Greenwich Day by Day

Greenwich Day by Day is written by David Male and is published on this site by permission. If you have any queries concerning this section of the site please contact him at [email protected]. Copyright © 2005 David Male.


Sep 1

World War II began with the invasion of Poland, 1939. (29)

Sep 2

a) Great Fire of London began in Pudding Lane, 1666. In four days the fire devastated 400 streets, 13,200 houses, the Guildhall and 52 other halls, St Paul's Cathedral and 89 parish churches - 200,000 people were made homeless.

b) The one-legged Greenwich pensioners played cricket against the one-armed at the Oval, 1867. ("Scorecards" from the Internet.) "In 1796, a match played at the Montpelier Gardens, Walworth, between the Greenwich pensioners with one arm and one leg for a purse of £1,000. The match generated such excitement there was nearly a riot." (Quoted on the Internet from A History of Cricket by Benny Green) (See also: Aug 25)

c) Candlestick, looted by Dervishes from a church in Khartoum, restored to St. Luke's Church, Charlton 1898.

d) Royal Military Academy Woolwich closed 1939. On the outbreak of World War II RMA Woolwich closed and its senior students were commissioned into the artillery, engineers and signals. Experience gained in the First World War was that no regular commissions were to be granted in time of major war. The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) opened its doors in 1947 in the former Royal Military College at Sandhurst.

e) Sir Ranulph Fiennes' polar expedition departed Greenwich on the Benjamin Bowring, 1979. HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, landed his own helicopter in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum to launch the round-the-world expedition. The object of the expedition being to visit both poles by surface travel only. The North Pole (the second of the poles to be visited) presented problems through thawing ice and the expedition returned (to Greenwich) only after three years - 2nd September 1982.

Sep 3

a) Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, d. 1658.

b) This day in 1752 never happened. In the British Isles and her Dominions and in North America the new style calendar came into use in accordance with the provisions of the Calendar Act passed in 1751. This was to iron out the kinks in the Gregorian calendar and caused the "loss" of 11 days, provoking riots because people thought that the government had stolen 11 days of their lives. The Calendar Act of 1751 was presented to Parliament by that well known Greenwich (Ranger's House) resident Lord Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope. He did so reluctantly but to help George Parker, Earl of Mansfield, who was very keen on the reform. Chesterfield was puzzled and read some scientific arguments in favour of the change but without much understanding what he was saying.

c)Princess Alice Memorial Princess Alice sank 1878.The pleasure steamer collided with the steam collier Bywell Castle and sank in the Thames, off Tripcock Point, with the loss of "Frederick Whomes and 590 others" at 8p.m. 1878. (Memorial in St Mary's Church, Woolwich.) The actual number of those who died through this terrible accident has never been confirmed. The Plumstead memorial says: "It was computed that seven hundred men, women and children were on board. Of these about 550 were drowned. One hundred and twenty were buried near this place." [It has been suggested that the number of bodies was enhanced, perhaps by the settlement of old scores.]
Left: the memorial in Plumstead Cemetery.

d) War was declared on Germany 1939. Everyman's Encyclopaedia gives the date of the start of the Second World War as "1 Sept. 1939" with Germany's attack on Poland, (10) but confirms that there were declarations of war made by France and Great Britain two days later. WWII was to play a great part in the history of Greenwich, particularly through air raids (see: Mar 8, May 10, May 27, Sep 7, Dec 29).

Sep 4

Mydiddee, a Tahitian, d. 1793 in Deptford. A memorial plaque in St Paul's Churchyard, Deptford records the death of Mydiddee who sailed with Captain Bligh in HMS Providence.

Sep 5

Eastenders title sequence includes the Millennium Dome for the first time, 1999.

