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.

Tide sign
Extraordinary high tide recorded at Trinity Hospital. See Jan 7.


Jan 1

a) Queen Elizabeth I received New Year's Day gifts at Greenwich, 1588. The list of donors and their gifts (which included an orange pie from her chef) and signed by the Queen herself, was displayed in the Elizabeth Exhibition of the National Maritime Museum during the summer of 2003.

b) Blackheath Rangers founded 1778. "The new regiment to be raised by the inhabitants of Greenwich, Woolwich and parts adjacent for the service of the King is to be called Blackheath Rangers and to consist of 1,000 men." (22) "Various local militia regiments, such as the Blackheath Rangers, the Loyal Greenwich Volunteers, the Blackheath Volunteer Cavalry and the private army ... raised by Sir Gregory Page of Wricklemarsh House, exercised on the heath."(1) ["Whether this regiment ever mustered, at least with that name, is doubtful because no further reference to it has been found" (8)]

c) The Union of Great Britain and Ireland was effected on 1 January 1801.(12) The Act of Union lent its name to many public houses: today's Cutty Sark PH built in 1801 was one such and was originally named The Union. The Union became The Green Man before being renamed as The Cutty Sark.

d) First Ordnance Survey map published based on Bradley's meridian, 1801. (The Internet) The Mudge Map of Kent (one inch to the mile) and surveyed by Capt W. Mudge, RA.

e) Believed Ghost of Admiral John Byng identified 1962 Mr Edward C. Hall, an attendant at the RN Staff College in Queen Anne Building, while attending to that morning's post, heard sounds and saw a door opening. The door was thrown open with great force. (Haunted London by P. Underwood. Harrap, 1973.)

f) The Millennium Dome (Greenwich Peninsula) opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2000. While the Queen had a thoroughly good and enjoyable time in celebrating the start of the New Millennium, the Dome itself got off to an unfortunate bad start when security checks unhappily delayed the arrival of invited VIPs.

Jan 2

a)Chapel fire, Queen Mary Building, Royal Naval Hospital for Seamen, 1779 The fire began in a tailor's workshop below the Chapel in the early hours of the morning. After discovery it spread, notwithstanding the valiant efforts of Pensioners with man-made chains of leather water-filled buckets from the Thames, until Wren's Chapel was totally gutted. (See: Sept. 20)

b) James Wolfe b. 1727 (in Westerham Vicarage) General Wolfe's parents moved to Greenwich in 1738 when James was eleven. Their first home stood where today's railway station stands. Their second move was to the house now called Macartney House, Chesterfield Walk, to which the family moved in 1751.

c) Sir George Biddell Airy d. 1892. The former Astronomer Royal d. in the White House on Crooms Hill, where he had been looked after by his daughters Christabel and Annot.

Jan 3

a) Anne of Cleves met by Henry VIII, 1540 on Shooters Hill (See: Jan 6)

b) Hubert Bland b. 1855 (Wikipedia) Bland was a socialist and co-founder of the Fabian Society. He became Edith Nesbit's first husband on 22 April 1889. They lived at Well Hall House, Eltham (the place now known as the Tudor Barn). (See also: May 4)

Jan 4

Airy's Transit Circle Telescope first used 1851. George Biddell Airy was Astronomer Royal from 1835 to 1881. His transit circle telescope, in use until the early 1950s and now kept as a museum exhibit, defined the Greenwich Meridian for over a century, and was until 1922 the instrumental basis of Greenwich time.

Jan 5, 6 & 7

The body of Horatio Nelson lay in state in the Painted Hall, 1806. The lying in state of England's greatest hero began after the New Year, the first mourners included the Prince of Wales. The Princess of Wales 'remained several hours in contemplation and silent sorrow' (comment made by Admiral Lord Collingwood). For these three days the British public was given the opportunity to pay its respects. 'It is been estimated that ninety thousand people filed past the coffin'. (1)

Jan 6

a) Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves, 1540. (7) The Royal couple were married in the Queen's closet in Greenwich Palace by Archbishop Cranmer. Following the ceremony they proceeded hand in hand to the King's closet where they heard Mass. There was no public bedding ceremony for the King was in no mood to consummate the marriage. The logical conclusion is that he had purposefully avoided consummation so that the marriage could be annulled.

b) The Nautical Almanac for year 1767 is published in 1766. (12) The Nautical Almanac, inaugurated in Greenwich by Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal, has been published annually since that date and generally appears one year in advance of the year to which it refers.

c) "At Epiphany in 1364 Edward III entertained three kings in Eltham Palace: King John of France; David Bruce of Scotland and Waldemar of Denmark".

