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.

Gipsy Moth II
Gypsy Moth IV in dry dock at Greenwich. See July 21


Jul 1

a) Canada Day. Observed by an annual service in St Alfege's celebrating James Wolfe.

b) Peace of Greenwich, 1543 (3). This treaty settled disputes with Scotland and proposed marriage for Henry VIII's son, Prince Edward, and Scotland's Queen Mary.

c) Outbreak of the "Plumstead Common War" 1876. On this day more than 10,000 gathered in Beresford Square, Woolwich. The people of Plumstead were concerned that their common land was being eroded and diminished, laid claim to by absent landlords (the Trustees of Queen's College, Oxford were the owners of the freehold and they had begun to fence off large portions of the Common for selling for building), defaced by quarrying and used for army manoeuvres. The Commoners were led by John de Morgan, who was arrested, tried at Maidstone Assizes and sentenced to two month's imprisonment [see: Oct 20]). Strenuous efforts were made to secure de Morgan's release and on the sixteenth day of his incarceration he was released by order of the Home Secretary (See: Nov 5). Plumstead Common was purchased for the people in 1877.

d) V1 fell on railway track near Greenwich Station, 1944 (38).

Jul 2

a) The City of London entertained Queen Elizabeth I in Greenwich Park, 1559. This event was to celebrate Elizabeth's anniversary of her accession when 1,400 men-at-arms richly dressed in coats of velvet and chains of gold, with guns, pikes, halberds and flags marched from London to give a military display in the Queen's presence.

b) Lord George Anson becomes First Lord of the Admiralty, 1757. (12) The gates of the Old Royal Naval College (the Anson Gates) commemorate Anson's epic four-year voyage around the world (September 1740 - June 1744). (See: Jun 15)

c) Opening of the Guild Estate, 1921. The 164 house estate centres on Fairfield Grove and Charlton Park Road, Charlton. The Mayor of Greenwich Ald. B. Lemmon opened 2 of the houses with a silver key. (34)

d) Queen Elizabeth's Oak fell 1991. Greenwich Park's ancient oak tree died at least one hundred and fifty years earlier but was kept erect by ivy that grew in abundance around it. The heavy rains of June 1991 washed away much of the ivy and, at the same time, softened the ground beneath the tree, causing it eventually to fall. (See: Dec 3)

Jul 3

a) Queen Elizabeth went to Woolwich to see her new ship, Elezabeth Jonas. ". . . ther was grett shutying of gunes and castyng of fyre about made for plesur". (Strype Annals, Vol 1, p163) (18)

b) John Couch Adams (1819-1892) decided to determine the position of an unknown planet by the irregularity it caused in the motion of Uranus, 1846. (Internet) Legend has it that Adams came calling to see George Biddell Airy with calculations concerning the whereabouts of the, up-to-then, unseen planet of Neptune. Largely because of her condition (being pregnant with her ninth child, Osmond, after several miscarriages), coupled with the fact that Adams had arrived unannounced, Richarda Airy refused to see him, thus probably setting back the course of astronomical discovery.

Jul 4

a) Independence Day (US). The inevitable outcome of the Boston Tea Party. (see: Dec 16)

b) The Battle of Ulundi 1879. The last battle of the Zulu War of 1879. Lord Chelmsford with something between 5,000 to 8,000 men armed with Gatling machine guns, defeated the Zulu army of 15,000 warriors led by King Cetywayo, thus giving a name to the road leading off Westcombe Park Road to Vanbrugh Hill.

Jul 5

The last London tram disappears 1952. The Woolwich area trams were the last to be scrapped and were finally abandoned on 5 July 1952. On this final night a special tram was driven through enormous crowds from Abbey Wood to New Cross Depot by John Cliff, Deputy Chairman of ITE. The tram did not arrive at its destination until the early hours of 6 July. (See also: Nov 21)

Jul 6

a) Edward VI d. 1553 (11) in Placentia, Greenwich. (On 21 June 1553 Edward had nominated Lady Jane Grey as his successor.) (3) Edward was buried near the tomb of his grandfather Henry VII in Westminster Abbey, but without a memorial.