Sep 6

a) The Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Plymouth on the Mayflower, 1620 (The Times). The Master of the Mayflower was Christopher Jones and the Mayflower's journey began from Deptford. (See also: Mar 5 & Dec 21)

b) Sir John Morden d. 1708. Sir John was the founder of Morden College, Blackheath in 1695; the College opened in June 1700. The legend is that John Morden lived for many years in Aleppo and on his return to England shipped the whole of his merchandise on three ships. They went on a trading voyage but failed to return to the Port of London, where John Morden and his family awaited them. Ten years passed and from being a successful merchant John had to take service with a butcher and wait upon his customers for their orders. The three ships suddenly arrived 'heavily laden' and his life of penury was over. In thanks to God he vowed that he would build an asylum for 'decayed merchants' so that none would have to endure what he had. John Morden was created a baronet by James II, 3 months before the King's impecunious flight in 1688. (See also: Sep 30)

Sep 7

a) Elizabeth I b. 1533 at 3 o'clock in the afternoon in Placentia, Greenwich: "despite the summer heat the doors and windows were hung with heavy curtains" (Christopher Hibbert The Virgin Queen. Viking, 1990). Elizabeth was christened three days later at 10 o'clock in the Friars Church. (see: Sep 10) Elizabeth appeared to love Greenwich Palace and, as Queen, made it the centre of her court life.

b) Start of bombing campaign ("Blitzkrieg") London, 1940. (17) (See: Mar 8; Mar 19; May 10; May 27 & Dec 29) From this day, on which the Docklands were bombed, the bombing of the Docklands continued each and every day for 8 weeks. (ITV Channel) On this same day (7th September 1940) Siemens' Charlton factory suffered bomb damage.(34) [Siemens and Telcon of East Greenwich designed and developed cable for Pipeline under the Ocean (PLUTO) to pump gallons of petrol to France after D-Day, 6 June 1944.] On Saturday afternoon at 4.55p.m. the Royal Arsenal was attacked. The new fuse factory and several storehouses were burned down and 53 people were killed and 247 injured. The enemy came back during the night to bomb around the fires they had started earlier. (18) The Blitz continued until May 11th 1940.

Sep 8

On this date the Danes seized Alfege, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1011. (See: Apr 19)

Sep 9

Gladstone's speech at Blackheath 1876 - on Bulgarian atrocities by the Ottoman Empire - this speech marked William Ewart Gladstone's return to active politics. (3)

Sep 10

a) Princess Elizabeth (Elizabeth I) christened in Greenwich, 1533. "On 10 September, when she was only three days old, the King's daughter was given a splendid christening in the Church of the Observant Friars at Greenwich. The church and the gallery that led to it were both hung with rich arras, and the silver font placed a high railed platform . . . Archbishop Cranmer stood godfather at the christening . . . and the baby was baptised Elizabeth ['after both her grandmothers, Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth Howard'] (28) by John Stokesley, Bishop of London". (7)

b) Fire in Scott Russell's Shipyard 1853. Russell, who was Brunel's ship builder on the Isle of Dogs, was about to begin building the Great Eastern when the disastrous fire destroyed drawings and templates, thus delaying the start of the great ship's construction.

c) Professor Geoffrey Callender appointed first Director of National Maritime Museum, 1934. (27)

Sep 11

Montagu House: the destruction begins 1815. Montagu House's last occupant was Princess Caroline of Brunswick, the consort of Prince George, who became Prince Regent from 1811. This ill-matched couple never got on together and, when Caroline went abroad, the opportunity was seized to get rid of her Blackheath home, Montagu House. Firstly, it was surveyed and pronounced to be beyond repair. Then, secondly, an auction of its parts was inaugurated: the sale took place over several days (11th - 14th September 1815). The lots to be taken away from the premises in the following order:
The tiling;
sashes and frames;
and internal fittings in 9 days.
The timber and floors, in 12 days.
The brickworks in 28 days -each from the day of sale.

Sep 12

Christopher Wren laid his plans for the restoration of the City before Charles II 1666. A copy of these proposals is apparently kept in All Saints' College, Oxford.

