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.


Mar 1

a) St David's Day.

b) Statue of George IIStatue of George II by John Michael Rysbrack erected in the Grand Square of Greenwich Hospital, 1735. (1) The statue, created from a block of marble taken from a captured French ship and intended for a statue of William III, was placed there by Admiral Sir John Jennings, the then Governor of the Hospital. George II had saved Jennings from the charge of allowing the Stuart Pretender to escape from Edinburgh in 1715. King George was apparently pleased by the appearance of the statue for two years later (1737) the untouched wealth of the late Earl of Derwentwater, executed in 1716 on Tower Hill, came to assist the Hospital's funding.

Mar 2

Sir Thomas Bodley b. 1545. The first Library at Oxford, called after Bishop Thomas Cobham of Worcester, was established in 1409 and grew considerably with the gifts of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester. In 1598 Thomas Bodley refounded the Bodleian Library after all Oxford's illuminated MSS had been destroyed by Edward VI's commissioners. A few of the works donated to the original library by Duke Humphrey "the Father of Greenwich" still survive.

Mar 3

a) Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, d. 1311 at Eltham. Bishop Bek was the original builder of Eltham Manor together with its deer parks, which passed to Edward II (in 1305) and became the Royal Palace of Eltham. Bishop Bek's body was transported to Durham with great ceremony for burial there.

b) Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's sister and widow of Louis XII, secretly married Henry Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, 1515. The couple were overtly married a second time in the Church of the Observant Friars at Greenwich. (See: May 13)

Mar 4

a) Anne of Denmark, Queen Consort of James I, d. of dropsy 1619 at Hampton Court Palace and is buried in Westminster Abbey. The Queen's failing health coupled with lack of money (the Queen had, apparently, used too much of her money on masques and clothes) caused work on the Queen's House to be suspended in April 1618. Twelve years were to pass before work resumed. (As late as 1632, however, the house was portrayed of still being just the first storey with its provisional roof of thatch.) (25)

b) The King's House, Greenwich, 1664 ". . . at Greenwich did observe the foundation laying of a very great house for the King, which will cost a great deal of money." (Pepys Diary)

c) Warrant for the payment, from St Michael's day 1674, of Flamsteed's salary of £100 - 1675. The Reverend John Flamsteed, then 28, thus became the first Astronomer Royal. Flamsteed himself never used the title, signing 'MR' after his name for 'Mathematicus Regius' (the King's Mathematician). Historia Coelestis Britannica edited by Joseph Crocthwait and Abraham Sharp and published in three volumes in 1725, some five years after the author's death, established John Flamsteed as the greatest systematic astronomer.

d) John Roan's will proved 4 March 1644. John Roan left provision in his will for the education of towne-born children of East Greenwich. John Roan School claims to date from 1677; in 1686 the first school master was appointed; by 1690 there were 20 boys in the school.

Mar 5

a) Henry VII granted letters-patent to "our well-beloved John Gabote" [John Cabot] 1496. (13) (see also: May 20)

b) Christopher Jones, Master of the Mayflower d. 1622. The Mayflower returned home on 6 May 1621 and made several trips as a cargo vessel before being left abandoned on the Thames. Jones is buried in St Mary's, Rotherhithe, where there is a statue commemorating him. (Internet)

c) Lloyd's market opened for the first time at the Royal Exchange, 1774. The main rooms there were described as "Coffee Rooms"; John Julius Angerstein had negotiated the lease of these rooms in his name in 1773. Angerstein, who built and lived in Woodlands, was Chairman of Lloyd's from 1790 to 1796.

Mar 6

a) Frankie Howerd b. 1917 in York (See: Oct 23)

b) Herbert Morrison (Baron Morrison of Lambeth) d. 1965 at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup. Born in 1888 and educated in an elementary school in London, Morrison became mayor of Hackney, which he later represented in Parliament. He was Minister of Supply in the wartime coalition government and later Minister of Home Security (he had an indoor air-raid shelter named after him). After the Second World War Morrison was Foreign Secretary. He was created a life peer in 1959. He lived for a time at 55 Archery Road, and, later on, at 14 Colepitts Wood Road, both in Eltham.

