Royal Greenwich Observatory

Royal Greenwich Observatory

Royal Greenwich Observatory, astronomical observatory established in 1675 by Charles II of England; formerly known as the Royal Observatory and located at Greenwich, it moved to Herstmonceux Castle, Sussex, in 1946. In the 1990 new headquarters at Cambridge were opened. Its equipment includes the 98-in. (248.9-cm) Isaac Newton reflecting telescope, 36-in. (91.4-cm) and 30-in. (76.2-cm) reflecting telescopes, 26-in. (66-cm) and 13-in. (33-cm) refracting telescopes, and an 8-in. (20.3-cm) reversible transit circle. The observatory is administratively responsible for the Radcliffe Observatory, Pretoria, South Africa, where there is a 74-in. (188-cm) reflector. The Royal Greenwich Observatory also includes the Nautical Almanac Office, which publishes the national navigational almanacs, and is responsible for the national time service, on which is based the worldwide system of time zones. The zero meridian, from which longitude is measured, passes through the observatory's former location at Greenwich. Other principal programs include measurement of the proper motions and radial velocities of stars, studies of the dynamics of the solar system and the Milky Way, and studies of the abundances of chemical elements in stars. From the appointment of John Flamsteed as its first director until 1972, the director of the observatory held the title of astronomer royal. Among the noted directors have been Flamsteed, Edmond Halley, James Bradley, Nevil Maskelyne, G. B. Airy, and E. Margaret Burbidge, who was the first director not to be astronomer royal.

Astronomical observatory, oldest scientific institution in Britain, founded for navigational purposes in 1675 by Charles II at Greenwich, England. Its main contributions have been in navigation, timekeeping, determination of star positions, and almanac publication. In 1767 it began publishing The Nautical Almanac, based on the time at the longitude of Greenwich; its popularity among navigators led in part to the Greenwich meridian's being made Earth's prime meridian and the starting point for international time zones in 1884 (see Greenwich Mean Time).

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Greenwich (GREN-itch, /ˈɡrɛnɪdʒ/ GREN-idge, or /ˈɡrɪnɪdʒ/ GRIN-idge) is a district in south-east London, England, on the south bank of the River Thames in the London Borough of Greenwich. It is best known for its maritime history and as giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian (0° longitude) and Greenwich Mean Time.

The town became the site of a Royal palace, the Palace of Placentia from the 15th century, and was the birthplace of many in the House of Tudor, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The palace fell into disrepair during the English Civil War and was rebuilt as the Royal Naval Hospital for Sailors by Sir Christopher Wren and his assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor. These buildings became the Royal Naval College in 1873, and they remained an establishment for military education until 1998 when they passed into the hands of the Greenwich Foundation. The historic rooms within these buildings remain open to the public; other buildings are used by University of Greenwich and the Trinity College of Music.

The town became a popular resort in the 17th century with many grand houses, such as Vanbrugh castle established on Maze Hill, next to the park. From the Georgian period estates of houses were constructed above the town centre. The maritime connections of Greenwich were celebrated in the 20th century, with the sitting of the Cutty Sark and Gypsy Moth IV next to the river front, and the National Maritime Museum in the former buildings of the Royal Hospital School in 1934. Greenwich formed part of Kent until 1889 when the County of London was created.

History

Etymology

Grenewic, or Grenevic originates with the Saxons, and is literally the green village or the village on the green. It became known as East Greenwich to distinguish it from West Greenwich or Deptford Strond, the part of Deptford adjacent to the Thames, but the use of East Greenwich to mean the whole of the town of Greenwich died out in the 19th century. However, Greenwich was divided into the two Poor Law Unions of Greenwich East and Greenwich West from the beginning of Civil registration in 1837, the boundary running down what is now Greenwich Church Street and Crooms Hill, although more modern references to "East" and "West" Greenwich probably refer to the areas east and west of the Royal Naval College and National Maritime Museum corresponding with the West Greenwich council ward. An article in The Times of October 13, 1967 stated: "East Greenwich, gateway to the Blackwall Tunnel, remains solidly working class, the manpower for one eighth of London's heavy industry. West Greenwich is a hybrid: the spirit of Nelson, the Cutty Sark, the Maritime Museum, an industrial waterfront and a number of elegant houses, ripe for development.''

Early settlement

Tumuli to the south-west of Flamsteed House, in Greenwich Park, are thought to be early Bronze Age barrows re-used by the Saxons in the 6th century as burial grounds. To the east between the Vanbrugh and Maze Hill Gates is the site of a Roman villa or temple. A small area of red paving tesserae protected by railings marks the spot. It was excavated in 1902 and 300 coins were found dating from the emperors Claudius and Honorius to the 4th century.

