SE10 is Greenwich usually pronounced Gren-itch, though some of the locals seem to say Grin-itch. But never of course Green-witch!
We start our walk at the Post Office at 261-267 Greenwich High Road. Turn right and go along the High Road. Our first stop is a short way on the right.
Stop 1: Greenwich Station
Greenwich was the terminus of the first passenger railway route out of London.
The first section of the London and Greenwich Railway opened in February 1836 but it was over 2½ years later before the line got to Greenwich in December 1838. Initially there was a temporary station but a proper station building opened in 1840.
It looks like an elegant town house, doesn’t it. According to architectural guru Pevsner, the original station building of 1840 was re-erected on this site in 1878 in somewhat altered form.
The railway initially ended here because to go any further meant extending the railway onto land owned by the Royal Hospital and potentially cutting across the historic Royal Hospital grounds. The solution was to extend the line eastwards in a cut and cover tunnel under what is now the gardens in front of the National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House. This opened in February 1878.
I think this explains the rather odd arrangement when you go on to the platform, as the old building is set back off the edge of the platform and the canopy does not go to the edge.
I suspect the line had to be moved in order so the alignment worked for the extension, but they kept the original building, though Pevsner suggested it was “re-erected” so maybe that is not the reason.
Greenwich station is also served by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). The DLR was extended to Lewisham via Greenwich in December 1999, with the new platforms at Greenwich lying immediately to the south of the main-line station and inconveniently not by the main station building and with no cross platform interchange.
Now retrace your steps along Greenwich High Road. Our next stop looms up on the right.
Stop 2: Meridian House and Borough Hall
This was the Town Hall of the old Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich formed in 1900.
Ans at the corner are some steps and a stone
This is a fantastic municipal building of the 1930s by architect Cliford Culpin and which Pevsner describes as “A progressive building for its time, similar in style to the slightly earlier town halls of the Middlesex boroughs of Hornsey and Wembley, inspired by Dutch and Scandinavian precedents.”
The post 1965 borough chose to have its main offices in Woolwich and so this Town Hall eventually became surplus to requirements. Today it is occupied by GSM London (formerly known as Greenwich School of Management). This is an independent school of higher education which offers business-specific courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
The building has been altered over time in the 1970s by the Council and then later when it was converted to private offices. The building is now known as Meridian House and like the Meridian House we saw in E14 it is not actually on the meridian.
Now go down the side street and you will see the Borough Hall ahead of you, which is to the rear and adjoining the Town Hall building.
Go up to the doorway and you find this little black plaque.
This belongs to a small group of plaques created by the Performing Rights Society relating to sites connected to music heritage. This plaque was placed here on 23 March 2010, to signify where the pop group Squeeze, consisting then of Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook, Jools Holland, Harry Kakoulli and Paul Gunn, first performed in 1975.
The full list of Music Heritage plaques is at: https://www.prsformusic.com/what-we-do/supporting-music/heritage-awards
Now go down the little side street ahead of you (Burney Street) and you will see a car park area and a bit of a garden.
Stop 3: Burney Street Garden/Site of workshops for the blind
But there are some interesting looking stones here.
All is explained by this sign – well sort of.
There seems very little information about the building that stood on this site but I found this from the “Greenwich Phantom” http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2008/04/workshops-for-the-blind/
Not sure the Phantom is right about the Ibis Hotel being on the site of these workshops,
Stop 4: Ibis Hotel/Greenwich Picturehouse (site of Greenwich Park Station)
So ahead of you on the left is a modern building houses the Greenwich Picturehouse cinema and the Ibis hotel, but this site was actually the location of Greenwich’s other railway station, rather than the Workshop for the Blind.
This station, initially called just Greenwich, was opened in 1888 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) who were bitter rivals of the South Eastern Railway whose station had been built here almost 50 years earlier.
The LCDR station was at the end of a branch which ran from Nunhead and the route into central London was not exactly direct unlike the SER line. The SER line also had the advantage that by then it extended eastwards as well. (In fact the LCDR station was aligned so it could have been extended eastwards to join the SER line, but that never happened)
So the LCDR station was a bit of a failure in terms of traffic and once the LCDR amalgamated with the SER in 1899 to form the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR), its fate was sealed.
It was renamed Greenwich Park in 1900 to distinguish it from the other station, and it staggered on for a few more years, closing in 1917 due to wartime economy measures. Some of the branch proved useful in the 1920s when the Southern Railway set about trying to improve the connections between the two old rivals..The section of the branch between Nunhead and Lewisham Road was reopened in 1929 with a new connecting spur to Lewisham. But rather than extend the line eastwards and create an alternative route through Greenwich, the part between Lewisham Road and Greenwich Park was officially abandoned in 1929.
After 1929 the station was demolished and eventually the site was redeveloped into what we see today..
Now continue to the other end of the Hotel building and you will get to Crooms Hill. Our next stop is just across the road at the corner of Nevada Street
Stop 5: Former Spread Eagle Inn (Al Pancino restaurant)
The sign over the arch says Spread Eagle Yard
Today it is mostly taken up by the Al Pancino restaurant.