Sep 13

a) General James Wolfe d. 1759 (11) (as did Marquis de Montcalm, the French general) during the battle on the plains called the Heights of Abraham in Quebec. By dawn on 13 September Wolfe, with 4,500 men and two cannon, had occupied the Heights of Abraham on the plain to the west of Quebec. There they waited until the French advanced to within 40 yards and then fired a single stunning volley. At that moment the outcome of the battle was effectively decided. (See also: Nov 20) In 1827 a monument to the joint honour of Wolfe and Montcalm was erected in Quebec.

b) Ettore Schmitz (better known as Italo Svevo) d. 1928. Schmitz was the author of "Confessions of Zero" (a work championed by James Joyce - the work might have disappeared altogether but for him). The author lived at 67 Charlton Church Lane, SE7 and died after being involved in a road accident.

Sep 14

Prince John of Eltham d. 1335 aged nineteen. Prince John was the second son of Edward II. He was born in 1316 at Eltham and was the Earl of Cornwall. Hasted's history of Kent says: "after burning, on his way, a church containing 1,000 persons he met his brother Edward III in the Church at Perth. The King upbraided him for cruelty and for his insolent retort despatched him with a sword-thrust before the altar of St John." (22) Prince John's tomb is in Westminster Abbey.

Sep 15

a) Royal Observatory opened 1675 in Greenwich Park. First observations were made the following day

b) Isambard Kingdom Brunel d.1859. The chief engineer of the Great Western Railway and designer of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and designer of ships: the Great Britain, the Great Western, while Brunel's greatest achievement was the construction of the Great Eastern at Millwall on the western shore of the Isle of Dogs. A ship so large, that when it was completed in 1857, it was launched sideways (1858); the launching site having been preserved. (See: Jan 31) The ship was designed with the route to Australia around the Cape in mind. The Great Eastern set out on its first voyage on 5th September 1859 and I.K.B. died ten days later. The following year an explosion occurred in the Great Eastern at sea off Hastings. The Great Eastern was the only ship capable of carrying 22,500 tons of cable and she laid transatlantic cable between 1865 and 1869. The last few years of her life were spent in Liverpool docks as an advertising hoarding and she was broken up in 1888. (See: Jul 27)

Sep 16

James II d. in exile at St Germains in France, 1701. (See also: Oct 14 & Dec 18)

Sep 17

a) The Dreadnought Library opened 1999. The Dreadnought Library (of the Greenwich University) is located in the building that was formerly the Infirmary of the Royal Naval Hospital. It takes its name from the Dreadnought (101 guns) which was used on the Thames, when a hulk, as a hospital for merchant seamen. On the closure of the Royal Naval Hospital (1869) the hospital for seamen came ashore (the hulk then being used was the Caledonia) and occupied the former Infirmary Building. It remained as the Dreadnought Hospital for Seamen until 1 April 1986, and then for 13 years remained empty until being filled by the Greenwich University's library. The architect of the Library is Trevor Dannatt. (See also: Jan 25)

b) The Queen's Golden Jubilee Pavilion, Shooters Hill, opened by the Duke of Gloucester 2003. The Pavilion is on the London Marathon Playing Fields, formerly the Royal Naval college's sports ground, and the new facilities are "gender-friendly".

Sep 18

a) George I and his son Prince George Augustus ( the future George II) landed at Greenwich, 1714. (3) This most inauspicious landing took place after enveloping fog over the Thames had lifted, by which time the courtiers waiting to meet their new king had tired and deserted their posts. His arrival at Greenwich is depicted by James Thornhill on the north wall of the upper Painted Hall, ORNC. The status of the Queen's House as a Royal Palace was reasserted by King George staying there on his first night in England. The new king's coronation took place in Westminster Abbey on October 20th of the same year. (The Times)

b) The Royal Dockyards of Deptford and Woolwich closed 1869. (18)

c) War Course established at Greenwich for captains and commanders,1900. (27a)

