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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Tower 42_external It’s finally here. Open House London kicks off on Friday and with more than 800 buildings opening their doors, the only difficulty you’ll have this weekend will be choosing what you end up doing! This year’s theme is ‘celebrating architecture, people and place’ and among the highlights will be the opening of landmark structures like Battersea Power Station, Tower 42 (pictured), and the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) as well as 100 private homes, architects’ homes and “ground-breaking” housing developments and everything from the Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Brent to Horse Guards in Whitehall (certain buildings, like 10 Downing Street and The View from the Shard, are only open to people who won tickets in an earlier ballot). This year’s festivities also include a moonlit “culture crawl” through London on Friday night. If you haven’t ordered a hardcopy programme, you can check the listings online at www.openhouselondon.org. There’s also an Open House iPhone app available from the appstore.

A series of works by Yinka Shonibare – including some never before seen in the UK – went on display at Greenwich yesterday, thanks to Royal Museums Greenwich. The works, which explore notions of “Britishness, trade and empire, commemoration and national identity”, can be found inside and around buildings including the Queen’s House, National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory and include Fake Death Pictures – a series of five vision of the death of naval hero Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, Wind Sculpture – a gravity-defying object located on the Queen’s House lawn, Cheeky Little Astronomer – a specially commissioned sculpture located in the Flamsteed House at the Royal Observatory, and Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle – last seen on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth. Yinka Shonibare MBE at Greenwich, which is supported by a range of talks, debates and tours, runs until 23rd February. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk.

Bankside will be transformed this weekend as artists will be transforming disused hoardings and derelict buildings with original artworks as part of the Merge Festival. The work’s include Candy Chang’s Before I Die, Alex Chinnick’s Miner on the Moon, and Marcus Lyall and Mark Logue’s House of Pain. Until 20th October. For more on the festival celebrating Bankside, see www.mergefestival.co.uk.

On Now: Michael Peto Photographs: Mandela to McCartney. This new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery just off Trafalgar Square features a previously unexhibited photo of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, taken at the beginning of their love affair. It’s one of 10 portraits taken by the late Hungarian-born photographer Michael Peto in London during the 1950s and 1960s – others feature Samuel Beckett, Jennie Lee, Paul McCartney and Ian McKellen. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

Elena-Gagarina-and-Dr-Kevin-Fewster

A statue of Russian cosmonaut and first man in space Yuri Gagarin has been relocated to the newly named Yuri Gagarin Terrace outside the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. First unveiled in The Mall, not far from Admiralty Arch, on 14th July 2011, the statue was a gift from the Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos, to mark the 50th anniversary of manned space flight (you can read more at our earlier post here). But it was only granted permission to remain on the site for 15 months and so has now been relocated to Greenwich where it as officially unveiled last Thursday in the week of Gagarin’s birthday by his daughter Elena Gagarina (pictured here with Royal Museums Greenwich director Dr Kevin Fewster). The statue – a 3.5 metre high zinc alloy figure – shows Gagarin dressed in a spacesuit and standing on a globe. It stands just outside the observatory’s Astronomy Centre. For more on the Royal Observatory Greenwich – the “home” of Greenwich Mean Time, see www.rmg.co.uk.

It’s alien season at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and to kick off a series of special events around all things extra-terrestrial, a new exhibition looking the history with things not of this earth opens tomorrow. Alien Revolution, which looks at man’s obsession with intelligent alien life – a trend which began in the century following Copernicus’ discovery that the earth was a planet and the sun a star, will be held in the observatory’s Astronomy Centre until August. Runs until 8th September. Admission is free. Other events include shorts courses looking at science fiction and astronomy, family events and special planetarium shows such as We Are Aliens which runs in April. For more on the events, see www.rmg.co.uk.

The British Library’s Spring Festival kicks off tomorrow with five days of film, design and fashion including the unveiling of a new artwork by fashion illustrator and artist Julie Verhoeven. Verhoeven – who has worked for fashion houses Louis Vuitton, Versace and Mulberry – will be joined by Dylan Jones, editor-in-chief of GQ, to talk about what inspires them while others among fashion’s leading names will be contributing postcards in a one night only pop-up exhibition – Late at the Library: Fashion Flashback – which will also feature talks involving Jones and illustrator Tanya Ling. The event also features a spring market held in the library’s piazza at which designers will be selling wares inspired by the library’s collection. Other events include the showing of a series of short films.  For more about the Spring Festival events, head to www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/spring-festival-2013/index.html.

