For the final in our series of memorable (and historic) views of London, we’re returning to Greenwich, except this time we’re looking across the River Thames from the southern end of the Isle of Dogs at some of the historic buildings of maritime Greenwich.

The splendid view from Island Gardens on the north bank of the Thames today reveals Sir Christopher Wren’s Old Royal Naval College, the Queen’s House and beyond that the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. But it wasn’t always so.

Prior to its demolition by King Charles II in 1660, this was the site of a royal palace known Greenwich Palace or the Palace of Placentia which had occupied the site since the mid-15th century (and was rebuilt by King Henry VII in the late 15th/early 16th centuries).

Charles decided to demolish it to build a new palace on the site but only a section of it was ever completed and it was never used as a royal palace. In the late 17th century, Greenwich Hospital – incorporating what was built of Charles’ palace – was constructed on the site as a home for retired sailors from the Royal Navy. From 1869, it was used as the Royal Naval College and now houses a range of organisations (see our previous post here for more).

The Queen’s House, which lies at the centre of the view, was designed by Inigo Jones and started on the orders of Anne of Denmark, wife of King James I. But it remained unfinished when Queen Anne died in 1614 and it was Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, who completed it. The house these days serves as a gallery (for more, see our earlier post here).

Behind the Queen’s House can be seen the Royal Observatory, home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian (see our previous post here) – as well as, of course, the (previously aforementioned) statue of General Wolfe. Also in the modern view from Island Gardens is the Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum.

It’s believed that the view from where Island Gardens now stands is that replicated in Canaletto’s painting, Greenwich Hospital from the North Bank of the Thames (although, oddly, whether Canaletto ever actually visited the site is apparently a matter of some dispute).

Greenwich Park and the buildings on the other side of the river can be accessed from the park Island Gardens by the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

WHERE: Island Gardens on the north bank of the River Thames (nearest DLR is Island Gardens); WHEN: Anytime; COST: Free; WEBSITE: (For Greenwich Park across the river – www.royalparks.gov.uk/Greenwich-Park.aspx).

PICTURE:Top –  Paul Hudson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0; Below – David Adams

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Another of London’s protected views is that from the Grade II-listed statue of General Wolfe in Greenwich Park.

The panoramic scene takes in much of the park itself as well as The Queen’s House and the Old Royal Naval College and across the River Thames to London’s Docklands and around to St Paul’s Cathedral (the key point in London when it comes to protected views).

The bronze statue, which stands on a terrace just outside The Royal Observatory (home of Greenwich Mean Time) atop a stone plinth, was created in 1930 and commemorates General James Wolfe (1727-1759), whose victory in the Battle of Quebec (also known as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham) with the French secured Canada for the British.

Wolfe has local links – he and his father apparently lived in a house on the edge of the park and he is buried in St Alfege’s Church. The statue, unveiled by the Marquis de Montcalm, a descendant of the commander-in-chief of French forces who also died at the Battle of Quebec, was a gift from the Canadians and was designed by Dr Tait Mackenzie.

The statue’s plinth incidentally is pitted with bomb fragments from a bomb which exploded at the Royal Observatory during World War II.

WHERE: Greenwich Park (nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark – other nearby stations include Greenwich, Maze Hill and Blackheath); WHEN: 6am to at least 6pm (closing times vary depending on the month); COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/Greenwich-Park.aspx

PICTURES: Views from the statue of General Wolfe via Flickr (top – Roman Hobler/CC BY 2.0/image cropped; bottom – Garry Knight/CC BY 2.0)

Greenwich-Park-in-summerThe remains of the 17th century Old Keeper’s Cottage in Greenwich Park are being brought to light in an archaeological dig underway in the park this week. The lodge stood close to Queen Elizabeth’s Oak near the centre of the park and was demolished in 1853. This year’s dig is the final of a three year project to unearth the lodge’s remains, sparked after tiles were discovered near the site of the cottage in 2010. Finds so far include a second century Roman brooch, post-medieval pottery and a Victorian watch-winder. The digs have also revealed remains associated with the lodge including two buildings and part of the boundary of the complex. Toni Assirati, head of education and community engagement at Royal Parks, says while much is already known about the history of Greenwich Park – which dates back to 1427 – much remains to be yet discovered about its social history. “This project will hopefully help us find out more about the lives of the people who worked and lived in the park.” Members of the public are invited to attend from 3pm to 6pm on 13th July to hear more about the project from the archaeologists involved as well as see some of the unearthed artefacts. For more about Greenwich Park, see our earlier post here or head to www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park. PICTURE: Greenwich Park, looking toward Observatory Hill (the site of the dig is to the left of the hill). © Anne Marie Briscombe/Royal Parks.