The Roman road from London to Dover, Watling Street crossed the high ground to the south of Greenwich, through Blackheath. This followed the line of an earlier Celtic route from Canterbury to St Albans. As late as Henry V, Greenwich was only a fishing town, with a safe anchorage in the river.

Alphege and the Danes

During the reign of Ethelred the Unready, the Danish fleet anchored in the river Thames off Greenwich for over three years, with the army being encamped on the hill above. From here they attacked Kent, and in the year 1012, took the city of Canterbury, making Alphege the Archbishop their prisoner for seven months in their camp at Greenwich. They stoned him to death for his refusal to allow his ransom (3,000 pieces of silver) to be paid and kept his body, until the blossoming of a stick that had been immersed in his blood. For this miracle his body was released to his followers, he achieved sainthood for his martyrdom, and in the 12th century the parish church was dedicated to him. The present church on the site west of the town centre is St Alfege's Church, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1714 and completed in 1718. Some vestiges of the Danish camps may be traced in the names of Eastcombe and Westcombe, on the borders of nearby Blackheath.

Royal Greenwich

The Domesday Book records the manor of Greenwich as held by the Bishop Odo of Bayeux; his lands were seized by the crown in 1082. A royal palace, or hunting lodge, has existed here since before 1300, when Edward III is known to have made offerings at the chapel of the Virgin Mary. Subsequent monarchs were regular visitors, with Henry IV making his will here, and Henry V granting the manor (for life) to Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, who died at Greenwich in 1417. The palace was created by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the regent to Henry VI in 1447; enclosing the park and erecting a tower on the spot of the Royal Observatory. It was renamed the Palace of Placentia or Pleasaunce by Henry VI's consort Margaret of Anjou after Humphrey's death. The palace was completed and further enlarged by Edward IV, and in 1466 it was granted to his Queen, Elizabeth.

The palace was the principal residence of Henry VII, and his sons, Henry (later Henry VIII) and Edmund Tudor were born here, and baptised in St Alphege's. Henry favoured Greenwich over nearby Eltham Palace, the former principal royal palace. Both Mary (February 18, 1516) and Elizabeth (September 7, 1533) were born at Greenwich. The palace of Placentia, in turn, became Elizabeth's favourite summer residence.

During the English Civil War, the palace was used as a biscuit factory and prisoner of war camp, then with the Interregnum, the palace and park were seized to become a 'mansion' for the Lord Protector. At The Restoration, the Palace of Placentia had fallen into disuse and was pulled down. New buildings began to be established as a grand palace for Charles II, but only the King Charles block was completed. It was suggested that the buildings be adapted for a Greenwich Hospital, designed by Wren, and later completed by Hawksmoor. Anne of Denmark had a house built by Inigo Jones on the hill above, overlooking the hospital and river - now the centrepiece of the National Maritime Museum, founded in 1934 and housed in the buildings of the former Royal Hospital School.

The Royal association with Greenwich was now broken, but the group of buildings remain that form the core of the World Historic Site. .

Sites of interest

In 1997, Maritime Greenwich was added to the list of World Heritage Sites, for the concentration and quality of buildings of historic and architectural interest. These can be divided into the group of buildings along the riverfront, Greenwich park and the Georgian and Victorian town centre. In recognition of the suburb's astronomical links, Asteroid 2830 has been named 'Greenwich'.

Riverfront

The Cutty Sark (a clipper ship) has been preserved in a dry dock by the river. A major fire in May 2007 destroyed a part of the ship, although much had already been removed for restoration. Its future has yet to be decided. Nearby for many years was also displayed Gipsy Moth IV, the yacht sailed by Sir Francis Chichester in his single-handed, 226-day circumnavigation of the globe during 1966–67. In 2004, Gypsy Moth IV was removed from Greenwich, and after restoration work completed a second circumnavigation in May 2007. On the riverside in front of the north-west corner of the Hospital is an obelisk erected in memory of Arctic explorer Joseph René Bellot.

Near the remains of the Cutty Sark, a circular building contains the entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel, opened on 4 August 1902. This connects Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs on the northern side of the River Thames. The north exit of the tunnel is at Island Gardens, from where the famous view of Greenwich Hospital painted by Canaletto can be seen.

Rowing has been part of life on the river at Greenwich for hundreds of years and the first Greenwich Regatta was held in 1785. The annual Great River Race along the Thames Tideway finishes at the Cutty Sark. The Trafalgar Rowing Centre in Crane Street close by is home to Curlew Rowing Club and Globe Rowing Club.

The Old Royal Naval College is Sir Christopher Wren's domed masterpiece at the centre of the heritage site. The site is administered by the Greenwich Foundation and several of the buildings are let to the University of Greenwich and one, the King Charles block, to Trinity College of Music. Within the complex is the former college dining room, the Painted Hall, this was painted by James Thornhill, and the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul, with an interior designed by James 'Athenian' Stuart. The Naval College had a training reactor, the JASON reactor, within the King William building that was operational between 1962 and 1996. The reactor was decommissioned and removed in 1999.