Jan 7

a) Captain George Vancouver in Discovery (together with Chatham in the command of Lieut Broughton) set sail from Deptford, 1791 to survey the North West coast of America. This expedition annexed Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

b) Sir Thomas Lawrence d. 1830. Lawrence was involved in the 'delicate investigation' of Princess Caroline while she lived in Montagu House. "We cannot be sure that the painter Lawrence became her lover when staying at Montague House - against convention. . ." (1)

c) Blackheath High School for Girls opened by Princess Louise, 1880. (40)

d)Extraordinary High Tide 1928. A tablet outside Trinity Hospital records this event "when 75 ft of this wall were demolished - Leonard Collyer, Warden".

Jan 8 & 9

The funeral of Admiral Lord Nelson 1806. On 8th January 1806 the coffin was carried by river barge from Greenwich to Westminster. On 9th January the funeral procession made its way, by road, to St Paul's. Nelson's catafalque later returned to the Painted Hall where it was retained until broken up, as souvenirs, in 1840.

Nelson's unedifying private life - with Lady Hamilton - did not overshadow his public heroism. Nelson is buried in a sarcophagus originally made for Cardinal Wolsey, the tomb is in the crypt of St Paul's directly under the centre of the dome. If you go to St.Paul's please go to the crypt (where one can get a sticky bun and a cup of tea) and observe how the other tombs appear to pay their allegience and respect to England's greatest hero.

Jan 8

Frank Dyson b. 1868 in Measham, Leicestershire. (The Times) As the Astronomer Royal, Sir Frank Dyson's observation of the stars near the Sun produced evidence for Einstein's prediction of the bending of light in a gravitational field. (See also: May 25) On the same day Galileo Galilei, mathematician and astronomer, d. in Arcetri, Italy, 1642. A representation of Galileo ["Galileo with telescope"] is included in Thornhill's ceiling painting of the Painted Hall, ORNC.

Jan 9

Napoleon III, Emperor of the French (1852-70), d. Chislehurst 1873. The fact that Napoleon and his consort, Empress Eugenie, fled France to reside in England (Chislehurst) during the Franco-Prussian War led to the totally unforeseen lodging of the body of Louis, Prince Imperial - killed whilst on patrol in the Zulu War of 1879 - in one of the two gatehouses situate within the Royal Arsenal, before interment.

Jan 10

Penny post introduced 1840. (The Times) Roland Hill's ideas on a uniform rate of postage , were published in pamphlet form, Post Office Reform, 1837. His schemes were realised in the following year. He was knighted in 1860. (See: May 6)

Jan 11

a) Private G.W. Clare, V.C., 5th Lancers, is Gazetted, 1918. (See: Nov 28 & 29)

b) Andy "The Viking" Fordham wins Lakeside World Darts Championship, 2004. Fordham, formerly publican of The Queen's Arms in Woolwich, defeated Mervyn King by six sets to three.

Jan 12

Nicholas Lanier received a position as one of the lutes in the King's Music, 1615.

Jan 13

a) St Hilary's Day & Close seasons for marriage. (32a) "Marriage comes in on 13th January and at Septuagesima Sunday it is out again until Low Sunday; at which it comes in again and goes not out until Rogation Sunday, then it is forbidden till Advent Sunday but then it goes out again . . . till the 13th of January next. . ." The close seasons continued to be upheld in the English Church after the Reformation but lapsed during the Commonwealth.(39)

b) At 3p.m. Will Crooks, MP, turned the Town Hall's gold key in its new front door and declared that Woolwich Town Hall was now open, 1906. Two thousand ratepayers were invited into the Town Hall and were conducted in internal tours. [The gold key that played so big a part in this ceremony has not been seen since 1934.]