Regent Street is showcasing a number of architectural installations created by architects in an initiative being conducted in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Now in its fourth year, the Regent Street Windows project can be seen free in store windows including those of Topshop, Espirit, Jack Spade, Ferrari Store and Moss Bros until 6th May. Participating architects include Carl Turner Architects, naganJohnson architects, Gensler, Mamou-Mani, and AY Architects. Free 45 minute to one hour walking tours of the completed installations will be conducted by RIBA representatives at lunch time today, midday on Sunday and at 5.30pm next Wednesday. Prior booking is essential – email antonia.faust@riba.org for details.

The Queen’s Orchard has reopened in Greenwich Park having been restored with the addition of heritage fruit trees, new gates, pathways and ponds. The orchard dates back to the 17th century  – its name has been found on a records dating back to 1693 and now features on a new metal decorative gate which, as well as a well cover, was designed by local artist Heather Burrell along with local school students and the Friends of Greenwich Park. The heritage fruit trees, which have a provenance dating back to the 1500s, include apple, pear, cherry, plum, peach, apricot, nectarine, quince, and medlar trees. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.

The first woman to qualify as a dentist in Britain has been honoured by English Heritage with a blue plaque at her former home in Islington. Lilian Lindsay (1871-1960) lived at the house at 3 Hungerford Road, Lower Holloway, from 1872 until 1892 when she decided to become a dentist. Refused entry to the National Dental Hospital in London, she trained at the Edinburgh Dental Hospital and School (where she also met her husband Robert) before setting up a practice in Upper Holloway. Following her marriage, Lindsay relocated to Edinburgh where she and her husband ran a dental practice, only returning to London after their retirement in the 1920s. Both were actively involved in the British Dental Association. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk.

A 13-year-old photographer, Gideon Knight, is holding his first exhibition, ‘Wild About Photography’, at The Temple, Wanstead Park in Epping Forest. Self-taught, Knight has drawn on his passion for bird-watching in capturing a series of images of birds and other wildlife in a range of natural environments – from the forests of Essex to the countryside of southern Ireland. The exhibition is free. Open on weekends and bank holidays until the end of June, between noon and 5pm. You can follow Gideon at  http://earlywormbirder.blogspot.co.uk.

On Now: Patrick Heron: Studies for a Portrait of TS Eliot. On display for the first time at the National Portrait Gallery, the 10 paintings and drawings were completed in preparation for a 1949 modernist painting of the poet. They include two oil studies which have never before been seen in public. Heron secured permission to paint Eliot in January 1947 with the first sitting held two months later. Runs until 22nd September. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

A white tiled plunge bath which once belonged to Princess Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV), still lies in the south-west corner of Greenwich Park between the Rose Garden and Chesterfield Gate.

Princess Caroline, a cousin of the prince, married him in 1795 in an arrangement made so he could get out of debt. Theirs was never a marriage of love – the prince is said to have spread rumours that she was adulterous, had bad breath and never washed – and after Princess Caroline gave birth to a daughter, Princess Charlotte, the couple separated.

Two years later, in 1798, Princess Caroline was banished to live at Montague House near Greenwich Park while the prince dallied with his mistress Maria Fitzherbert. The princess, known for her scandalous and indiscreet behaviour during her residence at the house, used the sunken bath, which the stood inside a bathhouse partly attached to the main building.

The house was demolished in 1815 on the orders of the king (a decision apparently prompted by a fit of pique at the Queen’s lifestyle), a year after Princess Caroline left England for the Continent plagued by rumours that she’d mothered an illegitimate child (a secret commission into her behaviour cleared her of a charge of adultery but did find her behaviour to be improper).

The sunken bath, meanwhile, was filled in during the 1980s and served as a flowerbed until, in 2001, it was re-excavated by Royal Parks in a dig funded by the Friends of Greenwich Park, Greenwich Society, the Friends of Ranger’s House and donations from individuals.

WHERE: Princess Caroline’s Bath, south-west corner of Greenwich Park (nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark – other nearby stations include Greenwich, Maze Hill and Blackheath); WHEN: 6am to at least 8pm (but beware, closing times vary depending on the month); COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/Greenwich-Park.aspx

PICTURE: © Copyright Colin Smithwww.geograph.org.uk 

The oldest of the royal parks, the 74 hectare (183 acre) Greenwich Park has been associated with royalty since at least the 15th century.

The area covered by the park had been occupied by the Romans (there are some remains of a building, possibly a temple, near Maze Hill Gate) and later the Danes, who raised protective earthworks here in the 11th century. After the Norman Conquest, it became a manor.

Its enclosure only happened in 1433 after the land came into the possession of Humphrey of Lancaster, Duke of Gloucester and brother of King Henry V. At the time regent to the young King Henry VI, Duke Humphrey also built a tower on the heights above the park – where the Royal Observatory now stands.

Following the duke’s death in 1447, the land was seized by Margaret of Anjou – wife of King Henry VI – and subsequently became known as the Manor of Placentia. King Henry VII later rebuilt the manor house, creating what was known as Greenwich Palace or the Palace of Placentia.