Mar 7

a) Uniform regulations extended to the Governor and Lieutenant- Governor of Greenwich Hospital, 1814 (27a)

b) V2 landed in Siebert Road, Westcombe Park, 1945. (34) 94 injured and twenty houses destroyed. By the end of March 1945 all V1 and V2 launch sites had been destroyed. Two months later the war in Europe was over.

Mar 8

a) William III d. 1702 in a riding accident. William died of complications caused by his horse tripping whilst riding out from Kensington to Hampton Court on 21 February 1706. (see: Feb 21) The tercentenary of this happening occurred in 2002.

b) The Grampus was moved to Deptford Creek and established as the Seamen's Hospital, 1821. This hospital ship was subsequently replaced by Dreadnought, 1831, which itself was replaced by Caledonia in 1857; but, by then, as everyone knew of the Dreadnought name, Caledonia was changed to that, and when the seamen's hospital came ashore in 1870 (to occupy the Greenwich Hospital's Infirmary premises) the name of "Dreadnought" came with it. (Professor Gordon C. Cook: The history of the Seamen's Hospital Society. Lecture to Greenwich Historical Society, 24th November 2004.) The Greenwich University's "Dreadnought" Library now occupies the former Infirmary Building. (See also: Jan 25 & Oct 31)

c) Final Blackheath bombing, 1945. At just six minutes past midday a V2 landed on the Methodist Church just south of Wemyss Road. 134 people were injured "but by a miracle - if it can be called that - only five people were killed". (17) (See: May 10)

Mar 9

a) Mr Gladstone announced his retirement from being Greenwich's Member of Parliament, 1878. (40) (See: Nov 30)

b) Johnson & Phillips Electrical Works, Victoria Way, Charlton devastated by one of the last V2 rockets to fall on Greenwich, 1945. (38)

Mar 10

a) Prince Edward b. 1964. (11) The youngest of the Queen's children has shown great interest in royal palaces, and, as Edward Wessex, has produced a personal guide to London: Edward Wessex's Crown and Country (Harper Collins Illustrated, 1999) which provides a chronological guide to both Eltham's and Greenwich's palaces.

b) John Roan School's present building in Maze Hill was opened on Saturday 10 March 1927.

Mar 11

a) Royal Chelsea Hospital founded by Charles II 1682. The Royal Hospital for old and disabled soldiers, designed by Christopher Wren and completed under William III in 1694, was the model for Greenwich's Royal Naval Hospital for Seamen.

b) Will Crooks elected to Parliament to represent Woolwich,1903. Crookes was elected as the 4th member of the Labour Representation Committee which became the Labour Party in 1906, in the foundation and consolidation of which Will Crookes played a significant contribution. Crooks was the first LRC candidate to win a straight fight against a Conservative in a single seat constituency.

Mar 12

a) Andre Le Notre b. 1613. The designer of the gardens of the Trianon, St Germain and Versailles also designed the layout of Greenwich Park.

b) Time Team's archaeological work in Greenwich Park was broadcast, 2000. The dig had taken place on the site of a known Roman temple in July the previous year. The excavation revealed that the Park's Roman remains were extensive.

Mar 13

a) Uranus discovered by (Sir) William Herschel, 1781. (10) (See also: Sep 23)

b) Halley's Comet reaches its perihelion 1758.(12) 'Perihelion' is when Halley's Comet made its closest approach to the sun. The Comet of 1531, 1607 and 1682 was predicted by Astronomer Royal Edmund Halley in 1705 to return in 1758. (See: Nov 15) Halley's Comet has returned at 76-year (or so) intervals ever since. In 1985 it became visible to the naked eye in the December. ". . . the comet's first return to Earth in the third millennium will take place in 2061". (Book of Historical Records, ed. by Norris McWhirter. Virgin Publishing Ltd., 2000)

c) Last published observation taken on Airy's Transit Circle Telescope 1954. The last observation was taken by Gilbert Satterthwaite before the national observations' work was moved to Herstmonceaux Castle in Sussex. (The Mercury, 23 Oct 2002)