Jan 14

a) "Jone wife of Arthur Batt, one of our searchers" Burial entry recorded in St Alfege's register, 1640 Jone Batt was someone who was socially unacceptable. She was a searcher, one who would examine dead people while looking for "tokens", blemishes that would indicate the presence of plague. The Batts lived in the Pest House, which was a kind of isolation unit, housing all those who came in regular contact with pestilence.

b) Edmund Halley d. 1742 at Greenwich aged 87. Halley, the second Astronomer Royal, died 16 years before the reappearance of Halley's Comet in 1758, as predicted in Astronomiae Cometiae Synopsis of 1705, and 19 years before the Transit of Venus on 6 June 1761. Incidentally, only four Transits of Venus have happened since Halley's time: 1761; 1769; 1874; 1882. The next occurrence will take place in 2004. (See: Jun 8 and Nov 8))

Jan 15

a) Elizabeth is crowned, 1559, in Westminster Abbey having spent the previous night in the Royal Apartments of the Tower of London. (23) This propitious date had been recommended by Dr John Dee.

b) London County Council elections took place 1889. The London County Council had been established in the previous year but on this date Plumstead became part of London. The Progressive Party won 70 of the 118 seats; Will Crooks (later Woolwich's Member of Parliament) being the winner of one of them. (See: Mar 11)

Jan 16

Royal Naval College Greenwich established by Order in Council, 1873 (27)

Jan 17

a) Two Mathemats (pupils from the Mathematical School at Christ's Hospital) were to go each month to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich to learn the stars and other useful aids to nautical astronomy under Rev'd Flamsteed, 1678.(19) It is significant that Flamsteed, the King's "astronomical observator", had to support and supplement his astronomical research by teaching. Flamsteed "could only make ends meet by taking private pupils as well." (1) The first Astronomer Royal's salary was £100 a year from which he was expected to provide the instruments he needed for his observations.

b) Alfred Smith, V.C., won his Victoria Cross at Abu Klea Wells in the Sudan, 1885.(Gazetted 12 May 1885.) Eleven days prior to the relief of Khartoum (see: 28 Jan) and the discovery that General Gordon was dead, Gunner Smith saved the life of Lt. Guthrie at the hands of the Dervishes. Alfred Smith lost an arm that day, but survived to work at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich as an engine driver. He died in his sleep in 1934. He is commemorated by a memorial raised by 176 (Abu Klea) Battery to his memory in Plumstead, July 1986 (101 years after Alfred's winning of the V.C.).

c) Donald Adolphus Brown performed an act of bravery at the Royal Naval Ordnance Depot, Woolwich, 1919. A rocket exploded causing others to explode. Brown threw water on to the flaming case and then dragged the case into the open. (The Internet)

Jan 18

a) Captain James Cook discovers the Hawaiian Islands, 1778, on his last and fatal voyage. Cook named the islands initially after the Earl of Sandwich. James Cook had been relieved of his duties within Greenwich Hospital in order to go on this desperately unfortunate voyage which had begun in June 1776.

b) 1881 "Great snowstorm and floods - 8inches higher than 15 November 1875. Woolwich and Charlton piers wrecked" (40)

Jan 19

Eleanor Cobham convicted of attempting to kill Henry VI, 1442. (3) Eleanor Cobham was the wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, uncle of Henry VI and one who is regarded as founding father of Greenwich having built a house called Bella Court on the river's edge. The chosen method of attempted regicide was that of sorcery (Eleanor is alleged to have made a wax image of the king). On being found guilty Eleanor and Humphrey were divorced and she was imprisoned for life. (See: Nov 9)

Jan 20

Daniel M'Naughten shot and killed Edward Drummond 1843. M'Naughten was tried for the murder of Robert Peel's secretary (3 March 1843) but acquitted on the ground of insanity - giving rise to the M'Naughten Rules. (10) Edward Drummond, the victim, who died on 25 January 1843, was buried in the vaults of St Luke's Church Charlton - Edward's brother, Arthur, was Rector of St Luke's and appropriated a vault for his brother's interment. (See also: May 11)

