A history of London in pictures: Greenwich

Greenwich is a lovely village along the River Thames, a World Heritage Site just a short train ride from central London. The area has been in use since the Iron Age and the place was named Grénewic in Anglo-Saxon (translating approximately as ‘green dwelling place, village, town or bay’) [I took an Old English course while ago, but I sadly forgot almost all of it; it is a beautiful language, for a quick reference there are many source online, I used this dictionary]. The town was the birthplace of many in the House of Tudor, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

There are many attractions for all audience types, from the local curiosity and vintage market, to the National Maritime Museum, the Observatory, the Meridian Line, the Queen’s House, the fully restored sail ship Cutty Sark, as well as the village itself with its maritime flair and holiday feel. One day may not be enough to visit it all – it’s not my first time there and I will surely need to return to view more of it (or simply view again interesting things).

IMG_1385piece from the Long John Silver Collection, the largest collection of Merchant Navy figureheads in the world, mostly dating from the 19th century: the collection is literally placed underneath the Cutty Sark – you’ll understand when you visit..

National Maritime Museum

The first stop is at the National Maritime Museum, with its collections related to Britain’s sea travels and encounters with other cultures – there you can find the uniform that Nelson wore at the Battle of Trafalgar. It also hosts temporary exhibitions, like the former “Titanic Remembered” (a few items can be seen below) and the current Ansel Adams’ “Photography from the Mountains to the Sea”, an extensive display of his black & white photos of landscapes, of which I particularly loved the sections on Snow & Ice and Geysers. In line with the exhibition theme, I acquired a suitable necklace (shown further below).

National Maritime Museum, postcards and objects from the exhibitions

Nelson's coat worn at the Battle of Trafalgar          Vice-admiral coat worn by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar; on the left shoulder there is a bullet hole, near to the epaulette

IMG_1432Elizabeth Mellenger wore this cape on the night Titanic sank, using it to help revive Second Officer Lightoller, who was dragged on board lifeboat 14

IMG_1434                First-class passenger Edith Rosenbaum (the journalist Edith Russell) wore these fine evening slippers when she abandoned Titanic in lifeboat 11

IMG_1430Prince Frederick’s barge, bow view

Miss Britannia II, speed vesselMiss Britannia II, speed vessel

"The Tetons and the Snake River"The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942. Photograph by Ansel Adams

IMG_1429camera necklace with long chainette and Swarovski crystals

The Royal Observatory is the home of the Prime Meridian of the world: since the late 19th century, the Prime Meridian at Greenwich has served as the reference line for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT); it was the official starting point for the new Millennium. Here are listed some more interesting facts about the Prime Meridian. The observatory also hosts a planetarium and many instruments, like the Harrison timekeepers (Harrison is the inventor of the Compound Pendulum and of several Time Keepers) and UK’s largest refracting telescope.

Royal_observatory_greenwich(photo by ChrisO, available here)

During the lunch break you can visit the local market housed in a courtyard in the village and taste one of the many British or exotic culinary offers, while looking at the curiosities, accessories, craft and vintage items on sale.

Greenwich Market

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Finally, we can head for the pier and enter the old sail ship Cutty Sark, now fully restored and exhibiting some great artefacts and installations originally presented. The ship restoration works, after a recent fire and a long duty career (it first sailed on 1869), were completed just a year ago, and it is impressive to visit the result of so much careful work. I ab-so-lu-te-ly recommend it. A complete presentation of the Cutty Sark history is available on this page. Arranged over the ship decks, there are distinct areas presenting the products that this trade clipper used to transport, with mesmerising sections on China tea and wool.

the Cutty Sark sail ship

a tea timeline                      a tea timeline

tea container

tea container, detail                    tea container, detail

Australian sheep Australian sheep

sheep's woolly coat is cut offwool is combedcarding combswool is spun and knitted to make... your jumpera woolly poemCutty Sark's 1,250,000 jumpers

An impressive feature is that the ship is suspended above the lower ground, hosting further exhibition space (that’s were the figureheads are placed) as well as a cosy cafeteria, serving typical teas, coffee, refreshments and some tasty teacake similar to the one in this recipe.