b) King George III visited the Warren in Woolwich 1773. The Sovereign stepped ashore from the Royal barge, to be greeted by a salute of 21 guns. The Foundry Master (Jan Verbruggen) showed the King the manufacturing processes for casting brass guns. The King was impressed by all that he saw and it is to him that the Royal Arsenal's 'Bean Feast' holiday was attributed. This was inaugurated as the second Saturday in July but 'there is no official collaboration anywhere to be found.' (18)

c) Greenwich Foundation signed a 150-year lease, 1998. The Greenwich Foundation was established by the Government to look after the interests of the Old Royal Naval College. The object of the Greenwich Foundation is to ensure that the best and maximum use is made of the buildings in their control. The two main sub-lessees are Greenwich University (Queen Anne, Queen Mary and King William Courts) and the Trinity College of Music ( King Charles Court). Within the actual control of the Greenwich Foundation are the Painted Hall, the Royal Chapel and the pensioners' dining rooms immediately beneath. With the establishment of the Foundation "the Royal Naval College premises passed out of the control of the Navy on Monday 6th July 1998, two days after the last dance of the final summer ball; bringing to an end 300 years of naval occupation of the buildings at Greenwich." (35)

Jul 7

a) Explosion at the Research Department of the Royal Arsenal 1936, when five were killed.(13) The explosion occurred during an experimental filling of a H.E. shell by the screw method at 2.41 p.m. on that day. Building 38 was destroyed and Building 37 damaged while Commander P.A.M. Long and four others died. (See also: Feb 10 & Jun 18)

b) Francis Chichester knighted in Royal Naval College's Grand Square 1967. Her Majesty, when dubbing Francis Chichester, used the self-same sword as that used by Elizabeth I when knighting Sir Francis Drake. (See: Apr 4, May 28)

c) Ball lightning 2004. From The Times, Friday 16th July 2004: ". . . reports have surfaced of bizarre bangs and balls of light during last week's storm on Wednesday night [7th July 2004]. During the ferocious rains and winds, lightning lit up the sky. But a large red-orange ball was also falling over Plumstead, southeast London, and an orange flash blasted a room in nearby Eltham, 'like a camera flash but stronger'. This was followed by a huge explosion. It was probably ball lightning, a mysterious and rare form of lightning."

Jul 8

a) Longitude Act received Royal Assent (Queen Anne), 1714. The Longitude Prize offered: £20,000 for a method to determine longitude to an accuracy of half a degree of a great circle; £15,000 for a method accurate to within two-thirds of a degree; and £10,000 for a method to within one degree (or 60 geographical miles). (42)

b) Royal Naval College re-established by Order in Council at Portsmouth under command of Excellent until 1905.(27)

c) A V1 flying bomb fell on East Greenwich Police Station 1944. People were trapped but there were no fatalities.

Jul 9

Royal Arsenal Gardens opened 2000. The gardens, designed by Whitrow Turkington, are the first major public park to open along the riverfront and give people who live in Woolwich an important new open space.

Jul 10

Rev John Flamsteed, with two servants, moved into the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, 1676. (See: Jun 22)

Jul 11

a) Charles I granted Greenwich Palace and its Park to Queen Henrietta Maria, 1629.

b) Captain Cook in Resolution, accompanied by Discovery, sails from Plymouth on his third and fatal expedition, 1776. (12) Prior to James Cook's departure he had been a Captain within the Greenwich Seaman's Hospital. Cook was murdered by natives in Hawaii on 14 January 1779.

c) The body of the Prince Imperial landed at Royal Arsenal, 1879 and conveyed to Chislehurst, for the funeral the next day. (40) The body of Napoleon Eugene Louis, the only son of Napoleon III and recognised as Napoleon IV by the Imperialists, was retained overnight in one of the two armouries (the round structures near the landing pier of the Arsenal) and a plaque recording this - now disappeared - was attached to the wall of the armoury.

d) Inaugural dinner in Painted Hall, Royal Naval College, Greenwich attended by King George VI, 1939. (27) The Painted Hall, which had been used as an art gallery until 1934, had stood empty since then. It was the gifting of oak tables and chairs, together with the silver candelabra from the Admiralty Board to the Officers of the Royal Naval College that allowed them to use the Painted Hall, for the first time as it was originally intended, as a wardroom/mess hall.

Jul 12

a) Order of Observant Friars founded in Greenwich 1482. (See: May 23)

b) Flying Bomb V1 fell on West Greenwich House, Greenwich High Road, 1944(34) Eight houses were destroyed between West Greenwich House and Lovibonds, the brewers.

c) Jason Lewis sets out on his self-powered circumnavigation of the world, 1994 (See: Oct 6)

Jul 13, 14 & 15

Time Team dig in Greenwich Park 1999. Minor excavations had taken place in the Park since 1903 (see: Feb 6) but the Time Team excavation (although limited by time) was the most intensive search and showed the Roman remains to be extensive. (See also: Mar 12)

Jul 13

a) St George's Garrison Church, Woolwich Common, destroyed by a V1 (flying bomb) direct hit, 1944. The Garrison Church dates from 1863, its architect being T. H. Wyatt. There was a profusion of multi-coloured bricks and mosaics, with windows commemorating famous artillery officers. The ruined church is still used today for the occasional open-air service,

b) The World leaves Greenwich (after its second visit) in 2004.

