. Subsequent monarchs were regular visitors, with Henry IV making his will here, and Henry V granting the manor (for life) to Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, who died at Greenwich in 1417. The palace was created by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the regent to Henry VI in 1447; enclosing the park and erecting a tower on the spot of the Royal Observatory. It was renamed the Palace of Placentia or Pleasaunce by Henry VI's consort Margaret of Anjou after Humphrey's death. The palace was completed and further enlarged by Edward IV, and in 1466 it was granted to his Queen, Elizabeth.
The palace was the principal residence of Henry VII, and his sons, Henry (later Henry VIII) and Edmund Tudor were born here, and baptised in St Alphege's. Henry favoured Greenwich over nearby Eltham Palace, the former principal royal palace. Both Mary (February 18, 1516) and Elizabeth (September 7, 1533) were born at Greenwich. The palace of Placentia, in turn, became Elizabeth's favourite summer residence.
During the English Civil War, the palace was used as a biscuit factory and prisoner of war camp, then with the Interregnum, the palace and park were seized to become a 'mansion' for the Lord Protector. At The Restoration, the Palace of Placentia had fallen into disuse and was pulled down. New buildings began to be established as a grand palace for Charles II, but only the King Charles block was completed. It was suggested that the buildings be adapted for a Greenwich Hospital, designed by Wren, and later completed by Hawksmoor. Anne of Denmark had a house built by Inigo Jones on the hill above, now overlooking the hospital and river – the present centrepiece of the National Maritime Museum, founded in 1934 and housed in the buildings of the former Royal Hospital School.
The Royal association with Greenwich was now broken, but the group of buildings remain that form the core of the World Historic Site.
To mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, it was announced on 5 January 2010 that in 2012, the London Borough of Greenwich is to become the fourth to have Royal Borough status. The three others being The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Royal Borough. Due to its historic links with the Royal Family, and its status as home of the Prime Meridian and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Greenwich is covered by the Greenwich West and Peninsula wards of the London Borough of Greenwich, which was formed in 1965 by merging the former Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich with that part of the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich which lay south of The Thames. Along with Blackheath Westcombe, Charlton, Glyndon, Woolwich Riverside, and Woolwich Common, it elects a Member of Parliament (MP) for Greenwich and Woolwich; currently the MP is Nick Raynsford.
The town of Greenwich is built on a broad platform to the south of the outside of a broad meander in the River Thames, with a safe deep water anchorage lying in the river. To the south, the land rises steeply, 100 feet (30 m) through Greenwich Park to the town of Blackheath. The higher areas consist of a sedimentary layer of gravely soils, known as the Blackheath Beds, that spread through much of the south east over a chalk outcrop – with sands, loam and seams of clay at the lower levels by the river.
Greenwich is bordered by Deptford Creek and Deptford to the west; the former industrial centre of the Greenwich Peninsula, and the residential area of Westcombe Park to the east; the river Thames to the north; and the A2 and Blackheath common to the south.
These data were collected between 1971 and 2000 at the weather station situated in Greenwich:
Climate data for London (Greenwich) Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year Record high °C (°F) 14.0
Average high °C (°F) 8.1
15.2 Average low °C (°F) 2.3
7.4 Record low °C (°F) −10
Precipitation mm (inches) 55.2
Snowfall cm (inches) 24.4
% humidity 91 89 91 90 92 92 93 95 96 95 93 91 92.3 Avg. rainy days (≥ 1 mm) 10.9 8.1 9.8 9.3 8.5 8.4 7.0 7.2 8.7 9.3 9.3 10.1 106.6 Avg. snowy days 4 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 16 Sunshine hours 45.9 66.1 103.2 147.0 185.4 180.6 190.3 194.4 139.2 109.7 60.6 37.8 1,460.2 Source no. 1: Record highs and lows from BBC Weather, except August maximum from Met Office Source no. 2: All other data from Met Office, except for humidity and snow data which are from NOAA
Sites of interest
The Cutty Sark (a clipper ship) has been preserved in a dry dock by the river. A major fire in May 2007 destroyed a part of the ship, although much had already been removed for restoration. Nearby for many years was also displayed Gipsy Moth IV, the 54 feet (16.5 m) yacht sailed by Sir Francis Chichester in his single-handed, 226-day circumnavigation of the globe during 1966–67. In 2004, Gipsy Moth IV was removed from Greenwich, and after restoration work completed a second circumnavigation in May 2007. On the riverside in front of the north-west corner of the Hospital is an obelisk erected in memory of Arctic explorer Joseph René Bellot.