Jan 21 Planet Pluto discovered by C. M. Tombaugh at the Lovell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, 1930(10) (See also: Sep 23)

a) Laurence Whistler b. 1912 at Bryher, Court Road, Eltham, where the United Reformed Church now stands. A superb glass engraver and younger brother of the (probably) more famous Rex (see Jun 25), Laurence himself was knighted before dying in December (19th) 2000.

b) News Shopper - London's first and oldest free newspaper - was conceived by five business men, 1965. David English, the future editor of the Daily Mail, being the first editor. (See also: Mar 31)

Jan 22

50 barrows in Greenwich Park opened 1784.(22) The barrows were opened by permission of the Surveyor of the Royal Domains. Within were found human hair, woollen cloth and 2 dark-blue-green glass beads. "70 years before this date one Hearne, a park-keeper, had opened the barrows and no doubt removed many valuable relics". (22)

Jan 23

John Julius Angerstein d. 1823. Angerstein built "Woodlands" which became his home and where he died in 1823. He was interred in St Alfege's Church. (See also: Mar 22)

Jan 24

a) Henry VIII fell heavily whilst jousting at Greenwich, 1536. (7) Henry was unhorsed by his opponent and his armoured steed collapsed on top of him. The after-effects of the injury were to last for the rest of the King's life.

b) Lavinia Fenton, the Dowager Duchess of Bolton, d. 1760. (See: Jan 29). Lavinia Fenton was interred in St Alfege's Greenwich.

c) John Vanbrugh b. 1664, ninth child and eldest surviving son of 19 children born to Giles and Elizabeth Vanbrugh. Vanbrugh had been soldier, spy (he was imprisoned in the Bastille for espionage), courier and emissary, then playwright (The Relapse (1696); The Provok'd Wife (1697)). Although untrained as an architect, Vanbrugh was appointed Comptroller to the Public Works in 1702 and designed (mainly with Nicholas Hawksmore) Castle Howard , Blenheim and Seaton Delaval besides having responsibility for the Royal Naval Hospital after Wren's retirement. He was belatedly rewarded for his investing George, Elector of Hanover, with the Order of the Garter in 1711; when the latter became King in 1714, his first action was to knight Sir John Vanbrugh. Vanbrugh's remaining monument in Greenwich is that of Vanbrugh Castle, the home he built for himself on Maze Hill. The Castle is all that is left of a small estate of individually styled houses that Vanbrugh created, originally to house his brothers and sisters.

d) Sir Alfred Yarrow d. 1932 Alfred Yarrow (b.1842) opened a yard - Yarrow & Hedley - at Folly Wall, Isle of Dogs in 1865. There he constructed two destroyers HMS Havock and HMS Hornet (c1892). He lived from 1896 for some years in Woodlands, the house Angerstein built in Mycenae Road, Blackheath. Yarrow was knighted in 1916.

Jan 25

a) Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn at Greenwich 1533. This is possibly one of the most significant events in English history. Not so much the event - one royal wedding being much the same as any other - but in the fact that Henry was enabled to do this. It remains doubtful if Henry would have gone to such lengths to marry Anne Boleyn had she not consistently refused to become his mistress. When Cardinal Wolsey failed to obtain Henry VIII's desired divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry broke with the Church of Rome and the English ecclesiastical courts pronounced his marriage to Catherine null. Henry married Anne secretly on Jan 25th 1533 and she was crowned Queen at Whitsun the same year. "Pope Clement VII declared Anne Boleyn's marriage invalid and Catherine's valid and threatened the King with excommunication if he did not reinstate Catherine . . . Henry replied by proclamation forbidding anyone under severe penalties to style the widow of Prince Arthur as Queen. He disrobed Mary, till then styled Princess of Wales, and sent her as illegitimate to lead a private life with her mother." (22)

b) Robert Burns b. 1759 (traditionally: Burns' Night). Robbie Burns' poem Tam O'Shanter with its reference to Nan, the Witch, who, wearing one such simple dress as she danced in churchyard of Alloway Kirk, provided the name for the clipper ship, Cutty Sark.

c) The Dreadnought, 101 guns, lying off Greenwich, retired as a hospital vessel, 1857. It was replaced by the Caledonia but the hospital, after protracted negotiations, moved ashore in 1870 into the Greenwich Infirmary (originally built in 1764 by James "Athenian" Stuart), when its name reverted to Dreadnought. The Seaman's Hospital closed finally in April 1986,(See: Apr 1) but the name lives on in the Dreadnought Library of the Greenwich University. (See also: Sep 17)