(I have to say I first read this name as Al Pacino and was wondering why there was a restaurant named after a famous American actor here in Greenwich, but then I looked again!)
But as the grey plaque indicates this building has a bit more of a story.
It is appropriate we stop and pause here a moment because Dick Moy (1932 – 2004) was one of the key people who helped put Greenwich on the map.
According to his obituary in the Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/dick-moy-25987.html
“…he combined enthusiasm for the town’s mix of historic grandeur and urban grit with a charismatic business presence in it of nearly 50 years as a general antiques and book dealer, and 37 as an idiosyncratic, bon vivant restaurateur.”
He was a founder member of the Greenwich Society and a tireless campaigner.
Indeed one of the places he campaigned about was our next stop, just over the road.
Stop 6: Greenwich Theatre
At the corner is the Rose and Crown pub
But spreading behind it is the Greenwich Theatre.
The first theatre here opened in 1855 when the Rose and Crown pub created a Music Hall in some adjoining rooms
It was rebuilt in 1871 by Charles Spencer Crowder and renamed Crowder’s Music Hall with an entrance on Nevada Street, that is to the left of the pub. It was renamed in 1879 by a new owner, Alfred Ambrose Hurley, as the Royal Borough Theatre of Varieties. Then in 1898 it was rebuilt became the Parthenon Theatre of Varieties. I understand the facade on Nevada Street dates from this time. It later became the Greenwich Palace of Varieties,
Samuel and Daniel Barnard took over in 1902 and it became Barnard’s Palace with an entrance on Crooms Hill. It finally became the Greenwich Hippodrome. It hosted both live performances and films but was converted into a cinema in 1924 when it lost its licence for live entertainment .
It was used as a repertory theatre during the Second World War with films on Sundays, but it was damaged by an incendiary bomb, closing the theatre.
Greenwich Council bought the site in 1962 with a view to redevelopment but agreed to support the idea of a new theatre if there was enough local support. A campaign headed by Ewan Hooper, a local actor and director, succeeded and a new theatre seating 421 with an open thrust stage was created within the old shell. It opened as the Greenwich Theatre in 1969.
So this is a fairly modern building even though the site has had theatrical connection going back some 150 years.
Now go a short way along Crooms Hill and you will see our next stop on the right.
Stop 6: Number 12 Crooms Hill
At number 12 is one of those quirky little museums that you cannot quite believe exist. This one is dedicated to fans.
The Fan Museum opened in 1991 and owns over 4,000 fans and related items. The oldest fan in the collection dates from the 10th century and there is an extensive collection of 18th and 19th century European fans.
It is open Tuesday to Sunday and the entrance charge is a modest £4 (£3 concession). Here is a link to their website: https://www.thefanmuseum.org.uk/
Now keep walking along Crooms Hill and you will eventually get to a gate into Greenwich Park.
Do not go in here but do a left turn down a gravel drive.
And just down here you will find a little gateway into the park.
When inside turn right and head towards the Rose Garden
Just here facing the garden is the entrance to the Rangers House
Stop 7: Rangers House
The Rangers House dates from about 1700, although it has been added to over the years. It is called the Rangers’ House because it was used as the official residence of the Ranger of Greenwich Park from 1816.
(By the way this photo and the one below are actually taken from the other side and not the Rose Garden side)
Today it is run by English Heritage and houses the Wernher Collection, which consists of works of art amassed by diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher (1850-1912).
According to the website http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/rangers-house-the-wernher-collection/ there are nearly 700 works of art are on display, including early religious paintings and Dutch Old Masters, tiny carved Gothic ivories, fine Renaissance bronzes and silver treasures revealing the genius of medieval craftsmen and the unparalleled quality of Renaissance decorative arts.
Originally displayed in Wernher’s townhouse, Bath House, Piccadilly, the collection was first publicly accessible at his country house of Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire. After the death of Sir Julius’s grandson and the sale of Luton Hoo in the 1990s, much of the collection returned to London. In 2002 the trustees of the Wernher Foundation made a 125-year loan of the collection to English Heritage, thus safeguarding it for the nation’s enjoyment.
Keep going through the Rose Garden and there is something rather curious on your right hand side.
Stop 8: Queen Charlotte’s Bath
There is a little fenced off garden and a paved area with a hole.
The Greenwich Park website https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park/things-to-see-and-do/ancient-greenwich/queen-carolines-bath-remains explains this is the remains of a bath belonging to Queen Caroline, the estranged wife of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. She lived at Montague House on the edge of Greenwich Park between 1798 and 1813.
She held notoriously boisterous parties and in the early years of the 19th century, rumours circulated that she had an illegitimate child. A royal commission cleared her of adultery but said her behaviour was open to “unfavourable interpretations”.
She left England for Europe in 1814 and Montague House was demolished a year later leaving only the outline of her bath.
The bath itself was filled in during the 1980s and for nearly 20 years the only sign of it was a plaque which states “A bath beneath the paving and this wall are all that remains of Montague House, the house between 1801 and 1813 of the Princess of Wales, later to become Queen Caroline, wife of George IV.”