d) King William IV's statue erected on site of St Mary's Church 1936. Samuel Nixon's Foggin Tor granite statue of King William, dating from 1844, had previously been erected in King William Street leading to London Bridge. It was moved due to street widening and found an appropriate home in Greenwich. The Kentish Mercury records its arrival in the edition for Friday 13th September 1936. The erecting firm was Askham & Palin of Fulham. As a career sailor, the Prince made the acquaintance of Horatio Nelson in the West Indies and then, after doing the European grand tour (of two years), he returned to the W.I. where, at Nelson's wedding, the Prince gave the bride (Frances Nesbit) away.

The Prince commanded Pegasus, Andromeda and, lastly, Valiant. In 1790 Prince William was promoted to Rear Admiral and ended his service days. Promotion, however, still came his way: Vice-Admiral in 1794 and, on 14th April 1799, he became an Admiral followed by, on 24th December 1811, Admiral of the Fleet. This latter appointment caused upset which was only remedied ten years later by George IV promoting St Vincent to be Commander-in-chief. Trouble flared again in 1827 when Prince William was created Lord High Admiral for the Prince wanted it to be in fact as well as title. Three years later these problems were ameliorated when King William IV became king on the death of his brother, George IV.

Sep 19 & 20 The Thames Woolwich Barrier operated closure for the one hundredth time, 1990. This event is recorded by a monument (of an anchor chain) erected at the Barrier site.

Sep 19 George Wilson, the 'Blackheath Pedestrian', sets out on his thousand-mile walk, 1815. (1) The intention was to walk around and around the heath - a thousand miles in a thousand hours - and attracted a huge number of spectators. The walk was not completed because the authorities, fearing a riot, arrested George.

Sep 20

a) Andrew Schalch appointed master brass founder 1716. (40) Actually, the order appointing Andrew Schalch is dated 15 October 1716 but indicates that "the said Mr Schalck (!) be employed in the Royal Foundery at Woolwich at 5s. per Diem from 20th of Sept last." (18)

b) Rev John Maule delivered first sermon in restored Royal Hospital for Seamen Chapel, 1789. After the disastrous fire of 1779 (see: Jan 2) the Chapel was restored by James 'Athenian' Stuart and William Newton. The Revd Maule used the Benjamin West painting - the preservation of St Paul from shipwreck on the Isle of Malta (Acts 27) - as his sermon's theme.

c) Auctioneering competition in Cutty Sark Gardens, 1988. The competition was held under canvas, at the former bandstand, and here were "auctioned" various items of the Cutty Sark: a figure head from the ship's collection; the Cutty Sark emblem; while item 5 was the clipper ship itself. There were two major prizes: one for experienced auctioneers and one for novices.

Sep 21

Duel on Blackheath 1806, at 7 o'clock. Baron Hompesch and a Mr Richardson, who was severely wounded, fought a duel on Blackheath. (22) (See also: Dec 16)

Sep 22

a) Anne of Cleves b. 1515. Born a few months before his daughter Mary was born (see: Feb 18), Anne of Cleves became Henry VIII's 4th wife.

b) Spencer Tunick organises a 400 strong nude photographic shoot, 2001. The 400 people assembled in the early morning by the Cutty Sark, removed their clothing and lay down. There were to be no yoga poses, no spread legs and no smiling. The people were arranged in neat lines parallel to the ship. The next location was outside the Admiral Hardy pub in College Approach; local residents awoke to witness a writhing river of flesh. (Information from the Internet)

Sep 23

Neptune located by Johann Gottfried Galle, 1846. John Couch Adams and Urbain Jean Joseph Leverrier independently calculated the location of Neptune, which was observed by Galle on 23 September 1846, within 1 degree of where Adams and Leverier had predicted it to be. (See also: Jul 3) With an orbital period of 165 years, Neptune will return to that point in its orbit where Galle discovered it in 2011. (Wikipedia. Internet)

