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.


Aug 1

a) Queen Anne d. 1714. (11) Queen Anne, the sister of Mary II, the younger daughter of James II and Anne Hyde. She married Prince George of Denmark (their portraits are on the ceiling of the Upper Painted Hall, ORNC). They had 17 children, none of whom survived to adulthood; Prince William dying at the age of eleven. The reign of Queen Anne saw the union of England with Scotland which previously had separate legislative procedures; and her reign is noted for glorious military victories won in Europe by Marlborough. The Queen assisted the building of the Royal Hospital by ensuring the donation of the sum realised from Captain William Kidd's treasure (£6432), as recorded on the north wall of the entrance (beneath the dome) to the Painted Hall (ORNC).

Aug 2

a) Greenwich Mean Time adopted as legal time in Britain, 1880. (The Internet) Definition of Time Act - 2 August 1880. An Act to remove doubts as to the meaning of expressions relative to Time.
1. Whenever any expression of Time occurs in any Act of Parliament, deed, or other legal instrument, the time expressed shall. . . be held in the case of Great Britain to be Greenwich mean time. . .
2. This Act may be cited as the Statutes (Definition of Time) Act 1880

b) Second bore tunnel of Blackwall opened 1967. This took 7 years to construct and cost £9m. (See: May 22)

Aug 3

V1 flying bomb landed at Sandbach Place and Maxey Road (Plumstead) 1944. 4 dead and 29 badly injured.(34)

Aug 4

a) Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, b. 1900. (See: Mar 30 & Jun 21)

b) Foot tunnel anniversaryGreenwich Foot Tunnel opened 1902. The tunnel, which links Cutty Sark Gardens with Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs, is about a quarter of a mile in length and approximately 60 feet deep. It was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie. Its original purpose was to enable the residents of South London to work at the docks on the Isle of Dogs and closed the horse ferry hitherto used. The Greenwich Foot Tunnel celebrated its centenary in 2002. (See also: Jun 25) "The 100th birthday of the completion of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel was celebrated [on 4th August 2002] with Chris Binnie, great grandson of the tunnel engineer Sir Alexander Binnie, among the guests. . . " (News Shopper, 7 August 2002)
Right: Chris Binnie (in top hat) addresses his audience at the centenary celebrations.

c) 2 millionth visitor received on board the Cutty Sark, 1964. All debts had now been paid and the ship was beginning to earn her own keep from admission charges.

d) Admaston Road, Plumstead was hit by a V1 4th August 1944.(38)

Aug 5

Further experiments in the velocity of electricity, 1748 on Shooters Hill. Not being satisfied with earlier results (see: Aug 14) the experimenters arranged a circuit of two miles of wire [the Leyden Jar phial being in the middle of the circuit] . . . several discharges were made but the observer who held the two ends of the wire "always felt himself shocked at the very instant of making the explosion", which was within his view. The conclusion was "that the velocity of electricity was instantaneous". (Articles on Shooters Hill by Colonel A.H. Bagnold, Parish Magazine of Christ Church, Shooters Hill 1936/1938)

Aug 6/7

Jack the Ripper's (suspected) first victim - Martha Tabram - stabbed to death in Whitechapel,1888. (29) This has only to do with Greenwich through one of those accused of the Ripper murders: Montague John Druitt. Druitt, a Barrister, who lived in Eliot Place, Blackheath, was dismissed from his Blackheath school teaching post a few days before he committed suicide. His body was pulled from the Thames on 31 December 1888. Sir Melville Macnaghten, Chief Constable CID, named Druitt as chief suspect in an article published in 1894. Controversy has raged since but there is little evidence to tie Druitt to these ghastly murders.

Aug 7

a) Admiral Robert Blake d. at sea 1657. (27) Adm Blake d. an hour short of Plymouth: "at the entering of the Sound, Death seized him". Blake, "the greatest English seaman of the century", lay in state in the Queen's House, Greenwich.

b) Queen Mary visits Brook War Hospital, 1918. (34)

Aug 8 & 9

a) Defence against the Spanish Armada 1588. The Armada consisted of about 130 ships carrying 30,000 men including 19,000 soldiers. The engagement actually began on the night of 28 July when Lord Howard of Effingham sent 8 fireships into the midst of the Spanish galleons creating confusion and panic. On 8th August Queen Elizabeth was rowed from St James' Palace to inspect her foot soldiers and cavalry at Tilbury. She stayed the night at Edward Ritchie's home at Saffron Garden. (28) The camp at Tilbury was disbanded on 17 August 1588 and at the beginning of September most of the sailors were discharged. The defeat of the Spanish Armada is recorded first on the list of naval engagements held by "Victory" as painted by Sir James Thornhill on the West wall of the Painted Hall (ORNC)..

b) Tilbury speech of Queen Elizabeth I, 1588 made on the following day. "I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king and a King of England too. . . " (16)

Aug 8

V1 flying bomb fell in Hylton Street, Plumstead 1944. (34)

Aug 9

James Cook promoted Captain and appointed to Greenwich Hospital,1775. This appointment was accepted only with reluctance by James Cook, and only on the understanding that he be released from his duties if required elsewhere. His last and fatal voyage began in 1776 (see: Jul 11); Cook sailing in the Resolution and his second-in-command Captain Clerke in the Discovery. (See: Feb 14)

Aug 10

a) Foundation stone of Greenwich Royal Observatory laid by Charles II 1675. The Royal Observatory is something that Charles II desired and he created, by Royal Warrant, the first official observatory in the world. The Warrant says: "we have resolved to build a small observatory within our park at Greenwich, upon the highest ground, at or near the place where the castle stood, with lodging rooms for our astronomical observer and assistant."

