Greenwich is known historically as London’s naval yard. The Navy was based at Portsmouth and much merchant traffic sailed from Southampton, but seagoing vessels could negotiate the Thames as far as the Pool of London, to which Greenwich was the entry. Maritime Greenwich is now a World Heritage Site.
The Bow of the Cutty Sark
Ships were workhorses, but they were also works of art. Note the gilded scrollwork: it was regilded as it faded, a sign that the ship was well taken care of.
Figurehead of the Cutty Sark (rear)
Figurehead of the Cutty Sark (front)
The ship derives its name from the old Scottish legend of Tam O’sShanter, popularised by Robert Burns. The figurehead is of Nannie, a hag who chased down Tam until he was able to cross the river (since witches cannot cross running water). She was able only to grab the tail of his horse. When in port, the tail is hung in Nannie’ss hand. And what does this have to do with Cutty Sark? She is dressed in a short nightgown: in old Scot’s, a “cutty sark’.
National Maritime Museum
One of the highlights of the museum is the Nelson exhibit, where one can view various artifacts of his life and career, the most dazzling being the uniform in which he was shot, the bloodstains still visible after 200 years. Exhibits range from Elizabethan era exploration to modern cargoes and the changing face of the Docklands. Care of the Queen’s House is under purview of the NMM.
The Queen’s House was built originally for Queen Anne, wife of James I, though she died before it was completed. Cromwell’s men destroyed the two outer wings before he appropriated the still intact centre section for his personal use. After the Restoration, it was generally ignored by the royal family. Today, it is run by the National Maritime Museum and contains a collection of maritime art as well as period furnishings.
Statue of General James Wolfe
Bronze statue to this hero of the war of 1812, who died in the defence of Canada. It stands looking over the water, in front of the west wing of the Royal Naval College, in what is now the courtyard of the Greenwich Vistor’s Centre.
Royal Naval College, Central Courtyard
The East Wing, to the right, houses part of the University of Greenwich; the West Wing, to the left, houses the Trinity College of Music. The statue is of George II in Roman dress.
Royal Naval College, West Wing
The West Wing is the original design
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