Jul 14

Bastille Day. John Vanbrugh saw service in France and was arrested and imprisoned for espionage. His internment in the Bastille firstly, allowed him the time to draft a dramatic comedy (leading to, on his release, The Relapse and The Provok'd Wife) and secondly, gave him the inspiration to create Vanbrugh Castle in Maze Hill.

Jul 15

a)Church John Ball hanged at St Albans 1381 in the presence of King Richard II. John Ball was an English priest and agitator who helped stir up the mob during the Peasants' Revolt. At Blackheath Ball preached on text: When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then a gentleman? On the death of Wat Tyler and the collapse of the revolt, Ball fled to the midland counties, but was taken prisoner at Coventry. John Ball was hanged at St Albans. (See: Jun 13).
Right: Noticeboard at the Church of the Ascension, Blackheath, with quotation from John Ball when preaching on Blackheath.

b) Inigo Jones b.1573. (11) (see: Jun 21)

Jul 16

a) Start of Admiralty telegraph system to Chatham 1795. This incorporated Shooters Hill telegraph.

b) Visit of the Sultan of Turkey, 1867. (40) Vincent records this as a visit to Woolwich. Hogg (18) makes no mention of it but one senses that the Sultan would have come only to see the Arsenal or to visit Woolwich Dockyard to study shipbuilding on the Thames.

Jul 17

a) (Accidental) attempt on Elizabeth I's life on the river at Greenwich, 1579. Thomas Appletree 'shooting at random, very rashly' managed to shoot one of Elizabeth's watermen through both arms and within six feet of the Queen. Subsequently, Appletree was pardoned 'when the hangman had put the rope around his neck'. (28)

b) James Thornhill is contracted to paint the Pensioners' dining hall 1707. "As soon as the scaffolding is ready, Mr James Thornhill is to proceed upon the painting thereof. . ."

Jul 18

a) Robert Hooke b. 1635 in Freshwater, Isle of Wight. (31) Hooke was a polymath the range of whose invention was phenomenal. He also turned his attention to architecture, submitting plans for the restoration of London after the Great Fire, and, it is said, that he, Hooke , is the architect of the gazebo of Crooms Hill.

b) Abraham Sharp, mechanist and calculator, d. 1742 at Little Horton, Yorks. (31& D.N.B.) Sharp was a near contemporary of Hooke and certainly both were familiar to John Flamsteed to whom Sharp was an assistant. (See also: Mar 4) "He gained some fame as an accurate designer and manufacturer of astronomical instruments". (10)

Jul 19

Accession of Mary I, 1553 thus ending the short reign of Queen Jane.

Jul 20

a)Mary Rose sank, 1545 at Spithead. (27)

b) Margaret McMillan b. 1860 in Westchester County, New York. (The Times) Margaret McMillan campaigned for school meals, and opened school clinics at Deptford Green and Evelyn Street in 1910-1911, arranging for children to sleep in the open air. Margaret Mcmillan opened the nursery school here in 1914, and after the death of Rachel in 1917 it was dedicated to her. Margaret obtained world -wide recognition for her work at the school, and her insistence that nursery teachers needed proper training led to the opening of the Training College in this building in 1930. Margaret died in 1931 and is buried with Rachel in Brockley Cemetery. The Rachel McMillan Nursery School, located behind the old Rachel McMillan College, and is on the same site as the open air nursery school opened by the McMillan sisters in 1914. In the garden is a memorial to Margaret McMillan. (Discover Deptford and Lewisham; a comprehensive guide to Deptford, New Cross, Brockley , Lewisham and Ladywell by Darrell Spurgeon. Greenwich Guide Books, 1997.)

Jul 21

a) First engagement with the Spanish Armada off the Eddystone, 1588. (27)

b) North Kent Railway opened to Woolwich, 1849. (40)

c) Francis Chichester wins first single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race 1960 - in Gypsy Moth III - 16 days faster than previous record for the crossing. Presented with the Observer Trophy by Duke of Edinburgh and voted Yachtsman of the Year. This confirmed the former aviator, bee-keeper and publisher in his belief that solo round-the-world sailing was the way forward. [Incidentally, Chichester broke his new record by 7days in 1962: (East to West) in 33 days 15hrs and, in 1964, got below 30 days for the crossing when coming second in the 2nd Single-handed Trans-Atlantic race.]