Aug 11

Observant Friars Church dissolved 1534. On the accession of Mary I the Observant Friars reappeared in Greenwich but Queen Elizabeth - 12 June 1559 - expelled the Friars and suppressed their monastery again.

Aug 12

a) "The new Commission for Greenwich Hospital was sealed and opened [1703] . . .my son-in-law, Draper, was present, to whom I resigned my office as Treasurer. . ." John Evelyn (1)

b) George IV b 1762. (11)

c) Harold Whitlock greeted by the townsfolk of Deptford 1936. Whitlock, " the finest walker the world has ever produced", was the winner of the 50km walk at the Berlin Olympics of 1936.

Aug 13

Mary Tudor, sister to Henry VIII, married by proxy to the French king Louis XII, 1514 in Placentia's great banqueting hall at Greenwich. This was Louis XII's third marriage but he died three months later.

Aug 14

a)Princess Katherine b. Eltham 1479. Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville had at least 8 children (Edward had four more but illegitimate) born in castles and palaces over the length and breadth of England, but two, Katherine (who married the Earl of Devon) and her younger sister Bridgit (b. 1480 and who became a nun at Dartford), were born in Eltham Palace. (See: May 23)

b) Experiment to determine the speed of electricity, Shooters Hill, 1747. Using Leyden Jars, milestones and great lengths of wire, observations were made by observers who received shocks while standing on wax surfaces and gripping the extremity of the wire with one hand and touching the ground with an iron rod with the other and measured the time from discharge of electricity (announced by gun fire). Twelve explosions were made. The measured time checked by a "seconds watch" made by Graham. The elapsed time deduced was .837 of a second. (See also: Aug 5) (Articles on Shooters Hill by Colonel A.H. Bagnold, Parish Magazine of Christ Church, Shooters Hill, 1936-1938.)

Aug 16

In 1858, Queen Victoria inaugurates trans-Atlantic telegraph by sending a message of congratulation to President Buchanan. The President replied ". . . may the Atlantic telegraph, under the blessing of heaven, prove to be a bond of perpetual peace and friendship between the kindred nations. . ." The cable was made by two English firms: Glass, Elliot & Co, of Greenwich and R.S. Newall &Co, of Liverpool. The 'bond of perpetual peace' lasted only a few weeks until the September when the cable's insulation failed. (The Internet)

Aug 17

The Duke of Anjou visits Elizabeth I at Greenwich,1579, intent on marrying her. On October 7 the Privy Council fails to give its support and on Nov 24 1579 negotiations are delayed as a result of Anjou's unpopularity in England, especially with Puritans. (30)

Aug 18

George Webb and Richard Russell hanged 1809. Webb and Russell were tried at Maidstone with several others of breaking and entering houses in Deptford and Eltham. The others were acquitted but Webb and Russell were hanged before a large crowd "at the original site of The Fox under the Hill, on the site of the present police station [on the corner of Shooters Hill Road and Well Hall Road]". (36)

Aug 19

a) John Flamsteed b. 1646 (29) at Denby, Derbyshire. The Reverend John Flamsteed was the first Astronomer Royal. (See: Jul 10)

b) Edith Nesbit b. 1858. (29) (See: May 24)

Aug 20

a) John Harrison presents his fourth chronometer (H4)to the Board of Longitude to qualify for its £20,000 prize, 1765. (12) [As one might well imagine, Greenwich received a mere mention in Harrison's submission but the Royal Observatory at Greenwich became the possessor of all three of Harrison's clocks (H1, H2, H3), and the H4 chronometer, and are displayed there to this day.] Harrison was to wait another eight years before receiving his due: the final amount of £8,750 being paid to him in June 1773. (See: Jun 21)

b) Collision on R. Thames between Marchioness and MV Bowbelle,1989 with great loss of life. A not dissimilar occurrence of the disaster to that which overtook The Princess Alice in 1878. (See: Sep 3)

Aug 21

a) Navy Office moved (by Samuel Pepys) to the King's House (King Charles Building) 1665. The Navy Office stayed in Greenwich, to avoid the plague, until 7 January 1666 when it moved back to Seething Lane, London.

b) William IV b.1765. (11) King William's statue stands on the site of St Mary's Church in King William Walk. (See: Sep 18)

c) The one tree of One Tree Hill was blown down 1848. (24) (See also: Jul 2)

Aug 22

a) Battle of Bosworth Field, 1485. (29) Richard III was killed by Henry, Earl of Richmond (subsequently Henry VII) - the great extender of the Palace of Placentia ( Greenwich Palace).

b) Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham at the start of the Civil War, 1642. (29) Charles I was the last monarch to occupy Greenwich Palace.