Furniture designer Sir Ambrose Heal was honoured with the unveiling of an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home in Pinner yesterday – the date marking 120 years since he joined the family firm, Heal’s. The house – at Fives Court, Moss Lane in Pinner – was Sir Ambrose’s home from 1901-1917 during the period when he began exerting his influence over the business, having won a silver medal at the 1900 Paris Exhibition for a bedroom suite. Heal was knighted in 1933 and appointed a royal designer for industry in 1939. Meanwhile, a Blue Plaque for 19th century composer Felix Mendelssohn was unveiled at 4 Hobart Place earlier this month, commemorating the house he stayed in at the height of his career during his numerous visits to London. The house was the home of the Hanoverian embassy secretary, Karl Klingemann, at the time. For more on Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk.

On Now: Barocci – Brilliance and Grace. This landmark exhibition at the National Gallery is the first major monographic exhibition dedicated to the art of 16th and 17th century Italian artist Frederico Barocci – pioneer of the Baroque style. Highlights include his spectacular altarpiece, The Entombment of Christ, from the coastal town of Senigallia, the Last Supper – painted for Urbino Cathedral, as well as two altar pieces from Rome – Visitation from the Chiesa Nuova and Institution of the Eucharist from Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Also included are portraits, smaller devotional paintings, Aeneas’ Flight From Troy – his only secular narrative, and more than 65 preparatory drawings, pastel studies and oil sketches. Runs until 19th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.

• A new exhibition exploring the relationship between author Charles Dickens, the Foundling Hospital and its secretary and former foundling, John Brownlow, opened at the Foundling Museum today. Received, a Blank Child: Dickens, Brownlow and the Foundling Hospital looks at how Dickens supported the institution in various ways including helping a young mother petition for a place for her child and publicising the work of the hospital through his writing – in particular the 1853 article Received, A Blank Child (the phrase comes from the wording used on the hospital’s entry forms). Among the items on display are never before displayed letters from Dickens relating to the hospital. The exhibition, which runs until 16th December, is free with the museum admission. And if you haven’t yet had a chance to see it, there’s still time to catch Dickens and the Foundling, in which six contributors including actor Gillian Anderson and journalist Jon Snow, have chosen objects to be displayed. This ends on 28th October. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

Images from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition have gone on display at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich (which runs the competition in conjunction with Sky at Night Magazine). Among the winning images were The Whirlpool Galaxy taken by Martin Pugh of the UK/Australia, Star Icefall by Masahiro Miyasaka of Japan, and Venus-Jupiter Close Conjunction, by Laurent Laveder of France. The exhibition is free of charge and runs until February next year. For more (including an online gallery), see www.rmg.co.uk/visit/exhibitions/astronomy-photographer-of-the-year/2012-winners/.

It’s Harvest Festival time at London’s Royal Parks and this Sunday, between 11am and 4pm, people are invited to attend the Kensington Gardens’ allotment to see the fruits of the gardeners’ labour including the “big dig” of the potato crop as well as seasonal vegetables. There’s also the chance for families to see the allotment chickens being fed and children’s activities run by Ginger Cat. This week’s event follows one last weekend at Regent’s Park. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.

• On Now: Ritual and revelry: the art of drinking in Asia. This new free exhibition in room 91 of the British Museum features a display of objects which have been used in the consumption of liquids in various Asian contexts and the manner in which their use is intertwined with ritual, religious and otherwise. Among the vessels on display is a Tibetan skull-cap known as a kapala which is made from a human skull and used in religious rituals as well as a silver tea set from western India which features handles shaped like bamboo stems and a lacquered wooden sake bottle which was used as an altar piece. Runs until 6th January. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The Olympic Torch Relay arrived in London last Friday night and has been moving around the capital ever since. Here are some of the highlights so far (all images are courtesy of LOCOG)…

Day 63 (20th July): A Royal Marine, believed to be Martin Williams, is carrying the Olympic Flame as he abseils from a helicopter into the grounds of the Tower of London.

Day 64 (21st July): Swimmer Natasha Sinha holds the Olympic Flame on the Meridian Time Line outside the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

Jaco-Albert Van Gass carries the Olympic Flame through Greenwich.

Day 65 (22nd July): Student explorer Amelia Hempleman-Adams poses with the Olympic Flame on top of a London Eye pod.

Sailor Aaron Reynolds carries the Olympic Flame on a London Fire Brigade Boat.

Day 66 (23rd July): Sprinter Marlon Devonish carries the Olympic Flame at Crystal Palace stadium in south London.

Tennis player Andy Murray carries the Olympic Flame at Wimbledon.