Not surprisingly, it was King Henry VIII, who, having been born at Greenwich Palace, introduced deer to the park. Indeed the park was to have strong associations with others in his family – the king married Catherine of Aragorn and Anne of Cleeves at Greenwich Palace, and his daughters, later Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I, were born there while his son, King Edward VI, died there in 1553 at the age of only 15. (There’s a tree in the park known as Queen Elizabeth’s Oak, which is said to be where she played as a child).

In 1613, King James I gave the palace and accompanying park – which he had enclosed with a high wall – to his wife, Queen Anne of Denmark, apparently as an apology after swearing at her in public when she accidentally shot one of his favorite dogs. Queen Anne subsequently commissioned Inigo Jones to design what is now known as the Queen’s House – for more on that, see our earlier post.

Following the Restoration, King Charles II ordered the palace rebuilt and while this work remained unfinished, the king did succeed in having the park remodelled – it is believed that Andre Le Notre, gardener to King Louis XIV of France, had a role in this.

The works included cutting a series of terraces into the slope – these were known as the Great Steps and lined with hawthorn hedges – as well as creating a formal avenue of chestnut trees (now known as Blackheath Avenue), and some woodlands. Work is currently taking place on restoring an orchard which dates from 1666 at the park.

King Charles II also commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build the Royal Observatory that still stands on the hill overlooking the park – it stands on the site once occupied by the Duke Humphrey Tower (the Royal Observatory is home of the Prime Meridian – see our earlier post on the Royal Observatory for more).

King James II was the last monarch to use the palace and park – his daughter Queen Mary II donated the palace for use as a hospital for veteran sailors and the park was opened to the pensioners in the early 1700s. The hospital later become the Royal Naval College and the National Maritime Museum later moved onto the site (for more on this, see our earlier post).

As an aside, Royal Parks say the truncated shape of some of the trees in the park is apparently due to the fact that when anti-aircraft guns were positioned in the flower garden during World War II, the trees had to be trimmed to ensure a clear field of fire.

Facilities in the park today include a tea house, a children’s playground, sporting facilities such as tennis courts and, of course, the Wilderness Deer Park where you can see wildlife at large. Statues include that of Greenwich resident General James Wolfe, an instrumental figure in establishing British rule in Canada – it sits on the crest of the hill opposite the Royal Observatory looking down towards the Thames.

The park, which is part of the Greenwich World Heritage Site, is slated as a venue for next year’s Olympics – it will host equestrian events and the shooting and running events of the pentathlon.

WHERE: Greenwich Park (nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark – other nearby stations include Greenwich, Maze Hill and Blackheath); WHEN: 6am to at least 6pm (closing times vary depending on the month); COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/Greenwich-Park.aspx

It’s Open House London weekend again and there’s scores of properties across the city which will be opening their doors to allow the curious a rare glimpse inside. The properties which will be open include architect’s homes and cutting edge housing as well as historic city landmarks, landscape projects and government buildings (including the Foreign Office & India Office – pictured). Other highlights of this year’s event – conducted under the theme of ‘The Liveable City’ –  include a night hike, a festival aimed at kids and families, talks, walks and cycle tours and competitions. Among the buildings flinging their doors wide are Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, livery company halls, the newly reopened St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and the Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City. Most properties can simply be visited on a first come, first in basis but some do require advance booking so check before you go. Open House London was first started 19 years ago and has since spread to many other cities around the world including New York, Jerusalem and Helsinki. For more information and to purchase an online guide, see www.londonopenhouse.org. PICTURE: (c) Nick Woodford.

• King Edward I’s Magna Carta will go on show at the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City this weekend, presenting a rare opportunity to see this pivotal document. The City of London Corporations 1297 Magna Carta – regarded as one of the finest 13th century copies – will be on display in the Roman Amphitheatre during Open House London. The document features King Edward I’s seal and the original writ to the Sheriffs of London ordered that the charter be promulgated within the City. Admission over the weekend is free. For more see, www.guildhallartgallery.cityoflondon.gov.uk/gag/

 

The Museum of London has launched an online collection of early Twentieth century fashion photographs to coincide with London Fashion Week. The more than 3,000 glass negative plates come from the collection of Bassano Limited, founded by Italian-born Alexander B. Bassano, and were taken between 1912 and 1945. They record a wide range of fashions as well as designers and retailers and can be accessed via the Museum’s Collections online web portal. Meanwhile, the museum is hosting it’s first ever professional catwalk show on Friday night. It features the works of Christopher Raeburn. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

A Henry Moore sculpture, Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, has been returned to Greenwich Park, more than four years after it was removed. The almost five metres tall sculpture, made by Moore in 1976, was originally placed in the park in 1979 but was removed for conservation in early 2007 before joining a Moore exhibition at Kew Gardens and then forming part of the Henry Moore display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The bronze, on loan from The Henry Moore Foundation for two years, has now been returned to its original location between The Avenue and Croom’s Hill Gate.