Swanley History Group – June 2018 meeting
Which town is older than London? The Celts were the first to call it home two and a half thousand years ago, valuing the fertile land and proximity to two rivers offering good fishing. The name of the town is Greenwich. Using a range of illustrations, including historical documents and ancient maps, our speaker Ian Bevan whizzed us through the centuries up to the present day.
Roman soldiers marching by on their way to Colchester in Essex would have been a familiar sight. Remains of a Saxon village and graveyard have been discovered and the Vikings used it as a base for their ferocious attacks. They captured and killed poor Archbishop Alphege. Duke Humphrey, brother of Henry V, liked Greenwich so much he had a house built and lived there happily until Henry V1 forced him out. The Tudor dynasty admired the prime riverside location and turned it into The Palace of Placentia, enlarged by Henry VIII to be as imposing as Hampton Court. It was disliked by Queen Anne of Denmark and she commissioned
Inigo Jones to build The Queen’s House which still stands. Charles II added a wing before money was needed elsewhere due to the Great Fire of London and also commissioned the first Observatory. William and Mary engaged Christopher Wren, assisted by Nicholas Hawksmoor and John Vanbrugh, to build The Royal Hospital for Seamen on the site, which later became The Old Royal Naval College. 20,000 people came to pay their respects to Lord Nelson, lying in state in The Painted Hall.
We can still see some of the grand town houses built by wealthy Georgians and Victorians, such as The Rangers House and The Fan Museum. The coming of the railway, which was built on a viaduct in the 1830’s, changed the scene, bringing ordinary people and industry to the town. Workers benefited from the construction of the foot tunnel in 1910.
Today Greenwich is a mecca for tourists flocking to visit The Observatory, The Cutty Sark and The National Maritime Museum. Greenwich Park was used during the Olympic Games of 2012 and the Millennium Dome is now a major concert venue. Of vital importance is The Thames Barrier, built in 1982, as it has saved much of London, including Greenwich, from serious flooding on many occasions.
Christina Tyler, Programme Organiser