Mar 14

Admiral John Byng executed on board Monarch, 1757(12) by a firing squad of marines. Byng, accused of cowardice in the face of the enemy, was confined to first floor chambers within Queen Anne Building (southern end) immediately before his trial. Byng was arrested on 26th July 1756, conveyed to Greenwich and detained there until his trial began at Portsmouth on 28th December 1756. His tormented ghost is said to haunt that part of the Old Royal Naval College. (See also: Jul 26)

Mar 15

Sir Joseph Bazalgette d. 1891. The Woolwich Free Ferry Service was instigated by Bazalgette using powers granted in the Metropolitan Board of Works (Various Powers) Act 1885, and was officially opened on 23 March 1889. (See also: Mar 23)

Mar 16

a) 2880 The predicted closest approach to Earth of Near Earth Object 1950DA - which might impact Earth (The Internet)

b) Jamie Oliver's final seminal programme on improving Greenwich's school dinners was broadcast on Channel 4, 2005. (See also: Feb 23) In this final episode Government officials, including the Minister of Education, are invited to taste the chef's new menu.

Mar 17 St Patrick's Day

a) Sir Robin Knox-Johnston b. 1939. (The Times) He was the first man to sail single-handed and non-stop around the world in 1968-69. His tiny ship, Suhali, is preserved and exhibited in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Mar 18

The Very Reverend George Stanhope, D.D., d. 1727. Stanhope was the long serving vicar of St Nicholas (for 26 years) of whom John Evelyn said: " He was one of the most accomplished preachers I have ever heard for matter, eloquence, action, voice. . ." Stanhope founded the Charity School in High Street, Deptford, known as Dean Stanhope's School. He is buried in St Mary's Church, Lewisham. (23)

Mar 19

St Alfeges Church WindowIncendiary bombs destroyed St Alfege's church, 1941. The incendiaries lodged in the roof of the church causing a mass of blazing timbers and molten lead to collapse into the nave. Fortunately the walls and the tower and the organ dating from 1552 survived, but Grinling Gibbons' fine wood carvings did not. Restoration was entrusted to Professor Albert Richardson (later President of the Royal Academy) who followed Hawksmoor's architectural principles. The restoration was thorough but costly. (See: Apr 18)
Right: Stained glass window of Cardinal Morton said to be the only stained glass window to have survived the incendiary bombing.

On this same night - 19 March 1941 - St Ursula's was bombed and 70 Crooms Hill was destroyed. On 27 July 1944 a flying bomb hit an elm tree near the convent's gate causing a considerable amount of incidental damage - rooms set alight, windows blown out, a tree container sent hurtling through the parlour window. [No. 70 Crooms Hill: built in 1730; bombed in 1941 and completely rebuilt in late 1950.]

Mar 20

a) Philip II arrives at Greenwich 1557 (37) for what was to be his last visit to England. Philip departed from Dover in early July 1557.

b) Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales d. 1751. Frederick died of an abscess in the breast, said to have been caused by a cricket ball blow a year earlier. A lampoonist has it:

"Here lies poor Fred, who was alive and is dead
Had it been his father, I had much rather;
Had it been his brother, still better than another,
Had it been his sister, nobody would have missed her;
Had it been the whole generation, so much better for the nation;
But since it is Fred, who was alive and is dead,
There's no more to be said."

Frederick is the young man standing by his grandfather's side in the West wall painting of the Hanoverian Royal family, in the Upper Painted Hall. George II (See: Oct 25) was succeeded by his grandson, George III.

c) New website for Greenwich 2003. The site is a Greenwich Enterprise Board initiative and aims to promote local businesses. The site was launched on 20th March 2003 by Laurence Llewelyn Bowen as

Mar 21 Vernal Equinox

a) The traditional date of the vernal equinox used for reckoning Easter. (The real equinox - when the days are equal to the nights all over the world - occurs one day earlier.) At the vernal equinox the Sun passes from South to North which results in the days lengthening in the northern hemisphere. (10)

b) Pocahontas d. 1617 in Gravesend. In 1616 she came to England with her husband, John Rolfe - the first Englishman to plant and cure tobacco - and infant son and was presented to James I. She died off Gravesend when about to return to Virginia and was buried in St George's Church. (See also: Dec 19) Pocahotas' portrait is in the Upper Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College, representing the Americas.