Near the Cutty Sark site, a circular building contains the entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel, opened on 4 August 1902. This connects Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs on the northern side of the River Thames. The north exit of the tunnel is at Island Gardens, from where the famous view of Greenwich Hospital painted by Canaletto can be seen.
Rowing has been part of life on the river at Greenwich for hundreds of years and the first Greenwich Regatta was held in 1785. The annual Great River Race along the Thames Tideway finishes at the Cutty Sark. The Trafalgar Rowing Centre in Crane Street close by is home to Curlew Rowing Club and Globe Rowing Club.
The Old Royal Naval College is Sir Christopher Wren's domed masterpiece at the centre of the heritage site. The site is administered by the Greenwich Foundation and several of the buildings are let to the University of Greenwich and one, the King Charles block, to Trinity College of Music. Within the complex is the former college dining room, the Painted Hall, this was painted by James Thornhill, and the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul, with an interior designed by James 'Athenian' Stuart. The Naval College had a training reactor, the JASON reactor, within the King William building that was operational between 1962 and 1996. The reactor was decommissioned and removed in 1999.
To the east of the Naval College is the Trinity Hospital almshouse, founded in 1613, the oldest surviving building in the town centre. This is next to the massive brick walls and the landing stage of Greenwich Power Station. Built between 1902 and 1910 as a coal-fired station to supply power to London's tram system, and later the London underground, it is now oil- and gas-powered and serves as a backup station for London Underground. East Greenwich also has a small park, East Greenwich Pleasaunce, which was formerly the burial ground of Greenwich Hospital.
The O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) was built on part of the site of East Greenwich Gas Works, a disused British Gas site on the Greenwich Peninsula. It is next to North Greenwich tube station, about 3 miles (4.8 km) east from the Greenwich town centre, North West of Charlton. The Greenwich Millennium Village is a new urban regeneration development to the south of the Dome. Enderby's Wharf is a site associated with submarine cable manufacture for over 150 years.
Behind the former Naval College is the National Maritime Museum housed in buildings forming another symmetrical group and grand arcade around the Queen's House, designed by Inigo Jones. Continuing to the south, Greenwich Park is a Royal Park of 183 acres (0.7 km2), laid out in the 17th century and formed from the hunting grounds of the Royal Palace of Placentia.
The park rises towards Blackheath and at the top of this hill is a statue of James Wolfe, commander of the British expedition to capture Quebec, nearby a major group of buildings within the park is the former Royal Observatory, Greenwich and the Prime Meridian passes through the building. Greenwich Mean Time was at one time based on the time observations made at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, before being superseded by Coordinated Universal Time. While Greenwich no longer hosts a working astronomical observatory, a ball still drops daily to mark the exact moment of 1 p.m., and there is a museum of astronomical and navigational tools, particularly John Harrison's marine chronometers.
The Ranger's House lies at the Blackheath end of the park and houses the Wernher Collection of art, and many fine houses, including Vanbrugh's house lie on Maze Hill, on the western edge of the park.
Georgian and Victorian architecture dominates in the town centre which spreads to the west of the park and Royal Naval college. Much of this forms a one-way system around a covered market, Greenwich Market and the arthouse Greenwich Cinema. Up the hill, from the centre there are many streets of Georgian houses, including the world's only museum dedicated to fans, the Fan Museum, on Croom's Hill. Nearby at the junction of Croom's Hill with Nevada Street, is Greenwich Theatre, formerly Crowder's Music Hall – one of two Greenwich theatres, the other being the Greenwich Playhouse.
Greenwich Mean Time
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is a term originally referring to mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. It is commonly used in practice to refer to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) when this is viewed as a time zone, especially by bodies connected with the United Kingdom, such as the BBC World Service, the Royal Navy, the Met Office and others, although strictly UTC is an atomic time scale which only approximates GMT with a tolerance of 0.9 second. It is also used to refer to Universal Time (UT), which is a standard astronomical concept used in many technical fields and is referred to by the phrase Zulu time.
As the United Kingdom grew into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept at least one chronometer on GMT in order to calculate their longitude from the Greenwich meridian, which was by convention considered to have longitude zero degrees (this convention was internationally adopted in the International Meridian Conference of 1884). Note that the synchronization of the chronometer on GMT did not affect shipboard time itself, which was still solar time. But this practice, combined with mariners from other nations drawing from Nevil Maskelyne's method of lunar distances based on observations at Greenwich, eventually led to GMT being used worldwide as a reference time independent of location. Most time zones were based upon this reference as a number of hours and half-hours "ahead of GMT" or "behind GMT".
