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.

Thomas Tallis Organ
St Alfege's Church: the Thomas Tallis organ console which is located in the north/west aisle. See November 23.


Nov 1 All Saints' Day (All Hallows)

a) Richard II married Isabella, 1396, in the church of St Nicholas, Calais. [A biography by Nigel Saul (Richard II Yale UP, 1997) gives the date of this marriage as 4th November, 1396.] As a direct result of the Treaty of Paris (1396), which granted a 30 year peace and allowed England to retain Calais, the marriage was agreed. Richard's new Queen Consort, Isabella, was the daughter of Charles VI of France and was eight years old. On the royal couple's subsequent arrival at Blackheath in December 1396, they were greeted and welcomed by 20,000 citizens.

b) Elizabeth of York (Queen Consort of Henry VII) celebrated the Feast of All Hallows at Greenwich 1486 after the birth of Prince Arthur. "[Elizabeth] was brought to bed of her first child, Arthur, in September 1486 at Winchester. . . In a few weeks she was well enough to remove to Greenwich where she and the King kept considerable court at the feast of All Hallows". (22)

c) Sir Home Popham's Telegraphic Signals and Marine Vocabulary is published, 1800. (12) It was from this book of signals that Nelson's famous "England expects every man will do his duty" signal was constructed at the Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805.

d) The Herbert Hospital, opened 1865. (36) "The hospital opened without ceremony" when Colonel Shaw took up the post of Governor. The Herbert Hospital became "Royal" when Queen Victoria visited in 1900 during the Boer War. (36)

Nov 2

Memorial Hospital MemorialWoolwich & District War Memorial Hospital, Shooters Hill, officially opened 1927. The opening ceremony was conducted by The Duke and Duchess of York - later George VI and his consort Queen Elizabeth.
Left: the memorial at the hospital.

Nov 3

Launch of the Great Eastern postponed due to accident, 1857. Five men were injured at Scott Russell's Shipyard on the Isle of Dogs when a restraining chain snapped. One man subsequently died. The launch, which 100,000 had turned out to see, was postponed and eventually took place on the high tide of 31 January 1858. (See: Jan 31)

Nov 4

William III b. 1650 (11)in The Hague. The Painted Hall was used by the Hospital Pensioners only for special occasions - one such being 4 November each year when the whole Hospital assembled to toast the royal founders, William and Mary. Royal Naval School's Founders' Day.

Nov 5

a) Bonfire Night. According to Antonia Fraser's The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1996) the first bonfires began in 1605 (the year of the Gunpowder Plot!). Nevertheless, this noisy and exuberant ritual has persisted to this day and is regularly observed on Blackheath where it has become a moveable feast, held on a well-advertised nearby more convenient weekend day.

b) William of Orange landed with an army at Torbay 1688. William cultivated the growing opposition to James II and when eventually overtures were made to him to invade England he accepted them. This event is recorded by Sir James Thornhill in his Upper Hall Painting on the South wall.

c) John de Morgan released from prison 1876. Morgan, having served only 16 days of his two-month sentence, was released by order of the Home Secretary. His return to Woolwich's Beresford Square, later the same day, was greeted by 20,000 people. (See: Jul 1, Oct 20)

Nov 6

Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales d. 1612 at St James's Palace. Henry's mother, Anne of Denmark, obtained a cordial from Sir Walter Raleigh because an earlier one had done her some good. Raleigh provided the nostrum which he advised would cure the young prince of all maladies 'except poison'. When Henry subsequently died (after taking the potion) his mother, Queen Anne, was convinced that her son had been poisoned; this sad event caused the Queen to descend into despair and solitary mourning. (Many reasons, some quite strange, are given for James I gifting Greenwich Palace to his queen; the likelihood is that the King presented it to Queen Anne to bring an interest into her life after her son's untimely death.) Prince Henry, who had strong Protestant leanings, died of typhoid fever at the age of 18. (10)

Nov 7

Attempt made to steal 12 diamonds, including De Beers' 203 carat Millennium Star, from the Millennium Dome, 2000. The attempt failed. (Unknown to the gang, and due to a tip-off, the real diamonds had been previously replaced with replica stones.) On 18th February 2002 five men were sentenced at the Old Bailey to a total of 66 years for conspiracy to rob. Betson and Cockram were given 18 years each; Ciarrocchi, Adams and Meredith to lesser terms.