Sep 24

a) Prince was launched at Woolwich, 1610. (18) The ship was built by Phineas Pett and weighed 1,400 tons and was given by James I to his eldest son, Henry, Prince of Wales. Other well-known ships launched at Woolwich were the Victory in 1631; the Royal James on 14 April 1663 and Sovereign of the Seas on 14 October 1637. The latter vessel was laid down by Phineas Pett and had a tonnage which corresponded to the numerical value of the year in which she was constructed (1,637 tons). She was accidentally destroyed by fire at Chatham in 1696.

b) Bob Hope unveiled a plaque to commemorate the opening of the Bob Hope Theatre, (the renamed and refurbished Eltham Little Theatre) Eltham, 1982. (38)

Sep 25

Princess Alice Concert at Woolwich Skating Rink, 1878.

Sep 26

a) Wolfe memorialMrs Henrietta Wolfe d. 1764 aged 60. When Edward Wolfe, James' father, died on 26 March 1759, James Wolfe rewrote his will - taking into account the monies he would be receiving from his father's estate. James appears to have overlooked his mother's needs but, however, Edward did not for he left everything to his wife. In short, the will of James Wolfe only became applicable on his mother's death. (See: Sep13) Mrs Wolfe's coffin lies between those of her husband and her son in St. Alfege's Church. (22)
Right: Memorial to James Wolfe, unveiled in St Alfege's Church by General Sir George White, VC November 20 1908.

b) Queen Mary launched 1934. (11) The radical art deco style of the Queen Mary had a strong influence on English architecture and interior design in, for instance, the house created for Stephen Courtauld at Eltham's former royal palace in the mid-1930s.

c) Bodies from Franklin's expedition recovered 1986. An autopsy conducted on the dead sailors revealed that the cause of death was lead poisoning, contracted from the lead seals on the tins of food the expedition took with them (and supplied by the Victualling Yards of Greenwich).

Sep 27

Sir Robert Taylor d. 1788 aged 74 years; architect to the Bank of England and other public offices. His additions to the Bank constitute his finest public work. Sir Robert was surveyor to the Admiralty, Greenwich Hospital and the Foundling Hospital. Christopher Wren died worth £50,000 . . . Sir Robert Taylor realised £180,000 yet he said "when he began life that he was not worth eighteen pence". (32a)

Sep 28

The Lord Mayor and his brethren in scarlet met Edward IV on his return from France, 1474 (22) on Blackheath.

Sep 29 Michaelmas Day.

a) The newly restored St Alfege's consecrated 1719. (see: Nov 28)

b) Horatio Nelson b. 1758 at Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk. Nelson has many connections with Greenwich, the most important one being perhaps that of his body's return to this country after the Battle of Trafalgar; he rested in state in Greenwich's Painted Hall. (See: Jan 5, 6 & 7) During his lifetime Nelson was a frequent visitor to Greenwich, often to visit his old friend Captain William Locker, who commissioned the most famous portrait of Nelson, that by Lemuel Abbott, and which was painted in the house Locker occupied as Lieutenant-Governor of Greenwich Hospital.

Sep 30

John Thompson, Yeoman of the Mouth, d.1708. John Thompson's gravestone reads: Here lyes ye body of John Thompson who was Yeoman of the Mouth in ye Kichen to King Charles ye 2nd he serued ye said King as well during his exile, as after his restoration unto ye time of his death he served also King James 2nd & K. Willliam ye 3rd and being aged was allowed to come hither [Morden College] by her Matie Qn. Anne. he dyed the 30th Day of September aged 79 yeares being admitted by Sir Join Mordant [sic] Cook to this Foundation. John Thompson d. in the same month of the same year as Sir John Morden himself (see: Sep 6).

Back to introduction Back to August Forward to October

This site and all contents Copyright © 2000 - 2012 Alan Palmer, apart from Greenwich Day by Day, which is Copyright © 2005 - 2008 David Male.