To the east of the Naval College is the Trinity Hospital almshouse, founded in 1613, the oldest surviving building in the town centre. This is next to the massive brick walls and the landing stage of Greenwich Power Station. Built between 1902 and 1910 as a coal-fired station to supply power to London's tram system, and later the London underground, it is now oil- and gas-powered and serves as a backup station for London Underground. East Greenwich also has a small park, East Greenwich Pleasaunce, which was formerly the burial ground of Greenwich Hospital.

The O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) was built on a disused British Gas site on the Greenwich Peninsula. It is next to North Greenwich tube station, about east from the Greenwich town centre, North West of Charlton. The Greenwich Millennium Village is a new urban regeneration development to the south of the Dome.

Greenwich park

Behind the former Naval College is the National Maritime Museum housed in buildings forming another symmetrical group and grand arcade around the Queen's House, designed by Inigo Jones. Continuing to the south, Greenwich Park is a Royal Park of , laid out in the 17th century and formed from the hunting grounds of the Royal Palace of Placentia.

The park rises towards Blackheath and at the top of this hill is a statue of James Wolfe, commander of the British expedition to capture Quebec, nearby a major group of buildings within the park is the former Royal Observatory, Greenwich and the Prime Meridian passes through the building. Greenwich Mean Time was at one time based on the time observations made at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, before being superseded by Coordinated Universal Time. While Greenwich no longer hosts a working astronomical observatory, a ball still drops daily to mark the exact moment of 1 p.m., and there is a museum of astronomical and navigational tools, particularly John Harrison's marine chronometers.

The Ranger's House lies at the Blackheath end of the park and houses the Wernher Collection of art , and many fine houses, including Vanbrugh's house lie on Maze Hill, on the western edge of the park. Now home to Simon Grimsdale of Clacton-on-Sea

Town centre

Georgian and Victorian architecture dominates in the town centre which spreads to the west of the park and Royal Naval college. Much of this forms a one-way system around a covered market, Greenwich Market and the arthouse Greenwich Cinema. Up the hill, from the centre there are many streets of Georgian houses, including the world's only museum dedicated to fans, the Fan Museum, on Croom's Hill. Nearby at the junction of Croom's Hill with Nevada Street, is Greenwich Theatre, formerly Crowder's Music Hall - one of two Greenwich theatres, the other being the Greenwich Playhouse. There is also Greenwich Peninsula nearby, where there is the The O2, Greenwich Millennium Village and the Filmworks, an 18 screen Odeon complex.

Geography

Topography

The town and hospital lie on a broad platform to the south of the outside of a broad meander in the River Thames, with a safe deep water anchorage lying in the river. To the south, the land rises steeply, through the park to the town of Blackheath. The higher areas consist of a sedimentary layer of gravely soils, known as the Blackheath Beds, that spread through much of the south east over a chalk outcrop – with sands, loam and seams of clay at the lower levels by the river.

To the west is the former port town of Deptford, where the town was bounded by the River Ravensbourne and further to the east, the former industrial centre of the Greenwich Peninsula that in the middle ages was marshland, drained in the 16th century.

Climate

This data was collected between 1971 and 2000 at the weather station situated in Greenwich:

Notable residents

(In alphabetical order)

Education

The University of Greenwich main campus is located in the distinctive buildings of the former Royal Naval College. There is a further campus of the university at Avery Hill in Eltham, and also, outside the borough, in Medway. Near the main campus at Greenwich, the Trinity College of Music is housed in the buildings of the former Greenwich Hospital.

Transport

Underground

North Greenwich tube station is the nearest tube station. It is from the town centre and can be reached directly by 129 or 188 bus. The station is in Zones 2/3 and is on the Jubilee Line. Trains go to Stratford to the east and Stanmore to the west via central London.

Docklands Light Railway

Nearby Docklands Light Railway (DLR) stations:

DLR trains go to Lewisham to the south with north-bound services going to Bank and Stratford via Canary Wharf. The DLR has direct connections with the London Underground network.

Rail

Nearby railway stations:

Trains from Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park railway stations run to London Charing Cross and London Cannon Street in central London to the west. To the east the trains go to Dartford with a limited service to Gravesend and Gillingham.

Buses

River

There are many river boat services running from Greenwich Pier, managed by London River Services. The main services include:

Many tour and commuter boats from Central London also pass round the Thames Barrier.

Pedestrian and cyclists

The Thames Path National Trail runs along the riverside. The Greenwich foot tunnel provides pedestrian access to the southern end of the Isle of Dogs, across the river Thames.

National Cycle Network route 1 runs through the foot tunnel (although cycles must not be ridden in the tunnel itself).

See also

References

External links

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