Jan 26

a) Australia Day (First convicts landed there this day 1778).

b) General Gordon killed in Khartoum 1885 (see: Jan 28)

Jan 27

The trial of the eight Gunpowder plotters begins, 1606, in Westminster Hall- and ends with their executions in two batches of four on January 30th (in the churchyard of St Paul's) and 31st (Westminster, Old Palace Yard).(See: Nov 5)

Jan 28

a) Henry VIII d. 1547 at Westminster (aged 55); Henry had strong ties with the Palaces of Greenwich (where he was born) and Eltham (where he was taught).

b)Charles George Gordon b. 1833. 'Chinese' Gordon, so-called from his leading the foreign officered 'ever victorious army' in China in the early 1860s which joined with the imperial forces to defeat the rebels in 1864, and later the hero of Khartoum, was born in Woolwich Common. He was christened in St Alfege's Church (as a window of that church records). General Gordon was deputed to go to Sudan and evacuate the Egyptian people from there. In Khartoum Gordon was surrounded and the siege had been protracted for five months when a relief party was sent from England. On 28th January 1885 (coincidentally Gordon's 52nd birthday, had he lived) the advance reached Khartoum but found the place had been captured by rebels two days before and Gordon had been put to death. The way in which Gordon sustained his position at Khartoum for so long is one of the marvels of history. (10)

Jan 29

a) First night of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, 1728. Lavinia Fenton played the part of Polly Peacham and took London by storm and acclamation. The 62nd night, which was the last of the run, occurred on 19 June 1728 - by which time Lavinia was famous - was also her last stage appearance, for she then retired. She died in Westcombe House, Greenwich (24th January 1760) as the Dowager Duchess of Bolton and was buried in St Alfege's. (See: Feb 3)

b) George III d. 1820 in Windsor.

Jan 30

a) Licence granted to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and to Eleanor, his Duchess, to "empark 200 acres of land pasture, weed, heath and furze at Estgrenewich", 1433.

b) King Charles I executed 1649. (11) Charles I's main connection with Greenwich lies with Inigo Jones's uncompleted Queen's House, which Charles gave to his queen, Henrietta Maria, who had the house more or less finished by 1635 (though some work went on until 1638). It is ironic that Charles' beheading should have taken place outside the Banqueting House of Whitehall, a building also designed by Jones.

c) The surge tide of 1953 (which rose 3.7ft above the high-water level of a high spring tide at London Bridge) led to the construction of the Thames Woolwich Barrier. This surge tide was sufficient to overtop and breach flood defences all down the east coast of England and led, firstly, to the improvement and raising of Thames' flood defences east of Woolwich and, secondly, to the erection of the Barrier.(See: Feb 1 & May 8)

Jan 31

a) Brunel's Great Eastern (18,900 tons) launched at Millwall 1858, on a particularly high tide after ten weeks of problems of getting off the slipway. (3)The ship was the first to be constructed entirely of metal and the hull was composed of 30,000 plates each weighing 6 tons, held in place by 3 million rivets. The original launch date had been 3 November 1857; 3,000 tickets were issued for a "quiet launch" but 100,000 people turned out to witness the launch when it was aborted after a chain broke injuring 5 men, one of whom subsequently died. When broken up in 1888, the bones of two men were found, riveted inside the hull.

b) Malcolm Hardee, entertainer, drowns in Thames, 2005 Malcolm Hardee's performance was not for the fainthearted: his balloon dance and his bizarre juggling act were quite shocking; but his real talent lay in spotting talent and many well-known comedians were his protégées. He opened the Tunnel Club, near Blackwall Tunnel, in 1984 as a venue for new comedy acts; he was also involved with the Tramshed in Woolwich and when The Tunnel closed (after a police raid) he opened Up the Creek in Greenwich in 1990. Malcolm Hardee, who was born in Lewisham in 1950, stood twice for Parliament in Greenwich (the second occasion was purely for promotion for his club). (Daily Telegraph 04/02/05)

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