In 2001, the Royal Parks excavated the bath with funding from the Friends of Greenwich Park, Greenwich Society, the Friends of Ranger’s House and individual donations. But that plaque is on the wall nearby even though it no longer is strictly true.
And nearby is another plaque
This commemorates Ignatius Sancho (c1729 – 1780), a black man who began life as a slave but who managed to educate himself, and become quite a man of letters.
The plaque was unveiled on 15 June 2007, by local MP Nick Raynsford, on the remaining wall of Montagu House. The timing is significant as this was the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, made law in 1807.
Now head back through the Rose Garden and over to the right. you will eventually get to the side of the Royal Observatory. Just here is a statue and a viewing terrace.
Stop 9: General Woolf’s statue (and that view…)
This is the statue of General Woolf (1727 – 1759) best known for his defeat of the French at Quebec which led to he ending of French control of this part of the world.
But most people ignore him because they have really come here for the view.
Below in the park is the Queen’s House and Royal Hospital and then beyond over the River is the skyline of Canary Wharf.
And over to the far left is the skyline of the City.
On your left you have the Royal Observatory, which was established here is 1675.
Stop 10: The Royal Observatory
Wikipedia has a nice chronology of the place as follows:
- 1675 – 22 June, Royal Observatory founded.
- 1675 – 10 August, construction began.
- 1714 Longitude Act established the Board of Longitude and Longitude rewards. The Astronomer Royal was, until the Board was dissolved in 1828, always an ex officio Commissioner of Longitude.
- 1767 Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne began publication of the Nautical Almanac, based on observations made at the Observatory.
- 1818 Oversight of the Royal Observatory was transferred from the Board of Ordnance to the Board of Admiralty; at that time the observatory was charged with maintaining the Royal Navy’s Marine chronometers.
- 1833 Daily time signals began, marked by dropping a Time ball.
- 1899 The New Physical Observatory (now known as the South Building) was completed.
- 1924 Hourly time signals (Greenwich Time Signal) from the Royal Observatory were first broadcast on 5 February.
- 1948 Office of the Astronomer Royal was moved to Herstmonceux, East Sussex.
- 1957 Royal Observatory completed its move to Herstmonceux, becoming the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO). The Greenwich site is renamed the Old Royal Observatory.
- 1990 RGO moved to Cambridge.
- 1998 RGO closed. Greenwich site is returned to its original name, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, is made part of the National Maritime Museum.
- 2011 The Greenwich museums, including the RGO, become collectively the Royal Museums Greenwich.
And running through the Royal Observatory site is the Greenwich Meridian.
There is a long stretch of the line inlaid in the pavement inside the paid for area of the Observatory where people take photographs with one foot in each hemisphere (As if I would do such a thing…)
But you can actually stand on the line on the public path if you head down the path that runs from the left side of the viewing terrace.
But the strip in the pavement is not so big and you have not got the names and degrees east or west set out for you on the pavement. (But it is free!)
Now head down that path and into Greenwich town centre. (it is quite a steep path and I reckon the way we came up was easier as it seemed less precipitous)
Now I am going to skip the big ticket items of the Royal Hospital, the Queen’s House, the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark and focus on two things in the town centre.
Once you leave the park go down the street ahead of you and you will get to the one way road system in the middle of the town. Cross over and in the middle of the buildings you will find Greenwich Market
Stop 11: Greenwich Market
This is a long standing market although sadly it is not in an elegant historic market hall building. It is just in a rather dull industrial shed.
There is a plaque at the far end.
This notes the market is still trading under it charter dating from 1737 – the time of King William III. However today it is mainly devoted to arty and crafty things and artisanal foodie things as opposed to regular fruit and veg. But It is always worth a little mooch around.
There is a nice reminder to the market traders about fair measures.
Now head out of the market and follow the signs for Cutty Sark DLR station.
Stop 12: Cutty Sark DLR station
This station was built as part of the Lewisham extension of the DLR and opened in 1999. Its full name is “Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich” to make the point that this station, rather than Greenwich, is the stop for the sights here..
It is one of only three completely underground stations on the DLR network, Down below there is an island platform but it was built before there was any thought of three car trains. It would have been prohibitively expensive and disruptive to extend the platforms, so its platforms are too short for three car trains. Thus the first two sets and last two sets of doors on each train do not open and customers in the front and back of the train have to move towards the centre to leave the train.
But I thought I would finish with a couple of pictures of what is on the intermediate landing as you go down the escalators This is part of the tunnelling machine which bored the running tunnels.
I somehow think it would not have been painted red, white and blue when it was actually doing the tunnelling.
We have now reached the end of our SE10 visit. There is of course so much more to see and do in Greenwich, but I tried to include some things which you might not have been aware of, such as Queen Charlotte’s Bath and the Fan Museum and the stories of Dick Moy and Ignatius Sancho.
We are at Cutty Sark DLR station for onward travel but there are plenty of buses hereabouts, not to mention National rail and even the River boats.