Nov 8

Edmund Halley b. 1656. Halley became the second Astronomer Royal at Greenwich, at the age of 63, following on the death of the Revd John Flamsteed in 1719 (see: Dec 31). Halley proved to be a most assiduous observer carrying out a complete observation of the moon through a period of 18 years. He is best known for his prediction of the return of Halley's Comet, which occurred in 1758; and for determining the solar parallax (i.e. the distance of the Earth from the Sun) by the means of the Transit of Venus. (10) Halley did not live to see either of these astronomical happenings (See: Jan 14 and Jun 8) and he is buried in St Margaret's Church, Lee.

Nov 9

Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, did penance in St Stephens Chapel, Westminster, 1441. (22) Eleanor Cobham had been found guilty of witchcraft (along with Margaret Jourdain, who was burnt at Smithfield on 27th October 1441, and the priests Southwell and Hume) in that she (and they) had made a wax model of her nephew, King Henry VI. (The general idea being that as the wax melted the King would fade away.) Four days later (13 November 1441) Eleanor walked, barefooted and dressed in a simple shift, through Fleet Street carrying a wax taper of 2lbs, which she offered at the high altar of St Paul's. She performed similar penance for some days running in other parts of London attended by the Mayor and Sheriffs and was then consigned to prison for life

Nov 10

St Alfege's Church reopened for services after rebuild 1718, by the Bishop of Rochester (Dr Francis Atterbury). (See: Sep 29 & Nov 28)

Nov 11

a) Remembrance Day - end of First World War 1918.

b) Greenwich Borough Council War Memorial unveiled 1922 on the south east corner of Greenwich Park (Maze Hill and Charlton Way) to commemorate the 1,600 Greenwich residents who died or were wounded in the Great War of 1914-1918. The memorial was unveiled by Mr Harry Bolton Sewell, the father of the late Lt. Cecil Harold Sewell, V.C. (8) (See also: Aug 25)

Nov 12 Catford Greyhound Stadium closed 2003. (The Mercury) The closure by the Greyhound Racing Association, after a 71-year history was due to diminishing attendance: the average attendance fell from 6,000 in the 1950s to less than a 1,000 a week.

Nov 13

Edward III b. 1312. The Order of Garter was founded because of an incident that occurred at Eltham in 1347. At a dance in the Banqueting Hall (that preceded the present-day one) Edward noticed a lady's garter - it may well have been that of Queen Philippa or the Countess of Salisbury - lying on the floor. Picking it up he placed it on his own knee, saying "Honi soit qui mal y pense" (Shame be to him that thinks this shameful) - thus causing the Order of the Garter to be founded.

Nov 14

a) HRH Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, b.1948 at Buckingham Palace. (Information supplied by S.P.) Prince Charles underwent the Lieutenants' Course in the Royal Naval College, 1975 (See: Feb 1)

b) The BBC began broadcasting 1922. (See: Feb 5)

Nov 15

Halley's Comet 1682. "Halley [The Astronomer Royal at the Royal Greenwich Observatory] found reason to believe that the comets of 1531, 1607 and 1682 were, in fact, one and the same comet, which takes about 76 years to perform its remarkable journey around the sun. The [returning] comet was espied on 25 December 1758 and passed its perihelion on March 13 1759. This would have been a great triumph to Halley, if he could have lived to see it." (31) (See also: Mar 13)

Nov 16

Opening of the Suez Canal, 1869. This event rang the death knell of clipper ships such as Cutty Sark, for the steam vessels could make their way to the trading ports of Europe by a much shorter and quicker route, whilst sail-rigged ships were constrained to go the longer ways around Cape Horn or Cape of Good Hope to get to the same destinations. (See: Nov 22)

Nov 17

a) Mary I d. 1558 at St James' Palace — leading to Queen Elizabeth I's accession to the throne, 1558. "In the 1570s . . . her accession day became the greatest of all public holidays". (16)

b) James Wolfe's body landed at Portsmouth, 1759. (See: Nov 20)

c) Gypsy Moth IV is removed from its dry dock in Cutty Sark Gardens, prior to overhaul before going back to sea, 2004.
Gypsy Moth IV

d) HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, sealed a time capsule, 2005 - which is to be reopened in one hundred years' time - at the Greenwich Royal Observatory. The capsule will be on display in the new planetarium. As Prince Philip sealed the capsule, the Director of the NMM, Roy Clare, said "We probably won't be here in another hundred years." To which HRH replied, "Speak for yourself." (Mercury)

e) David Beckham Football Academy opens 2005 on the Peninsula near North Greenwich Jubilee Line station

Nov 18

William Harrison and H4 sailed for the West Indies in the Deptford, 1761. Using H4, William (the son of John) was able to correctly demonstrate that they were 100 miles nearer to land ( Madeira) than the ship's navigating officer could judge, an achievement happily noted by the whole crew. On the arrival of Deptford in Jamaica on 19 January 1762, H4 was calculated against local time and found to be a mere 5.1 seconds slow! The Board of Longitude, however, were not happy with this trial particularly over the matter of rate, the chronometer's daily loss or gain.

