Greenwich Day by Day

Greenwich Day by Day is written by David Male and is published on this site by permission. Copyright © 2005 David Male.

Countdown clock
The countdown clock sited on the zero meridian (shewing 1,000 hours to go to the new millennium); see April 4


Apr 1 All Fools' Day - the custom of sending one upon a pointless errand is supposed to have been a burlesque of the sending hither and thither of Christ from Annas to Caiaphas, and from Pilate to Herod. (10)

a) The London Borough of Greenwich created 1965. Formerly a metropolitan borough of SE London it became the London Borough of Greenwich as a result of the London Government Act of 1963. The name Greenwich means 'green dwelling', 'green village' or 'green farm' and in the Middle Ages it was a fishing village.(10)

b) The Dreadnought Hospital closed, 1986.

c) (Richard Horatio) Edgar Wallace was christened in St Alfege's Church on 1st April 1875. His mother, Polly Richards, was in attendance. Nine days later she had the child handed over to foster parents. Edgar Wallace was the author of many thrillers: The Angel of Terror (1922); The Green Archer (1923); The Clue of the New Pin (1923) and Room Thirteen (1924). Wallace also wrote 11 books featuring 'Sanders of the River'. Altogether he wrote over a hundred thrillers, 50 volumes of short stories, 4 books of verse. Of his detective fiction the stories about J. G. Reeder were the most successful. Edgar Wallace is best remembered for his film script of "King Kong". He died in 1932.

Apr 2

Queen Mary I celebrated Holy Thursday 1556, at Greenwich. ". . . the Queen held her Maundy, as it had not been held for many a long year. She was at Greenwich, and around the great hall benches were set, and in front of the benches, stools for forty-one old and poor women to put their feet on, forty-one being the number of the Queen's years . . . the Queen went down on her knees . . . [and} kneeling all the while, washed carefully, dried, crossed, and then fervently kissed the old withered feet". (37)

Apr 3

a) Queen Elizabeth I conducted Maunday Thursday feet-washing ceremony 1572 at Greenwich. "Being well aware of the state of medieval feet Elizabeth ensured that the feet were washed first by the Sub-Almoner and then by the High Almoner. After the ceremony, Gloriana handed out cloth, salmon, herrings, bread, claret, towels and aprons to the newly-washed poor." (Daily Telegraph, 18 April 2003). [The date being arrived at by the "Easter Dating Method" of the Astronomical Society of South Australia via the Internet]

b) Princess Caroline of Brunswick disembarked at Greenwich 1795. Caroline, who was to marry George, the then Prince of Wales, on 8th April 1795, enquired on seeing the Royal Hospital's pensioners: "Do all Englishmen have only one arm or one leg?" (See also: Apr 8)

c) Sir James Clark Ross, rear-admiral and explorer, d.1862. (See also: Apr 15)

Apr 4

a) Francis Drake knighted by Queen Elizabeth I aboard the Golden Hinde, Greenwich Reach, 1581. (see: Jul 7 and Dec 13) Alison Weir (28) indicates that Elizabeth "turned to one of the Duke of Anjou's envoys, the Seigneur de Marchaumont and, handing over the sword, asked him to perform the dubbing ceremony for her. Thus it was that the short, stocky adventurer [Drake] found himself kneeling on the deck before a Frenchman, while the Queen looked on, beaming approval". Also from Elizabeth the Queen (28) we learn the Queen "visited the Middle Temple, where, in the great hall, which had been built using timbers from the Golden Hind, she presided over a banquet. . .". The Golden Hind (formerly the Pelican) was laid up in Greenwich pier and became the object of souvenir hunters.

b) Grinling Gibbons, celebrated wood-carver, b 1648 in Rotterdam. Gibbons did much work in St Alfege's and in St Nicholas' Deptford.

c) Carl Wilhelm (William) Siemens b. 1823 (See: Oct 1)

d) The Countdown Clock, on the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory, began ticking away the milliseconds to the New Millennium, 1997. [The new millennium officially began on 1 January 2000; the Royal Observatory, Greenwich's opinion was, however, that the millennium did not start until 2001.]

Apr 5

a) Thomas Masterman Hardy b. 1769 (29) (See: Jun 15)

b) James Callaghan becomes Prime Minister 1976. James Callaghan, who was b. 27 March 1912, lived in Blackheath in the 1950s and 60s. (Wikipedia)

Apr 6

Will Crooks b. 1852 (See: Mar 11)

Apr 7

Hole appeared in Blackheath Hill 2002. The hole in the road was probably the result of illegal chalk mining which took place in the 17th Century. The hole had widespread effects, disrupting traffic over a wide area and causing numerous council tenants (from Glennie House and Robertson House) to be ejected from their homes. (See also: Dec 23)

Apr 8

George, Prince of Wales (the future George IV) married Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick 1795. (12) The Prince "looked like death and full of confusion. . .he was quite drunk". The marriage was unhappy from the beginning and, after the birth of her daughter Charlotte (1796), Caroline lived separately from her husband in Montagu House, at Blackheath (see: Apr 3 & Sep 11).