World heritage site
Maritime Greenwich *UNESCO World Heritage Site Country United Kingdom Type Cultural Criteria i, ii, iv, vi Reference 795 Region ** Europe and North America Inscription history Inscription 1997 (21st Session) * Name as inscribed on World Heritage List
** Region as classified by UNESCO
In 1997, Maritime Greenwich was added to the list of World Heritage Sites, for the concentration and quality of buildings of historic and architectural interest. These can be divided into the group of buildings along the riverfront, Greenwich park and the Georgian and Victorian town centre. In recognition of the suburb's astronomical links, Asteroid 2830 has been named 'Greenwich'.
Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre
The Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre provides an introduction to the history and attractions in the Greenwich World Heritage Site. It is located in the Pepys Buildings near to the Cutty Sark within the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, (formerly Greenwich Hospital). The centre opened in March, 2010, and admission is free.
The Centre explains the history of Greenwich as a royal residence and a maritime centre. Exhibits include:
- The history of the Palace of Placentia.
- Models of Christopher Wren's original designs for Greenwich Hospital.
- Six of the carved heads originally intended to decorate the exterior of the College's Painted Hall.
- Exhibition displays about Maritime Greenwich and its connections with the sea and exploration.
- "By Wisdom as much as War" – an exhibition about the history of the Royal Naval College during the years it occupied Greenwich Hospital (1873–1998).
Greenwich Heritage Centre
There has been a market at Greenwich since the 14th century, but the history of the present market dates from 1700 when a charter to run two markets, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, was assigned by Lord Romney to the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital for 1000 years.
Greenwich Market sits in Greenwich town centre within an area called the Island Site, which is bounded by College Approach, Greenwich Church Street, King William Walk and Nelson Road. The Island site forms part of the World Heritage Site, which also includes the National Maritime Museum, Old Royal Naval College, the Queens House and the Royal Observatory.
The buildings surrounding the market on the island site are Grade 2 listed, and were established in 1827–1833 under the direction of Joseph Kay. Later significant phases of development occurred in 1902–08; in 1958–60 and during the 1980s. The current market roof dates from 1902–08 and the buildings on either side of the market from 1958–60.
Greenwich Market trades five days a week, being closed on Monday and Tuesday, but the shops, cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants around the Market are open seven days a week, including Greenwich Printmakers, the oldest-established printmaking co-operative in the UK.
Wednesday is a food and homewares market day, Thursdays and Fridays specialise in antiques and collectibles and arts and crafts. Weekends and bank holidays attract arts & crafts and food stalls.There are a wide selection of specialist shops, bars, restaurants and a café, all open seven days a week.
The University of Greenwich main campus is located in the distinctive buildings of the former Royal Naval College. There is a further campus of the university at Avery Hill in Eltham, and also, outside the borough, in Medway. Near the main campus at Greenwich, the Trinity College of Music is housed in the buildings of the former Greenwich Hospital. Also Greenwich is a nice place for education trips.
Two railway lines cross Greenwich: the Greenwich Line, which runs west to east and follows the route of the London and Greenwich Railway, which was the first railway line in London, and links the South Eastern Main Line with the North Kent Line at Charlton; and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which runs north to south. Both lines are served by Greenwich station; with the DLR having a separate station at Cutty Sark DLR Station near the river, and the Greenwich Line having Maze Hill railway station to the east, on the boundary with Westcombe Park. DLR trains run from Lewisham to Bank and Stratford via Canary Wharf. The Greenwich Line carries trains from London Charing Cross and London Cannon Street in central London to Dartford in Kent, with a limited service to Gravesend, Kent and Gillingham, Medway. There are no London Underground stations in Greenwich itself – North Greenwich tube station on the Peninsula is the nearest tube station.
There are a number of river boat services running from Greenwich Pier, managed by London River Services. The main services include the Thames commuter catamaran service run by Thames Clipper from Embankment, via Tower Millennium Pier, Canary Wharf and on to the O2 and Woolwich Arsenal Pier; the Wesminster-Greenwich cruise service by Thames River Services; and the City Cruises tourist cruise via Westminster, Waterloo and Tower piers.
Pedestrian and cyclists
- List of people from Greenwich
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