Nov 19

a) William Wardell d. 1899 in Australia. Wardell was the architect of Our Lady Star of the Sea on Crooms Hill. This Catholic church was Wardell's second commission but between 1846 and 1858 he designed no less than 30 churches. When his health broke down in that latter year he moved to Melbourne where he is responsible for St Patrick's cathedral as well as much of the industrial public works there.

b) Lieutenant Sir Philip Mountbatten, Royal Navy, created Baron of Greenwich, 1947. Prince Philip was also created Earl of Merioneth and Duke of Edinburgh on the day before his marriage to Princess Elizabeth.

Nov 20

Macartney HouseGen. James Wolfe interred in St. Alfege's Church 1759. The general mood of both the Government and the country was to give its new national hero, the victor of the Battle of Quebec, a public funeral. However, James' mother, Henrietta, disagreed. Edward Wolfe, her husband and James' father, was also a general and had been buried in St Alfege's Church, and Henrietta wished her son to lie there too. So, after lying in state in (what is now called) Macartney House, James Wolfe's broken body was quietly transferred to St Alfege's on the evening of 20th November 1759, for a private funeral . . . a fait accompli. (James' mother was represented at the funeral by the Reverend Samuel Swinden, James' old schoolmaster, who continued to befriend and advise Henrietta Wolfe until she died at Blackheath in 1764.) (See also: Sep 13)
Right: Macartney House from Greenwich Park, shewing plaque

Nov 21

Tramway from Greenwich to Woolwich and Plumstead opened, 1882. (40) (See also: Jul 5)

Nov 22

a) Cutty SarkThe Cutty Sark launched in Dumbarton, 1869. The ship was built for John Willis & Son, by the firm of Scott & Linton, whose designer was Hercules Linton. The agreed price of £16,150 was exceeded because of the Ships' Surveyors' demands on such a radically designed ship, which forced Scott & Linton into insolvency. The launch had been preceded by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 (see: Nov 16) - enabling steamers to make a shorter quicker trip and thus sounding the death knell of all clipper ships. The Cutty Sark continued in the tea trade for a little while but then turned in 1879, more successfully, to the Australian wool trade before being sold to the Portuguese by "Old White Hat" Willis in 1895. She was then purchased in 1922 by Captain W.H. Dowman and restored as a training ship at Falmouth. On Capt Dowman's death in 1936, his widow presented the ship to the Thames Nautical Training College (HMS Worcester). Cutty Sark was towed to Greenhithe by the tug Muria. In 1952 she was threatened with the breaker's yard, and so the Cutty Sark Preservation Society, patron the Duke of Edinburgh, was formed to acquire the vessel for preservation. The Cutty Sark, fully restored in a dry dock at Greenwich (see: Dec 10) was opened to the public by the Queen in June 1957 (see: Jun 27), since when it has averaged half a million visitors each year. The cutty sark (a 'short skirt') is worn by Nannie - who forms the figurehead - a character in Robert Burns' poem Tam O'Shanter.

b) Lewisham DLR Station opened 1999. (See: Dec 4) 22 November 1999 is the official date of opening of the DLR line to Greenwich and Lewisham - it occurred two months ahead of schedule.

Nov 23 St Clement's Day was celebrated annually by blacksmiths' apprentices of the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich. (32) (See also: Nov 25)

a)Citizens of London welcomed Henry V after Agincourt, 1415. When the townspeople of London came to Blackheath to welcome Henry home after Agincourt (See: Oct 25), he refused to have his helmet carried before him (as was usual for conquering heroes). Henry banned all songs, ditties and poems that had been created about his victory. Henry regarded himself not as heroic but merely as the instrument of God's will. [John Lydgate on St Clement's Day 1415:
"To ye Blackheth thanne rod he
And spredde ye way on evry syde
XXte M men myghte well se
Our comely kyngwe for to abide." ]

b) Thomas Tallis d. 1585. English composer and organist: "the Father of English Church Music". Thomas Tallis is buried in St Alfege's Church where Tallis' organ is displayed in the south west corner of the nave; and where his music is played at Evensong every 23 November.

c) Tom Allen, Nelson's faithful servant, d. 1838. Tom Allen was born in Burnham Thorpe in 1764 (he was 6 years younger than Horatio Nelson) and d. in the Royal Naval Hospital to which he had been admitted, as a civilian, because of his strong naval connection. Allen's tombstone is just outside the small graveyard standing between the Devonport Nurses' Home and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

d) Lord Roberts of Kandahar lays foundation stone of the Academy Chapel, 1903. The Academy Chapel, located in the Royal Military Academy overlooking Woolwich Common, was renamed the Royal Garrison Church of St Michael & All Angels in 1945.