Apr 9

a) George III names "The Arsenal" 1805. George III, when visiting with his family, on noticing a dissonance between the name (Woolwich Warren) and its subject, suggested the substitution of "Arsenal". The name "Royal Arsenal" appeared in the Ordinance of 24 June 1805. (22)

b) Isambard Kingdom Brunel b. 1806. I.K.B. was the son of the equally famous engineer Sir Marc Isambard Brunel. The father engaged in many engineering projects, the most famous being the Thames Tunnel. A start was made in 1825 but the river broke through the roof in 1827 and again in 1828 when the work was discontinued and was not restarted until 1835, the tunnel being opened in 1843. The tunnel joins Wapping on the north bank of the Thames with Rotherhithe on the south. It is 400 metres long and originally designed for foot and horse traffic but is now part of the East London Line of the London Underground Limited (LUL) system. Sir Marc's contribution was the invention of the "Tunnelling Shield" the method being used to construct the Channel Tunnel a century and a half later. The work had a profound effect on Sir Marc's health and the tunnel was completed by his son, Isambard. (See also: Jul 27 & Sep15) (Incidentally, English and French engineers constructing the Channel Tunnel connecting Britain with France, using the same techniques as those employed by the Brunels, met on October 30, 1990.)

Apr 9 & 10

Battle of Vimy Ridge, 1917. Canadian forces stormed the ridge in one of the fiercest battles of the First World War; 11,295 men went missing. It was at this battle that John George Pattison won the Victoria Cross. Pattison was Woolwich-born but emigrated to Canada. Pattison, who survived the battle, died later that same year on being sent 'up the line'. He is remembered in Canada by Mount Pattison in Jasper National Park.

Apr 11

Coronation of William III and Mary II 1689. Another of those feast days commemorated by the Pensioners of the Greenwich Hospital.

Apr 12

a) Union Flag adopted 1606. The flag at this time bore only the cross of St George and the saltire of St Andrew. "A union flag. . . was introduced by proclamation of King James I". (The Times)

b) [By way of explanation - JASON was a small (10kW) nuclear reactor installed by the Ministry of Defence in the King William Building of the Royal Naval College. It was operational from 1962 to 1996 and totally decommissioned in 1999 (270 tonnes of radioactive waste being removed). The existence of a nuclear reactor close to central London was largely unknown.] The European Commission brought a case (C61/03 Commission vs. United Kingdom) against the UK at the European Court of Justice, for failing to fulfil the Euratom Treaty. The case was dismissed on 12 April 2005, the Court confirming that the Treaty does not apply to uses of Nuclear Energy for military purposes. (Wikipedia)

Apr 13

The Flora 1,000 mile challenge ended on Blackheath Common 2003. The 42 day challenge - one mile , every hour, day and night, for 1,000 consecutive hours ended on Sunday 13th April 2003, which was the date for the London Marathon. Shona Crombie -Hicks, one of the finishers of the Flora 1,000 Mile Challenge, then finished ahead of her Challenge rivals in the marathon, clocking 3 hours 8 minutes. Captain Robert Barclay, who completed the challenge in 1809, won a 1,000 guinea wager, with 6,000 guineas won on side bets. The Captain would walk half-a-mile from his Newmarket home and back again. He took to wearing a brace of pistols to guard against any attack which might threaten his wager. (Daily Telegraph 14 April 2003)

Apr 14

Hubert Bland d. 1914 and is buried in Woolwich Cemetery. Hubert Bland was married to Edith Nesbit ( 22 April 1880) (See also: May 4)

Apr 15

a) William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland b. 1721 (See: Apr 16)

b) Sir James Clark Ross, rear-admiral and explorer, b.1800. Ross made five voyages in search of the NW Passage and accompanied Parry in his search for the North Pole (1827). James Ross gave his name to the Ross Sea which he discovered in 1841. He wrote A Voyage of Discovery and Research to Southern and Antarctic Regions, published in 1847. His last expedition was in 1848 in HMS Enterprise on the first search for Franklin. (See: May 12, Jun 11) Ross was a Blackheath resident, living at 2 Eliot Place, where there is a blue plaque.

Apr 16

Battle of Culloden, 1746: victory of the Duke of Cumberland over the Young Pretender, Charles Stuart - this was the last battle fought in Britain. The young Prince William Augustus is portrayed in the Hanoverian family group on the West wall of the Painted Hall. Surrounded by his sibling sisters (Anne, Amelia, Caroline, Mary and Louisa) it is hard, perhaps, to realise this innocent youth became "Butcher Cumberland".