For more on the Torch Relay, see www.london2012.com/torch-relay/

ALL PICTURES: LOCOG.

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

A series of four marine timekeepers which eventually solved the ‘problem’ of longitude – revolutionising sea travel by allowing mariners to accurately locate their position – are housed at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

The three clocks and one watch were designed by John Harrison, a working class joiner from Lincolnshire who made it his life’s mission to design a device which would keep accurate time at sea.

Calculating longitude – an east-west position on the earth – is relatively simple. Because time moves forward one hour for every 15 degrees one travels in an eastward direction (or back an hour for every 15 degrees one travels westward), it’s possible to calculate a position by simply knowing the local time at two different places on earth.

The problem was that the pendulum clocks of the 1600s were affected by changes in temperature and humidity  and couldn’t keep accurate time on board a ship meaning that while a mariner might know the local time, he could not get an accurate measurement of time elsewhere to compare it to.

While mariners could use the ‘lunar distance method’ to measure longitude – this involved measuring the motion of the moon relative to the stars – it relied on clear skies and was not very accurate. So in 1714 the British Government announced it would award a prize of £20,000 to anyone who could come up with a solution to longitude which was accurate to within half a degree (or two minutes).

Clockmaker John Harrison was among those who took up the challenge (his somewhat tragic story is told in great detail in Dava Sobel’s terrific 1995 book Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time). His first effort, known simply as H1, was constructed between 1730 to 1735 and, using a counterbalanced spring mechanism making it independent of gravity, was successfully tested on a voyage to Lisbon.

But Harrison wasn’t satisfied and began work on H2 in 1737 before, after realising its shortcomings three years later, starting work on another clock, H3, in 1740. He worked on this for 19 years but it failed to meet the accuracy requirements of the Board of Longitude which was charged with looking overseeing the awarding of the £20,000.

In 1753, Harrison asked a London watchmaker John Jefferys to create a watch to his designs, initially for his own personal use. But he soon discovered that with a few improvements, H4 – which looks like a large pocketwatch (see picture), could be the answer he was looking for.

In 1761 and 1764, Harrison’s son William took the watch on two voyages to the West Indies, yet, despite the fact that its accuracy was well within the requirements of the Board of Longitude, the board initially refused to pay up. After much wrangling Harrison was finally paid £10,000 but told that to obtain the other half of the money, he would have to create at least two more copies of H4.

Harrison went on to make one copy – H5 – while watchmaker Larcum Kendall, made another, K1, at the direction of the Longitude Board. When Harrison suggested that Kendall’s K1 could be considered the second of the two copies he was required to make, the board rejected the idea. Harrison then appealed directly to the king, George III, and finally to parliament before he was eventually awarded a further £8,750 in 1773.

Kendall’s watch, meanwhile, was taken by Captain James Cook on a three year voyage as far afield as Antarctica. It was a test which proved beyond all doubt the accuracy of the timekeepers. A year after Cook’s return in 1775, John Harrison died in his house in Red Lion Square on 24th March, 1776. It is not known whether he knew of the success of the timekeeper taken on Cook’s voyage.

Harrison’s four timekeepers are now housed at the Royal Observatory where the intriguing story of their creation is told.

WHERE: Royal Observatory, Blackheath Avenue, Greenwich (nearest DLR stations are that of Greenwich and Cutty Sark and it can also be reached by river – stop at Greenwich Pier); WHEN: 10am to 5pm (last admission 4.30pm) daily; COST: £7 adult/£5 concessions/free for children 15 and under (annual passes available – £10 an adult/£7.50 concessions) ; WEBSITE: www.nmm.ac.uk/places/royal-observatory/

PICTURE: Courtesy of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

It’s one of London’s most famous landmarks and, having just undergone a three year, £2 million restoration, we thought it was time to take a look at the origins of the White Tower.

Now the keep of the Tower of London, the White Tower was first built by the Norman King William the Conqueror following his defeat of Saxon King Harold Godwinson and the cream of the Saxon army at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Following his coronation at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, King William then withdrew to Barking Abbey while his men built several temporary strongholds in the city to ensure it wouldn’t cause any trouble – this included an earth and timber keep standing on an artificial mound in the south-east corner of the city’s Roman-era walls.

The White Tower, a permanent structure, replaced this and although the exact date its construction started is unknown, building – under the watchful eye of Gundulf, the Bishop of Rochester, was well underway by the mid-1070s. While the labourers were English, the masons in charge of the building were Norman and then even used some Caen stone imported from William’s homeland (along with Kentish ragstone). By 1097 the tower was complete.