Nov 24

Henry Kelsey, Canadian explorer, commemorated in 2002. Kelsey, who was born (1667) and later married in East Greenwich, is commemorated by a plaque in St Alfege's, where he was buried in 1724 (Nov 2). Henry Kelsey was the first white person to visit the Canadian plains and to see bison. He became Governor of York Fort in 1718 and returned finally to England in 1722.

Nov 25 St Catherine's Day. ". . .a man dressed in woman's clothing, with a large wheel by his side to represent St Catherine, was brought out of the Royal Arsenal Woolwich about 6 o'clock in the evening, seated in a wooden chair, and carried by men around the town. [Not dissimilar to the celebrations for St Clement. See: Nov 23] They stopped at different houses where they used to recite a speech. The ceremony is now discontinued." (32)

Nov 26 & 27

The Great Storm of 1703. The diarist John Evelyn makes reference to this event which killed 123 people throughout England. After the storm, all around the South of England great oaks and elms lay on the ground; while ships were wrecked and driven ashore, the North was little affected. Chambers (31) gives the date of the storm as 27 November and indicates that it is sometimes given as Nov 26 but "it actually took place the following day . . . There was great destruction of property and loss of life occurred on the River Thames." (This storm destroyed the first Eddystone Lighthouse.)

Nov 27

The House of Commons directed that Greenwich House, Park and Lands should be sold for ready money, 1652. (22)

Nov 28 & 29

Private G.W. Clare wins Victoria Cross at Bourlon Wood, 1917. Private Clare, of 5th Lancers, while acting as a stretcher bearer and engaged in some of the heaviest and bitterest fighting of the First World War, won the Victoria Cross "for the most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty". Whilst under a most intense and continuous enemy bombardment Pte Clare dressed and conducted wounded men to safety, carrying the seriously injured to cover. Later he learned that the enemy was using gas and, as the wind was carrying the gas towards occupied trenches, he started at the right of the line and personally warned company posts of the danger, the whole time under shell and rifle fire. This very gallant soldier was subsequently killed by a shell and the award of the V.C. was announced posthumously in the London Gazette of 11 January 1918. Pte Clare's family home was 254, Wickham Lane, Plumstead.

Nov 28

Catastrophe strikes St. Alfege's Church 1710. "About midnight the roof fell in and shook the walls past repair. In the opinion of workmen, the rebuilding of the church will cost upwards of £6,000". When the roof of the mediaeval church blew into the body of the church and the weakened floor also gave way, then the people of Greenwich petitioned Parliament to rebuild it from the remainder of the Coal Tax raised to repair St Paul's after the Great Fire of 1666 - "and as St Paul's was then finished, or near it, and the duties on coal for the purposes of that building had several years to run, and might pay more than was required for that building, the petitioners prayed for £6,000 out of the surplus". (Case of the inhabitants of Greenwich) This led to creation of the Commission for Building 50 New Churches, of which the restored St Alfege was to be the first. (See also: Sep 29 & Nov 10)

Nov 29

Princess Sophia of Gloucester d. 1844. For many years Princess Sophia was Ranger of Greenwich Park and, amongst many projects, was responsible for preventing the removal of Eltham Palace's banqueting hall hammer-beam ceiling to Windsor; and was a prime mover in preventing the railway from being carried across the Royal Park. Prince Albert attended the funeral at which music written for Queen Caroline (d.1737) was performed.

Nov 30 St Andrew's Day

a) Bells signPeal of Stedman Triples containing 5,040 Changes was rung in St Alfege's Greenwich, 1872. This was the first ever peal rung in this method on these bells and took the team of eight ringers 3 hours and ten minutes. A sign-board recording the event is in the crypt of St Alfege's .
Right: the board in St Alfege's Church.

b) Gladstone addresses his Greenwich constituency for the last time, 1878. William Ewart Gladstone came to Greenwich on this day to speak, for the last time, to the electorate. He went first to the Ship Inn, Greenwich, then to the Woolwich Skating Rink and then on to Plumstead. A plaque on the wall of Eglinton School reads: "On this site the Rt Hon W.E. Gladstone delivered his last speech to his Greenwich constituents."

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