Apr 17

Benjamin Franklin d. 1790. Franklin first mooted the idea of summertime in America (see: Feb18)

Apr 18 (Eve of St Alfege's Day) St Alfeges Stairs

Restored Church of St Alfege rededicated 1953. Restored by Professor A. Richardson after the incendiary bombs did their damage on 19th March 1941.
Right: Stairs to the church pulpit with Grinling Gibbons' (1648-1721) tread having survived the bombing.

Apr 19

Alfege, (Alphege) Archbishop of Canterbury, martyred in Greenwich, 1012. Alfege, who had been consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury in 1006, was taken prisoner by the Danes in 1011 when they sacked Canterbury . The Danes demanded a ransom of £3,000 but Alfege refused to allow the people from his diocese to pay it, on the grounds that the Danes had already (for a similar sum) been paid not to interfere with Canterbury, a promise that they had not kept. Not knowing what to do with Alfege the Danes hauled him around the country before bringing him to Greenwich where they martyred him (literally by 'boning' him to death) on 19th April 1012. The martyrdom is commemorated on a stone slab in the Chancel pavement.

Apr 20

a) Robert Blake fought his last battle 1656. The destruction of the Spanish fleet at Santa Cruz Bay cost Blake his life (29) (See: Aug 7)

b) The Granada Cinema, Powis Street "Grand Opening" 1937. Will Hay's "Good morning, Boys", which established its star as a major draw in British films, was the opening picture. Reginald Dixon was engaged to play the Mighty Wurlitzer. In more recent times bingo has replaced pictures but the magnificent Art Deco interior has been preserved.

Apr 21

a) Henry VII d.1509 at Richmond. Descended from Owen Tudor, Henry was the sole surviving Lancastrian claimant of any note after the death of Henry VI. He defeated and killed Richard III at the battle of Bosworth. His reign saw the real flowering of the Renaissance in England : he was the builder of the fine Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey and improved and developed the Palace at Greenwich. (There is an unsubstantiated story that Henry's body was disinterred and then burnt at Mary I's command.)

b) Elizabeth II b. 1926. Her Majesty the Queen has been a frequent visitor to Greenwich during her reign - when opening, for instance, the Thames Barrier (see: May 8). Another such was the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Joint Service Defence College in 1987. (See also: May 20)

Apr 22

a) The eclipse of the sun in 1715 at 5.15 p.m. - a prediction of the Reverend John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal, as recorded by James Thornhill in SE corner of the Painted Hall (ORNC).

b) Stephen Lawrence was murdered in Eltham on this day 1993.

Apr 23 St George's Day

a) The Most Noble Order of the Garter founded by Edward III. Tradition has it that it was founded - on this day - at Eltham Palace, when the King espied a lady's garter (said to have been that of the Countess Salisbury) and on picking it up tied it around his own knee and uttered the celebrated words: "Honi soit qui mal y pense".

b) Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou 1445, at Titchfield Abbey in Hampshire. Subsequent to the wedding Henry and his young bride honeymooned at Bella Court after being greeted by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, on Blackheath. This gesture, of inviting the newly-weds into his delightful Greenwich river-side manor-house, is seen as Humphrey's sad mistake. Following his mysterious death (see: Feb 23), Margaret of Anjou moved quickly to take over Bella Court as her royal residence. (See: Feb 24) Henry VII renamed the manor as Placentia, which became Greenwich Palace.

c) Henry VIII proclaimed king on this day, 1509 (7) and, subsequently, used this day as his official birthday. An admirer of St George (patron saint of the Order of the Garter), Henry held a chapter of the Order on 23 April wherever he happened to be. During Henry's 37 years' reign 24 chapters of the Order were held in Greenwich.

d) William Shakespeare d. 1616 (11) (also said to be Shakespeare's b. in 1564 (The Times). Coincidentally 23 April 1616 is also the date of Cervantes' (the author of Don Quixote) death but C. R. Cheney in his Handbook of Dates for Students of English history points out they did not die on the same day, although each died on 23 April 1616, according to the computation of his own country. Shakespeare's company (from 1603 known as The King's Men)is said to have performed for Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich.

e) Coronation of Charles II, 1661 (following the Restoration of the Monarchy). (See : May 29)

Apr 24

Daniel Defoe d. 1731 (31). Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, was also a manufacturer of bricks. It is commonly understood that Mr Foe, his working name, contracted for and supplied the bricks for King William Building of the Royal Naval Hospital.(See: Feb 2)

Apr 25

a)Launch of Repulse 1868 (27). Repulse was the last wooden capital ship and the last major ship to be launched at Woolwich. (Repulse was completed at Sheerness.)

b) Jane Maria Clouson was brutally murdered, 1871 in Kidbrook Lane. This murder, which stirred up many passions in Greenwich, led to the arrest of Edmund Walter Pook, a printer, who was acquitted at the Old Bailey, 15th July 1871.

c) Walter de la Mare b. 1873 in Charlton. Novelist, playwright, author of short stories and children's books, and critic.