Primarily built as a fortress rather than for comfort, the size of the Tower was intimidating and, at 27.5 metres tall, it would have dominated the skyline for miles. Initial defences surrounding the White Tower included the Roman walls and two ditches although in later years outer walls were added to create the massive fortifications and series of towers one encounters at the site today.

The tower earned its moniker, the White Tower, from the whitewash used on its walls during the reign of King Henry II. The caps on the four turrets which stand at each corner of the tower were originally conical but were replaced with the current onion-shaped domes in the 1500s (the round tower was once home to the Royal Observatory before it moved out to Greenwich). The White Tower’s large external windows are also more modern innovations, these were added in the 1600s by Sir Christopher Wren.

The original entrance to the White Tower was on the first floor, reached by a wooden staircase (that could be removed if necessary), much as it is today while, for security reasons, the internal stone spiral staircase was placed as far from this entry as possible in the north-east turret. A stone forebuilding was later added during the reign of King Henry II but was later demolished.

Inside, accommodation for the king was provided on the second floor – it originally had a gallery above but an extra floor – still there today – was later added. Accommodation for the Tower’s constable was probably on the first floor. Both floors were divided in two – with a large hall on one side and smaller apartments on the other. These rooms now house displays on the Tower’s history – at the present these include the Royal Armouries’ exhibition ‘Power House’.

The White Tower is also home to the Chapel of St John the Evangelist which, made from Caen stone, still looks much the same as it did in Norman times. It was used by the royal family when in residence at the tower but by the reign of King Charles II had become a store for state records. These were removed in 1857. Among some of the events which took place here was the lying in state of Queen Elizabeth of York, wife to King Henry VII, after her death in 1503, and the betrothal of Queen Mary I to Philip of Spain in 1554 (by proxy, Philip was not present). Prince Charles received communion here on his 21st birthday.

Other historic events associated with the White Tower include the apparent murder in 1483 of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ – King Edward V and his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York – while legend says they were killed in the Bloody Tower, the discovery of two skeletons under stairs leading to the chapel during building works in 1674 has led some to believe that they may have been buried here.

It was also in the White Tower that King Richard II was forced to sign away his throne to King Henry IV in 1399 and it was from the White Tower that Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Fawr, the illegitimate son of  Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Great, apparently fell to his death while attempting to escape captivity in 1244.

There are tours of the White Tower daily at 10.45am, 12.45pm, and 2.15pm.

WHERE: Tower of London (nearest tube station Tower Hill); WHEN: 9am to 5.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5.30pm Sunday to Monday (until 31st October); COST: Included in Tower of London admission – £19.80 adults; £10.45 children under 15; £17.05 concessions; £55 for a family (prices include a voluntary donation); WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/.

In the first of a new series looking at some of the favorite historical places of Londoners, Lynne Connell, a host at the Museum of London, nominates Greenwich…

“When I was a child my grandparents took me to Greenwich for the day.  I remember being very impressed with Admiral Nelson’s uniform (complete with blood stains) and the haunted tulip staircase in the Queen’s house. While we sat and ate cheese and onion crisps in front of the Cutty Sark, my Grandmother (who was a little eccentric) told me ‘there is so much history here you can feel it’.

“So what can you see in Greenwich today?

“You can visit the Greenwich Observatory, stand on the Meridian line and know you are in the centre of the world! Admission is free there, as well as the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House. You can also see the magnificent Wernher collection at Ranger’s House (free to members of English Heritage) and don’t forget the tiny Fan Museum.

“A favourite lazy Sunday morning, includes a stroll in the Royal Park to visit the deer enclosure, a leisurely coffee in one of the two cafes and a visit to the craft market.

“The remains of a Roman villa can be seen in the park and you can visit Princess Caroline’s bath. Don’t miss Queen Elizabeth’s oak, Henry VIII is reputed to have courted Anne Boleyn under the boughs of his ancient hollow tree. It fell during high winds in the 1990’s and is now slowly rotting away.

“Look down from the Observatory Gardens upon the magnificent Royal Naval College and go to visit the beautiful painted hall. Remember, beneath the college lie the remains of the Royal Palace of Placentia, birth place of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

“It is easy to get to Greenwich by over ground train, DLR or (to really pick up the atmosphere) by river boat.

“It is more than 40 years since my introduction to the history of Greenwich, and perhaps I am becoming a little eccentric myself, but my grandmother was right, you really can ‘feel the history’.”

PICTURE: Greenwich Park, © Anne Marie Briscombe (Royal Parks)

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/