Mar 22 & 23

Siege of Severndroog 1755. Angria's pirate fleet of grabs and gallivants, with his headquarters on Severndroog Island, had long been a thorn in the side of the East India Company. Commodore William James, aboard Protector together with three bomb vessels, set out to destroy Angria and his pirate fleet on 22 March 1755. William James accomplished his mission in two days; a task others had said, for twenty years, to be impossible. (See also: Dec 16)

Mar 22

a) Anthony Van Dyck b.1599 (11) in Antwerp. Van Dyck first visited England (at the invitation of the Earl of Arundel) during the reign of James I, who awarded him a pension. On his second tour here (1632+) he enjoyed the patronage of Charles I, who knighted him and made him Court Painter. It is generally believed that Van Dyck used Eltham's Great Hall as a studio. Fine portraits of the royal family come from this time. (See also: Dec 9)

b) Decision taken to purchase John Julius Angerstein's collection of 38 pictures as the nucleus of the National Gallery, 1824 for £57,000 on the suggestion of George IV. Angerstein, the founder of Lloyds, lived in the house he had built at Woodlands, Mycenae Road, Blackheath but his picture collection had been exhibited in his London home, 100 Pall Mall. The raising of Lazarus by Sebastiano del Piombo, from Angerstein's original collection, is catalogued No. 1 in the National Gallery's collection.

Mar 23

a) Margaret of Anjou, consort of Henry VI, b. 1430 in Lorraine, France. (The Times) (See: Feb 24)

b)The opening of the Woolwich Free Ferry, 1889. "The Gordon . . . the only boat in service that weekend . . . worked unflaggingly in her first few days." (6)

c) British Hospital for Mothers and Babies opened by Queen Mary, 1922 (34). This new hospital located in Samuel Street, Woolwich (formerly, from 1905, located at 65 Wood Street), remained open until 1984. Its resistance to closure was a long-running battle for several years.

Mar 24

a) Elizabeth I d. 1603 at Richmond. (See: Sep 7);

b) Union of England and Scotland 1603. An event of seemingly little importance but which arose through James VI of Scotland ascending to the throne of England (as James I of England) on the death of Elizabeth I. (See: Apr 12)

c) John Harrison d. 1776 in London at the age of 83. Horologist and inventor of the marine chronometer. (The Times) (See also: Nov 18 & Jun 21) "John Harrison . . . died exactly eighty-three years to the day after his birth in 1693". (Dava Sobel Longitude. Fourth Estate, 1996). (See also para f) below).

d) Lord Chesterfield d. 1773. Chesterfield, owner of the Ranger's House (1748-1773), d. of dropsy at Chesterfield House, Mayfair.

e) Census of the British Empire 1906 showed Britain holding sway over one fifth of the world.

f) Memorial to John Harrison in Westminster Abbey unveiled by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 2006.

Mar 25 In 1752 this day, which is Lady Day (commemorating the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary) ceased to be the legal first day of the year in Britain.

a) Queen Elizabeth I granted letters patent to Walter Raleigh to seek out new lands, 1584. Raleigh drew up plans for colonising Virginia and R's cousin Sir Richard Grenville planted a settlement at the Island of Roanoke. It was a brave but doomed venture and all the settlers elected to return with Sir Francis Drake when he made a providential stop at Roanoke in 1586. (The settlers brought back the potato and tobacco.) A second colony of 14 families was settled at the City of Raleigh in 1587 but had totally disappeared by 1590, when a search party led by John White went to seek survivors.

b) Captain William Kidd executed at Execution Dock, Blackwall 1701. Kidd's treasure was the source of Queen Anne's donation of £6432 to Royal Hospital for Seamen as recorded in the Painted Hall. Execution Dock consisted of metal cage surrounding a gibbet, where pirates hanged would be left in their chains while three tides passed over them.(1)

c) Nicholas Hawksmoor (or Hawksmore), architect, d. 1736. Hawksmoor, the designer, in part, of the Royal Naval Hospital Greenwich and six London churches, was the architect of St Alfege's Church; he cooperated with Sir Christopher Wren (on St Paul's) and with Sir John Vanbrugh (Blenheim, Seaton Delaval and Castle Howard).

d) The floating magazine Thalia is removed from the Thames, 1902 (18). The Thalia was regarded as a great source of danger. Twice her mooring chains were snapped by passing vessels, and part of her rail was carried away, while vessels with smoking funnels regularly passed quite close to her. On this date land was purchased to accommodate Thalia's dangerous stores and thus, after a period of almost a hundred years, the floating magazine disappeared from the Woolwich scene.