Jul 22

The roads in Royal Arsenal are named and numbered, 1877. (40)

Jul 23

"Tom Griffiths, another prize-fighter, who was killed in a pugilistic contest on 23 July 1850 is buried close to [Thomas] Cribb" (40) in the churchyard of Mary Magdelan Church Woolwich.

Jul 24

Suffragette Meeting at Whitefield's Mount, 1913. The Blackheath Suffragists met with the Kentish contingent of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies at 5.30 p.m. at Lee Green before proceeding to Whitefield's Mount on Blackheath. The Suffragists wore scarlet, white and green sashes and carried banners inscribed "Home-makers demand votes" and "Law-abiding women". The Blackheath Local Guide and District Advertiser, reporting this event on Saturday August 2nd 1913, indicated no hostility and all appeared to pass quietly.

Jul 25

a) Charles Dibdin b. 1745. Dibdin was the 18th child of a Southampton silversmith. Actor, musical director, playwright, composer of operas; builder and owner of theatres and author of a thousand songs, Dibdin became the bard of the British Navy. It is said that he did more to recruit to the Navy (by way of his patriotic songs - the most well known being Tom Bowling), than all the press gangs ever did. He died, 1814, in indigence in Camden Town. Charles Dibdin's publicly subscribed-to national memorial is located in what is now the Peacock Room of (Trinity College of Music) King Charles Court. It was placed there when that room was the Pensioners' Library, this being considered the place most appropriate to it. (The room subsequently became the main working room of the Royal Naval College/ Joint Service Defence College Library.)

b) National Maritime Museum Bill received Royal Assent 1934. (27)

Jul 26

Admiral John Byng arrested and conveyed to Greenwich 1756. Byng was retained in a room in Queen Anne Building (ORNC) under close and ignominious arrest. His trial, for offences of "cowardice , negligence and disaffection", began in Portsmouth on 28 Dec 1756 and sat until 27 Jan 1757 when he was sentenced to death for "neglect of duty". The King refused the recommendation of mercy and Byng was shot on the quarterdeck of the Monarch in Portsmouth on 14 March 1757 (at 12 o'clock).

Jul 27

a) George Biddell Airy b. 1801 at Alnwick. Sir George Airy served as Astronomer Royal for 46 years (1835-81). "He was also known for time-wasting . . . leading to a friend to comment that Airy could not wipe his pen on a piece of blotting-paper without endorsing the blotting-paper with the date and particulars of its use, and filing it." (The Times)

b) Great Eastern arrived Heart's Content Bay, Newfoundland, 1866 (13) after paying out the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. The Great Eastern, designed by the younger Brunel, was built on the western side of the Isle of Dogs. (See: Jan 31) She was the only ship in the world capable of carrying the 22,500 tons of cable and she could not sail until 1865 because of the American Civil War. After setting sail the cable broke and yet another had to be made for the ship. The 1865 cable was recovered and spliced to the one remaining on board thus providing two cables across the Atlantic. (1) (See: Sep 15)

Jul 28 & 29

The Battle of Gravelines 1588. The launch of the attack on the Armada. (See: Aug 8)

Jul 28

a)Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, executed 1540. (13) Cromwell, who had initiated the downfall of Anne Boleyn (see: May 2), himself felt the displeasure of Henry VIII over the arranged marriage of Henry to Anne of Cleves (see: Jan 6) and paid a price similar to that of his earlier victim.

b) A V1 devastates Lewisham Market, 1944. In probably the worst local bombing of World War II, 51 people died and 300 were injured. Many of the dead were market stallholders.

Jul 29

Battle of Gravelines, 1588. The Spanish Armada is defeated by an English naval force under Lord Charles Howard and Sir Francis Drake off the coast of Gravelines, France. "At dawn on the 29th the English ships engaged them [the Spanish Armada] at Gravelines. Furious fighting went on all day . . . The English lost not a single ship". (10) The defeat of the Spanish Armada is first item on the list held by the figure of "Naval Victories" on the West wall of the Painted Hall.

Jul 30

Blackheath Railway Station opens, 1849. The station, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1999, is the oldest operational railway station, unaltered or re-built, still in use.

Jul 31

A V1 (Flying Bomb) fell on houses in Milward Street and Nightingale Vale, 1944. (38) Two people died and 53 were injured.

The World

The World departs Greenwich, dwarfing the Thames (Woolwich) Barrier. See Jul 13

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