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).
piece 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..
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
Vice-admiral coat worn by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar; on the left shoulder there is a bullet hole, near to the epaulette
Elizabeth Mellenger wore this cape on the night Titanic sank, using it to help revive Second Officer Lightoller, who was dragged on board lifeboat 14
First-class passenger Edith Rosenbaum (the journalist Edith Russell) wore these fine evening slippers when she abandoned Titanic in lifeboat 11
Prince Frederick’s barge, bow view
Miss Britannia II, speed vessel
The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942. Photograph by Ansel Adams
camera 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.
(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.
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.
a tea timeline
tea container, detail
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.
standing under the ship
Cutty 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!