Mar 26

Sir John Vanbrugh d. 1726, in London. (The Times) (See: Jan 24). Dramatist and architect, Vanbrugh was one of the few architects to follow the Baroque style. In Greenwich, although completely untrained as an architect, he is remembered for his work on the Greenwich Hospital and for his castle in Maze Hill, which was his home.

Mar 27

a) James I d.1625 at Theobald's Palace, Herts. James I made some attempt to end the decay of the Palace of Placentia. The evidence of his work can been seen today in "The Undercroft" (a well-maintained vaulted-ceiling cellar beneath the Queen Anne Building) which he had built to shore up the dining hall above. Today it is the only significant piece of the original palace remaining. Through James' decision to present his consort, Anne of Denmark, with Greenwich, we have the Queen's House (designed by Inigo Jones) as a direct result of Anne's desire to create a House of Delight for herself.

b) George V visits Woolwich and District Memorial Hospital (Shooters Hill) 1928, four months after his son, Albert, Duke of York, had officially opened it. The King planted a tree. (See: Nov 2)

c) On this date in 2008 Dame Ellen MacArthur, the yachtswoman, received France's highest honour (the Legion d'Honneur) from President Sarkozy, in a ceremony at the Old Royal Naval College, describing Dame Ellen as "an exceptional person" adding "your courage, your tenacity, your talent have made you a woman admired and loved on both sides of the Channel".

d) In 2008, Sammy Ofer, 86 year-old shipping magnate and philanthropist has made the single largest individual donation, of £20m, in history to a British cultural body: the National Maritime Museum. There have been suggested ways of spending this money but the favourite appears to be an expansion of the south-west corner of the present building; and to provide a new approach entrance to the building.

Mar 28

Girls' factory in Royal Arsenal closed, 1872 (40), Due to regulations imposed by the Factories Act of 9 June 1871 although "Several hundred women still continued to make cartridges . . . they were all dismissed . . . 42 years were to elapse before women again entered the Royal Arsenal workshops on an industrial basis." (18)

Mar 29

a) Captain Robert Falcon Scott made his last entry in the diary of his Antarctic journey 1912, concluding "The end cannot be far'. Captain Scott's diary can be seen still in the National Maritime Museum (it is usually, eloquently and poignantly displayed open at the last entry).

b) The London Marathon's inaugural run 1981. Having amongst its aims: to improve the overall standard and status of British marathon running by providing a fast course and strong international competition; to have fun and provide some happiness and a sense of achievement in a troubled world. 6,255 entrants completed the taxing run with American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonson breaking the tape hand-in-hand. Briton Joyce Smith was the first woman to finish. The London Marathon, with its start in Greenwich Park, has become a regular annual event and has continually grown in stature. (Its start date has been moved to, more usually, early May.) In 2002 the finishers totalled 32,899 and, altogether, more than half a million people have completed the event.

Mar 30

a) Original Royal Naval College, Portsmouth closed, 1873 (27)(See also : Jul 8)

b) Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, d. 2002. Queen Elizabeth, the Consort of George VI, born 4th August 1900 (HRH was 101 years old), was a frequent visitor to Greenwich. The first important occasion being the opening of the Memorial Hospital on Shooters' Hill, as the first public engagement of the Duke and Duchess of York (as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother then were). Another occasion, revealed by the Dedication Tablet in the ORNC Chapel, shows the Dedication being graced by the presence of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. (See: Jun 21)

Mar 31

a) News Shopper was launched, 1965. This newspaper, which has become indispensable in the presentation of local news, was launched as a freebie.

b) Greenwich District Hospital closed, 2001. Its staff and clientele were transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the former military hospital, on Woolwich Common. The continuing closure of local hospitals, in the face of a burgeoning population, is a matter of concern.

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