Aug 23

Admiral Francis Hosier d. 1727. Captain Francis Hosier, the builder of the residence today known as The Ranger's House, had, in fact, commanded only one ship - the Winchelsea of 74 guns and was only 26 years old in 1699 when he arranged for the house to be built. His parents - his father being Clerk of the Cheque (and Muster-Master) to Pepys - lived at the foot of Crooms Hill. Vice-Admiral Hosier died of yellow fever at Porto Bello when he was sent to command a squadron in the West Indies to prevent Spain from shipping its treasures home. At first he met with success and Hosier decided to continue to blockade Porto Bello. Yellow fever broke out. His ships went back to Jamaica where they were "cleared out" and new men recruited. Yet the fever continued unabated. Hosier himself died of the fever as did 4,000 other including 50 lieutenants and 10 captains and flag officers. Hosier's body was 'embalmed and buried in the ballast' of his ship, and carried back to England. He was buried in the family vault at St Nicholas, Deptford on 28 February 1728. [ Anne French : Ranger's House] Some years after Hosier's death Admiral Vernon accomplished what Hosier had failed to do; he captured Porto Bello with only six ships in 1739, and gave rise to a well-known piece of doggerel:

"Heed, oh! heed our fatal story
I am Hosier's injured ghost
You, who now have purchased glory,
At this place where I was lost."

Aug 24

a) Opening of the new Bull Inn, Shooters Hill, 1882. (40) The inn, which is still standing, replaced a much grander establishment - a former coaching inn.

b) German Airship (Zeppelin) Raid 1916. (26) Houses in Well Hall Road and Dickson Road, Eltham were flattened and seven people died. "A hundred years of a London Street" [Greenholm Street, Eltham] by Gaynor Wingham, 2002 gives more detail of this raid by Kaptanleutnant Heinrich Mathy's Zeppelin L31 - 6 engines, top speed 64 m.p.h. -which dropped bombs on Millwall, Deptford, Greenwich and Blackheath while its remaining bombs ended up on Eltham Park, Shooters Hill and Plumstead killing 49 citizens.

Aug 25

a) Henri Grace a Dieu burnt at Woolwich 1553. (27) (See also: Jun 13)

b) Cricket match between Greenwich and Chelsea Pensioners, 1841. The match was held at Camberwell between the one-armed and one-legged pensioners. The Chelsea pensioners, having more one-legged men and being older, came off worst and lost by 19 runs to 176(!) (The Internet) (See also: Sep 2)

c) Lt. Cecil Harold Sewell, Royal West Kent Regt., killed whilst winning the Victoria Cross 1918. Lt Sewell saved the crew of a burning, over-turned 'Whippet' (a small lightweight tank) under heavy shellfire. He then found that the driver of his own tank had been wounded and was lying beside his vehicle. Sewell was himself wounded twice as he made his way back and a third time (fatally) as he was proceeding to dress the driver's wounds. He gave his life for his comrades. Lt Sewell's parents, Mr & Mrs Sewell (who lost no less than three sons in the Great War of 1914-1918 ) were presented with their son's V.C. by King George V. (See also: Nov 11)

Aug 26

Sir Francis Chichester d. 1972 in Royal Naval Hospital Stonehouse, Plymouth. Sir Francis, almost dissuaded from beginning his epic voyage by his doctor, who was aware of Chicester's physical condition - he was suffering from cancer - lived on for another five years following his return. (See: May 28) Sir Francis wrote a manual on "How to keep fit" in 1969 and created a world speed record of 1017 miles in 5 days in Gipsy Moth V in 1971.

Aug 27

Chicester's Gipsy Moth IV crossed starting line, Plymouth 1966. The round the world yachtsman arrived back 9 months and one day later.

Aug 28

Sydney Wooderson (Blackheath Harriers) broke the world record for the mile, 1937: 4 minutes 6.4 seconds at Motspur Park.

Aug 29

Thomas Cranmer met Henry VIII at Greenwich 1529 (7). Henry was very impressed by the scholarly cleric saying: "That man hath the sow by the right ear". Cranmer became Henry's Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533 and was burnt at the stake in Oxford in 1556 during the reign of Mary I.

Aug 30

Denis Healey (Lord Healey of Riddlesden) b. 1917 at a nursing home in Grove Park Road, Mottingham. Denis Healey served as Defence Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer as a member of the Labour Governments of the 1960s and 70s.

Aug 31

Henry V d.1422 at Vincennes. (see also: Nov 23) Henry V's death brought his less than 12 months old son, Henry VI, to the throne. Until the boy was old enough to rule Henry V's brothers acted as regents: Bedford as Regent of France, and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, as Regent of England. Duke Humphrey is regarded as the 'father' of Greenwich by building his manor house " Bella Court" on the Thames river-edge in the 15th Century. He also built "Humphrey's Tower" and enclosed 200 acres of Greenwich land as a park.

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