Apr 26

a) Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha stayed at the Queen's House, 1736, "In April 1736 [26th] it [the Queen's House] was the scene of a royal wedding and an almost ritualistic 'putting to bed' of the royal couple, Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Augusta, Princess of Saxe-Gotha." (42) (In due time this royal couple becoming the parents of George III).

b) FA Cup Final: Charlton Athletic 1 Burnley 0 (aet), 1947. Charlton's goal was scored (in extra time) by Chris Duffy and the match at Wembley was watched by 98,215 spectators. (43)

Apr 27

a) George Whitefield (1714-70) began practice of open-air preaching, 1739. Often Whitefield preached to from ten to thirty thousand people at a time. Today in London there are only two open places in London where Whitefield preached still open: Kennington Oval and Blackheath, where the preacher is remembered by the small prominence known as Whitefield's Mount. (Internet)

b) 6 Crooms HillCecil Day-Lewis b. 1904. (29) C. Day-Lewis, who succeeded John Masefield as Poet Laureate in 1968, lived at 6 Crooms Hill, from 1957 to 1972, with his wife Jill (nee Balcon, the daughter of Sir Michael Balcon of Ealing Studios fame). Day-Lewis was professor of poetry at Oxford 1951-1956, and at Harvard 1964-65. His published works include Overtures to a Death (1938), (he delivered the Clark Lectures at Cambridge, published as The Poetic Image (1947), Collected Poems (1954), The Poetic Impulse (1965) and a series of detective novels, which he wrote as Nicholas Blake . The Poems of C Day-Lewis 1925 -1972 appeared in 1977. Whilst living on Crooms Hill, the poet was also President of the Greenwich Society. One of their children is Daniel Day-Lewis (b. 1959) (See: Apr 29)
Left: No.6 Crooms Hill

c) National Maritime Museum opened by George VI, 1937 (27), being the first public act of his reign.

Apr 28

The Woolwich Arsenal Football Club played its last match at Manor Field, Woolwich, 1913.(18) The Manor Field had been first used in 1888 (by the then Royal Arsenal Football Club, which changed its name to Woolwich Arsenal Football Club in 1891) and, then for a time the team used the Invicta ground until the rent was raised. It was then that the Manor Field ground was purchased and was made ready for the 1893-1894 season. The Manor Field ground was eventually outgrown by an increasingly successful team. Before the team played its first game at its new ground of Highbury, on September 6 1913, the word "Woolwich" was dropped from its name. (Manor Field is described as "Manor Ground" on the Ordnance Survey Plumstead Map of 1914.)

Apr 29

a) Henry VIII confirms his alliance with Francis I at Greenwich, 1526. (30)

b) Richard Lovelace's petition, 1642. On 29 April 1642 a great meeting was held on Blackheath to back the famous Kentish petition [for the restoration of the king's rights], which Richard Lovelace had the temerity to present to the Houses of Parliament on the following day. Lovelace was committed to the Gatehouse at Westminster on 30 April 1642. He was released on bail (of £15,000) after seven weeks' imprisonment on 21 June 1642. [Lovelace, who was born in Woolwich (see: Dec 5), was committed to prison again, in 1648, where he was enabled to prepare a collection of verses called Lucasta: Epodes, Odes, Sonnets, Songs, etc.]

c) Daniel Day-Lewis b. 1957. Daniel, the younger brother of Tamasin, may have had his interest in theatre and in acting lit by residing at his parents' home of 6 Crooms Hill, which is directly opposite to the Greenwich Theatre. Daniel is the grandson of Sir Michael Balcon, film producer, and son of Cecil Day-Lewis, poet laureate, (see: Apr 27) and Jill Balcon (b. 1926), a one-time Rank starlet. Daniel Day-Lewis was awarded with an acting Oscar for playing Christy Brown in "My Left Foot" (1989). [Brenda Fricker was also similarly honoured for the same film.] He was awarded a Bafta for his portrayal of Bill Cutting in "Gangs of New York" (2002); Most recently is the award of a second Oscar for his portrayal of Daniel Plainview in the loosely-inspired film of Upton Sinclair's novel "Oil" - "There will be blood" (2007).

Apr 30

a) Mary II b. 1662, at St James's Palace.(11) Mary was instrumental in creating a home (a 'hospital') for old seamen at Greenwich. (See: May 16, Oct 25 & Dec 28)

b) Admiralty Circular dated 30th April 1873 concerning the establishment of the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. (See also: Feb 1) ". . . to provide the best efficient means of higher education of Naval Officers adequate to the constantly increasing requirements of the Service".

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