Leaving Wren’s churches momentarily, we turn this week to another of Wren’s designs, that of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich in London’s east.
Commissioned in 1675 by King Charles II, the first part of the observatory – Flamsteed House, named for the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed – was designed by Wren with, it is believed, the assistance of architect and scientist Robert Hooke.
Built using second-hand materials including stone brought from a Tudor fort at Tilbury, Flamsteed House was located on the former site of Greenwich Castle which had been previously used as a guest house and hunting lodge by Henry VIII. It is said to be the first purpose-built scientific research facility in the country.
The turreted building includes the Octagon Room from which Flamsteed made observations of events in the skies (although its position meant its use for this was somewhat limited), as well as living quarters for the astronomer. On top of the house is a red time ball which, since it was first used in 1833, has marked the time by falling at 1pm each day.
These days part of the National Maritime Museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, the site also hosts the Prime Meridian and is the place from where Greenwich Mean Time, since 1884 the basis for all world time, is calculated.
WHERE: Blackheath Avenue, Greenwich (nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark); WHEN: 10am to 5pm Monday to Sunday; COST: Entry is free; WEBSITE: www.nmm.ac.uk/places/royal-observatory/