Visit Greenwich by Mouse
is only 7 miles from the center of London, easily reached by city bus, which is how we went. It is the home of the Royal
and the associated National Maritime Museum
. Greenwich is world famous because it sets the time benchmark for the world
as "Greenwich Mean Time." It also is the location of the Prime Meridian, which is zero degrees of longitude. In fact the original
Prime Meridian can be seen as a stainless steel ribbon that goes through the pavement outside the Royal Observatory and also right
through the building. (A new meridian, representing more modern calculations, is about 100 meters east of this one.) The Queen's House
is now part of the National Maritime Museum is next to it. Construction of this building started in 1619 by the architect Inigo Jones
a gift by King James I for his wife, Anne of Denmark. It was finished in 1629 as a gift from King Charles I for his wife, Henrietta
Maria. The Royal Naval College
and the Cutty Sark
, the last merchant clipper ship, also are nearby. (Note: The Cutty Sark was severely
damaged by fire in May, 2007. Reconstruction is planned. Check on the web site below for information.)
It is pretty safe to say that
Greenwich has about as great a concentration of interesting and historic attractions in a relatively small area as can be found anywhere.
And admission to most of these is free.
The Royal Observatory building, designed by Sir Christopher Wren
, was built originally for the first Astronomer Royal
, John Flamsteed
to house his instruments used to document the motions and positions of stars and planets. It was begun in1675. Flamsteed's instruments
are still there.
On the top of this building is a large red "time ball
" installed in 1833 to send a time signal at exactly 1 PM each day, to the ships
anchored in the Thames and about to sail off to all corners of the world. When they saw the red ball drop they were able to set theirchronometers
, an essential step for them to be able to determine their exact positions in longitude
on their voyage. This was made
possible by a Yorkshire carpenter turned clock designer, John Harrison
, who succeeded in developing a clock that kept accurate time
at sea. The original Harrison chronometers are part of the National Maritime Museum's collection
which you can inspect on line.
If you are interested in the Harrison saga in developing the chronometer, there is a very good A&E made-for-television movie,
titled "Longitude" starring Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons (review