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.


Oct 1

a) Yacht race on the Thames from Greenwich to Gravesend, 1661, between Charles II and the Duke of York (James II), which did much to popularise the sport of yacht-racing. (3)

b) Siemens Halske & Company founded in England, 1858. In 1863 Siemens Halske & Co. bought a piece of land on the Thames in Charlton and created the "Woolwich factory"; a cable factory, a mechanical workshop and a number of stores were built along the river. The siting of the Woolwich factory meant that submarine cables could be easily loaded onto ships. Woolwich was the very first factory to be run on electricity. In 1865 the brothers Siemens took over the assets of the Siemens & Halske of London, William and Werner Siemens were the new partners and became a limited company in 1880.

c) First train steamed into St Pancras Station 1868. St Pancras was the greatest of the many architectural designs of William Henry Barlow (1812-1902) born in Charlton. Barlow designed the building used for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and completed the Clifton Suspension Bridge after the death of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

d) The Royal Hospital for Seamen closed its doors 1869. ". . . the walls of the Greenwich Hospital were closed against the pensioners of the Royal Navy. . ." The Times, 2 Oct 1869. The Ingham Report of 1860 underlined the Hospital's deficiencies. Long years of peace combined with the State's adoption of 'out' pensions meant that the number of living-in pensioners was decreasing. By 1869 there were merely four hundred pensioners left. They were eased out by the out-pension policy while the handful of helpless remaining were transferred elsewhere.

Oct 2

Arsenal play their 4,000th league fixture, 2004. Arsenal extended their unbeaten run to 48 matches on this historic day by beating Charlton (of all teams) by 4 goals to nil. (Sunday Times)

Oct 3

Walter Raleigh presented Queen Elizabeth I with Richard Hakluyt's A discourse concerning Westerne planting, 1584. (13) This work put forward the advantages of colonisation for the English nation: a relief for unemployment and the creation of new markets for English manufacturers.

Oct 4

Sebastopol's fall was celebrated with a firework display on Blackheath 1855. The fact that Sebastopol had fallen a year earlier did not interfere with the spectacle. "The rocket practice was truly magnificent and for two hours a shower of fire seemed to rain as far as the eye could reach." (8)

Oct 5

Central Hall, Plumstead opened 1905. The Woolwich Circuit built the Central Hall to provide for its enormous Non-Conformist population. The Central Hall had seating for 1,500 and standing space for 800. There were conference rooms and a snooker hall and a brass band, whose function was to round up late home-goers on Saturdays to give them a sermon. The opening day was overwhelmingly well-attended and the celebrations continued all day. In 1959 the Central Hall was demolished and replaced by a police station.

Oct 6

a) Dr Nevil Maskelyne b. 1732 in London. Astronomer Royal (at Greenwich) from 1765. In 1774 Maskelyne measured the Earth's mean density by determining the deflection of a plumb line on Mount Schiehallion, a quartzite cone in Perthshire (9m. WNW of Aberfeldy). Maskelyne d. 9th February 1811. (10)

b) Jason Lewis carried his pedal-powered boat across the zero meridian line thus ending his self-powered circum-navigation of the world. Jason had crossed two oceans - the Atlantic and the Pacific - in his wooden pedal boat. On this day 2007, he had completed his round the world self-powered circum-navigation after setting out on 12th July 1994 (See: Jul 12)

Oct 7

The averted side of the Moon revealed, 1959. The Soviet interplanetary station "Luna 3" successfully photographed the far side of the Moon revealing to the denizens of planet Earth their first ever view of the Moon's hidden hemisphere. Luna 3 took the pictures on 35mm film which was automatically developed on board. In all 17 pictures were received on Earth, which provided enough information to construct a far-side map and identify major features such as: the Sea of Moscow, the Soviet Mountains and the Sea of Dreams. (The Internet)

Oct 8

Lady Truro buried under the lawn at Falconhurst, Shooters Hill, 1879. (40) "She was buried under the lawn at mid-night by Lord Truro and his gardener Mr Hart . . . after Lord Truro's death nobody knows now where the grave is." This strange happening, in which Lord Truro took the law into his own hands, "would appear [to be] . . . not strictly legal [and] the event appears to have shocked the neighbourhood." (41)

Oct 9

H.I.H. The Grand Duke Michael of Russia visited the Royal Arsenal and the convicts' hulks 1843. (18)

Oct 10

Benjamin West b. 1738 in Springfield, Pennsylvania. Benjamin West was the second President of the Royal Academy, following Joshua Reynolds. A major work (St Paul shipwrecked on the Isle of Malta) is framed behind the Altar of the Royal Chapel, St Mary's Court, ORNC. West is also accredited as the designer of the Coade stone pediment in the courtyard of King William Building, which depicts the death of Nelson. His Death of Wolfe, 1770, a copy of which hangs in St Alfege's, won deserved acclaim.

Oct 11, 12 & 13

Days of the second bi-annual Blackheath Fair. The Fair survived until 1772 when it was reduced to one day (11th) and became a cattle market. (See also: May 12, 13 & 14)

Oct 11

a) Henry VIII created Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) by Pope Leo X, 1521. Henry was, incidentally, the first monarch to be known by a post-nominal number as "Henry VIII".

b) The Manor of East Greenwich [Greenwich Palace] was given to Sir Robert Cecil by James 1, 1604. Cecil promptly sold it to Henry Howard (Earl of Northampton)who had been brought up "from a child in the lodge in Greenwich Park". Howard, however, was not allowed to keep it - see Feb 19.

c)William IV attended divine service at Greenwich 1835. The King's visit to the Chapel of the Royal Hospital was in commemoration of Admiral Duncan's victory at the Battle of Camperdown 11th October 1797, when the Dutch Fleet under De Winter was destroyed. (See also: Jun 1)

Oct 12

Prince Edward (Edward VI) b. 1537 at Hampton Court. King Edward VI d. at Greenwich 1553.

b) McDonald's Restaurant, 56-60 Powis Street, Woolwich, opened, 1974. (38) This was McDonald's 3,000th restaurant world-wide but, but more importantly, it was Britain's first. It was opened by disc jockey Ed Stewart and the Mayor of Woolwich, Len Squirrel.

Oct 13

Adoption of the Greenwich Zero Meridian (Washington Conference) 1884 in Washington, which was attended by 25 national representatives. (The Times) This is a most significant day in Greenwich's history. The Zero Meridian could, in theory, be based anywhere in the world - Paris, say, or Moscow, or, even, on the Great Pyramid of Cheops. There are, perhaps, three main reasons for the acceptance of Greenwich's Zero Meridian being based on what is recognised as the division between East and West, thus causing the daily change (at midnight) from one day to the next. Firstly, the Royal Observatory's reputation had been built up through the excellence of its observations and the quality and standing of its Observers. Secondly, Greenwich's reputation had been enhanced by the production of the Nautical Almanac since 1766 (see: June 6) and through it, acceptance by seafarers of the Greenwich Meridian had already been tacitly accepted (over 70 per cent of the world's sea charts used Greenwich as the Prime Meridian); while, finally, the United States - the host nation of the 1884 Washington Conference - had just constructed its railway timetable , spread over the North American Continent's five time zones, while basing it on Greenwich Mean Time. Greenwich won the prize of Longitude 0° by a vote of 22 countries being in favour, while there were 2 abstentions (France, which made a strong case for Paris, and Brazil) and 1 vote (that of San Domingo) against. The Centenary of this event (in 1984) was commemorated, nationally, by the release of a set of postage stamps and, locally, by a celebration in Greenwich Park, which was attended by HRH Prince Philip. (See: Jun 26)

Oct 14

James II b. 1633. Although James II did not reside in Greenwich (the palace being a total ruin) he was, as Pepys' Diary records, a frequent visitor and it was from Greenwich that he, as Duke of York, yacht-raced his brother, the King. (See: Oct 1)

Oct 15 & 16 The "Great Storm" of 1987. This severe gale, with wind speeds of 70 knots recorded continually for 3 or 4 consecutive hours, tore across England during the night of 15th and 16th October and did considerable damage to houses, vehicles and trees, ruining communications , together with some loss of life. Its effect in Greenwich was mainly seen in the uprooting of trees all over Greenwich but particularly in the Royal Park, where there was some destruction of the boundary wall, and in the grounds of the Royal Naval College. (See also: Nov 26)

Oct 15

The Laban [Dance] Centre, Deptford, won the RIBA Stirling Architecture Prize, 2003.

Oct 16

The "Great Storm" 1987. (See: Oct 15 & 16)

Oct 17

a) First female nurses joined staff at Herbert Hospital, 1866. Miss Shaw Stewart and 8 nurses arrived from Netley Hospital to perform day duties. The military patients complained that they would rather have men of the Army Hospital Corps. (36)

b) Last Zeppelin air raid of the Great War, 1917. In this air raid bombs fell on Lewisham and a family of thirteen died. (Information supplied by Stan Payne)

Oct 18 St Luke's Day

This was when the Horn Fair was held. (Luke's emblem being the ox.) Men wore woman's clothes "against which the clergy launched many a fulmination" and the men "amused themselves . . . in lashing the women with furze, it being proverbial that 'all was fair at the Horn Fair'". (31)

Oct 19 The Mercury first appeared, 1833. The Mercury is London's longest-standing weekly newspaper. It appeared as the Greenwich, Woolwich and Deptford Gazette with the West Kent Advertiser. It became the Kentish Mercury in 1839 and was later renamed the South East London Mercury.

Oct 20

a) Christopher Wren b. 1632 (5) at East Knoyle in Wiltshire. (The Times) (See : Feb 25)

b) John de Morgan on trial at Maidstone 1876. Morgan had led the Plumstead Common revolt earlier that year . (see: Jul 1 & Nov 5)

Oct 21

a) Battle of Trafalgar and death of Nelson 1805. (see also: Jan 5 & Dec 24) Within the Royal Navy, Trafalgar Day is regularly celebrated and, in this, the Royal Naval College of Greenwich was no exception. In October 1955 HM The Queen together with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Earl Nelson celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar in the College's Painted Hall. On 21st October 1998 the Royal Navy made its official presence felt for the last time in the Painted Hall, the guests then being HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HRH Prince Michael of Kent and HRH The Duke of York. (See: Oct 21) [Trafalgar Night Dinners are held still in the Painted Hall.

b) The School for Seamen's Children occupied the Queen's House, 1807. "In 1825 the Royal Hospital School was united to the Naval Asylum and in 1933 the school was moved to Holbrook in Suffolk." (25)

c) Greenwich Theatre reopened 1969. The Hippodrome Cinema, as GT was then known, closed 20 years earlier in 1949. The building was used as a warehouse until 1962 and then lay abandoned. A concerted effort to revive the theatre during the middle and late 1960s led to its reopening on this date.

d) Official ending of Royal Navy's association with Greenwich, 1998. In the Grand Square the White Ensign was lowered at 23.22 p.m. After being folded it was handed to HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who passed it to Commander Jonathon Maugham, RN, Commander of the College, who in turn handed it on to the Chaplin of the Royal Naval College who took it into the Chapel, where today it hangs in the Chapel foyer.

Oct 22

The Association, the Eagle and the Romney - ships of Sir Cloudesley Shovell - sank off the Isles of Scilly, 1707, with a loss of 2,000 lives. The Admiral of the Fleet had lost his way by not being aware of his longitude, thus prompting the Longitude Act of 1714, in which Parliament promised a prize of £20,000 for a solution to the longitude problem. (42) (See also: Jul 8)

Oct 23

Frankie Howerd Centre named 1988. One of the UK's best-known comedians, Frankie Howerd, lived in Eltham from the age of two and a half, at 19c Arbroath Road and 5 Legatt Road, Eltham, attending Woolwich County School (today's Eaglesfield School, Red Lion Lane, Shooters Hill), returned to rename St Barnabas Church at Rochester Way as "Frankie Howerd Centre".

Oct 24

Tycho Brahe, celebrated Danish astronomer d. 1601, in Prague. Tycho Brahe, whose astronomical observations were made prior to the invention of the telescope, is remembered at Greenwich by his portrait being included in the east end of Thornhill's great ceiling painting in the Painted Hall, King William Building, ORNC.

Oct 25

a) Geoffrey Chaucer d. 1400. (11) It is said that Chaucer may have lived in or near Greenwich between 1385 and 1399. (1) Chaucer's day job was Clerk of Works to Richard II. There is a story of Chaucer setting out from Westminster to pay the workmen at Eltham Palace. When he reached New Cross he met Richard Brerely and three others who robbed him. Chaucer returned to Westminster where he again collected the workmen's wages and set off once more for Eltham. This time he reached the "Fowle Oake" at Hatch End where he had the misfortune to run once more into Richard Brerely and his gang. They took not only Chaucer's money this time but his horse as well!

b) Battle of Agincourt, 1415. (see also: Nov 23) This was perhaps England's most decisive land battle. Henry V's tiny and weary army, which had marched for 17 days with only one day's rest, faced a much larger force and yet the result of the battle was decided within the first half hour. The French cavalry sank into the muddy ground and became targets for the English archers. Henry ordered that no prisoners were to be taken. The French losses were said to be in the order of 10,000 killed plus 1000 prisoners taken (including the Duke of Orleans) while the English losses were a few hundred. Henry had inspired his men with religious and patriotic fervour, while the French, who had chosen the battle site, were clearly over-confident.

c) Pictures in Greenwich Palace were sold, 1650. (22) This was in Cromwell's time and the selling of the royal collection of paintings was part of the humiliation heaped on Greenwich.

d) Date of Royal Charter founding the Royal Hospital for Seamen 1694. The charter to found a Hospital 'for the relief and support of seamen' was issued in the names of both William and Mary and backdated to 25th October, before the Queen's death. [Queen Mary died of smallpox in December 1694.]

e) George II d.1760, aged 77, (12) in Kensington Palace, and was succeeded by his grandson, the son of Prince Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, who had died, nine years earlier than his father, in 1751. (See: Mar 20). George II is depicted as the then Prince of Wales in the West wall portraits of the Hanoverians in the Painted Hall. George II's statue by John Rysbrack stands in the Grand Square of Old Royal Naval College.

Oct 26

a) The Duke of York (later King George VI) laid the foundation stone of Royal Hospital School, Holbrook, 1928. The Holbrook school replaced the Royal Hospital School, Greenwich. It opened in 1933 and gained its first university place in 1953 and many more since. (A Refuge for All: Greenwich Hospital, 1694-1994)

b) London's new City Airport opened 1987. The City Airport is located in the rejuvenated Docklands and is designed for short take-off and landing aircraft.

Oct 27

"British Standard Time " began in 1968. (See: Feb 18)

Oct 28

a) James Cook b. 1728. (11) (See: Feb 14, Jul 11 & Aug 9)

b) Time ballTimeball - Royal Observatory Greenwich, 1833. (1) On 28th October 1833 the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty gave notice that a timeball 'will henceforward be dropped. . .' at one o'clock precisely. The timeball was manufactured by Messrs Maudslay, Son and Field and was inaugurated by John Pond, the then Astronomer Royal. (See also: Dec 6)

Oct 29

Sir Walter Raleigh beheaded in Old Palace Yard, Westminster, 1618. Raleigh had been released from his imprisonment (dating from 1603) in 1615 to undertake a second voyage to Guiana where great gold mines were believed to exist. The expedition was a disaster and failed to restore his reputation, while Raleigh lost the rest of his money plus the life of his eldest son, Walter (killed at Santo Thome). The Spanish Ambassador demanded Raleigh's punishment and King James I agreed. (10) Raleigh's connection with Greenwich is from two separate incidents to do with the Palace of Placentia. Firstly, it is alleged that he famously laid his cloak for Queen Elizabeth to walk on at the small gatehouse that led to the Palace from the Park. Secondly, he is said to have scaled the walls of the palace to write with a diamond on the glass of a window : "Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall" . To which the Queen is said to have added: "If thy heart fail thee, climb not at all". Sir Walter Raleigh (whilst serving the 12-year prison sentence referred to earlier) is said to have supplied a potion to Queen Anne of Denmark when her son, Prince Henry, was dying. (See also: May 22, Oct 3, Nov 6 & Dec 20)

Oct 30

George II b. 1683 in Hanover. George is shown, as an armour-suited Prince of Wales, in Thornhill's West wall painting of the Hanoverian Royal Family in the Painted Hall, King William Building, ORNC.

Oct 31

a) John Evelyn b. 1620 in Wotton, Surrey. John Evelyn, the diarist, lived in Sayes Court, Deptford and, for many years, was secretary to the Royal Naval Hospital Board. (10)

b) The hospital ship Dreadnought in use from 1831 to 25th January 1857. The Dreadnought, as a hulk, was moored just off Greenwich.

c) Thames Barrier gates raised and first full closure achieved, 1982. A second test of all the gates at full tide followed a week later on 7 November 1982.

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