IMG_1391standing under the ship

Cutty Sark the whiskyCutty Sark the whisky (one of the many memorabilia)

The visit is over for today, after so many interesting things, thoughts are storming the mind and it’s time to rest. Has this little overview inspired you to plan a day in Greenwich?

Have a woolly week and happy travel thoughts!

sheep wool

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Sunday in Greenwich

Today there was a birthday celebration and we decided to visit Greenwich – World Heritage Site and home of the Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT). There are plenty of attractions of different sorts – an original restored sail ship (truly impressive!), a maritime museum, an observatory, the Meridian Line, just to name a few. It was a long and enjoyable day and I took a zillion pictures.

I am too tired to write up a proper post, but here is a small preview and hope to prepare a story soon – there is so much to tell, especially about the amazing Cutty Sark and some wool stories that I found there..

Have a good week!

ImageView of Canary Wharf from the Cutty Sark

Imagea wall of wool 

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A history of London in pictures: the Temple area

I have been living in London for a number of years, but a busy life didn’t quite give me a chance to thoroughly visit it – in fact, very little did I see.

One day, on my way from the library to the college, I decided to take a side street instead, which lead to an interesting and unexpected sightseeing. I discovered that Temple has a name for a reason (of course!): The Temple located at its heart in a relatively hidden and unmarked backyard.

IMG_0379Middle Temple Hall: Elizabeth I, stained glass in the Queen’s Room

This little story started with the mention of a library, the Maughan Library. It’s a fine 19th century listed building located in Chancery Lane, whose full history can be found on the Victorian Web page here. Inside, among other things, there are a beautiful octagonal reading room and a (repurposed) medieval chapel; from the facade windows there is a great view of the neighbouring buildings and rooftops. In its courtyard it also features a small, peaceful garden with a bronze statue of Confucius.

Maughan Library in Chancery Lane

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As I was saying before digressing in the library sub-thread, wandering through a certain alley, I found myself in a quiet area, right in the heart of the city – hard to believe, with little squares, historic buildings and evocative atmospheres. I didn’t really know what the name of this area was, until I later reached the nearby Temple tube station and realised that its name came from the place I just visited. The Temple neighbourhood is formed by small side streets that lead to hidden squares, grand buildings in different styles and it borders the River Thames.

Views of the Temple area

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Lastly, I would like to introduce the Temple Church, which was built in the 12th century and was since its origins related to the order of the Knights Templar; its circular base makes reference to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The church hosts several tombs and marble effigies of medieval knights. In Victorian times its interiors were restyled to revive its original gothic atmosphere, but sadly WWII bombings damaged the church and the inner works, which were lost.

(A more detailed account of its history can be found on this Temple Church webpage.)

Imagethe interior of the Round Church section on the Temple Church in London (plate 84 of Microcosm of London, 1810, available here)

Imagethe knightly effigy tombs (photo by Alan Ford, available here)

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Image Imagethe two knights on one horse iconography recall the Templars’ lack of horse and poor beginnings, but this may well have been a tale or a symbol of Charity (source: Temple Church’s webpage)

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This little tour of the Temple area in London has come to an end, I hope that you may have enjoyed it. All pictures were originally taken for my own memory and were not intended for public use – this justifies (?) their not highest quality.

There may be follow up threads for my ‘A history of London in pictures’, depending on my writing “inspiration” and energies. Please feel free to leave your thoughts.

Enjoy your travels, whichever part of the planet your foot will tread.

Bright day

Recently I travelled back to Tuscany and on a bright sunny day I had the chance to visit the village where my grandparents from my mother’s side came from. My granddad passed away some months ago and I felt the need to reconnect somehow to people and things from the past, that are gone.

There’s an amazing blue and clear sky and the snow covers the landscape. The road runs through a quiet country-side. It feels really like being out of time and somehow like travelling in the past. It’s also a journey inside oneself…. not sure what I want to say in the end, so I’ll just leave with a picture…

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