My walk this time consisted of me having an actual thought out purpose, I wanted to begin in Greenwich and always have the river on my left hand side, and see where it took me, by doing this I tried to capture the carefree and mysterious way of the Flaneur. I also know that Greenwich is full of Naval history, which isn’t a field I’d usually explore. This walk took place between 4 and 6 pm. So I had a mere taste of Nightwalking.
I began the walk next to the classic Cutty Sark. An organised meeting place for friends, couples and tourists since the year dot. In my humble opinion I think it is the most over hyped thing in existence. An old tea clipper, not an epic war ship, not even an active player in the Battle of Waterloo. Just a plain ol Merchant Navy Ship which happened to burn down and then rebuilt. Yes it was ‘The fastest ship of its time'(1) which is admittedly admirable (Naval Pun Wahey) and undoubtedly fits in with the Naval theme of Greenwich. But I just don’t think a 19th century ‘delivery boat’ is the best Greenwich could offer. Opened in 1957 The Queen herself cut the ribbon at its opening, two years of its 100th birthday. (2)
(2) ‘Royal Greenwich’, Hamilton, Olive and Nigel. (1969) PP. 263.
I walk east, passing the pier and the Naval College/Hospital. ”Greenwich Hospital was founded by William III. Immediately after the death of Queen Mary, his consort, and was intended as a memorial of her virtues, and of the great victory of la Hogue”(3). It is undeniable this is a spectacular building with many a story to tell, but before the buildings were established, there was an old palace that once stood there. The ‘Palace of Placentia’, which, as you can guess, belonged to the monarchy, since 1447.(4) until the English Civil War saw them fall into disrepair and Charles II finally demolished it in the 17th Century.
(3)’Dickens’s Dictionary of the Thames 1893′, Dickens, Charles. 1893. (1893) PP. 87
(4)’Royal Greenwich’, Hamilton, Olive and Nigel. (1969) PP. 65
The buildings that you can still see today are a product of Sir Christopher Wren. Originally a hospital for wounded seamen, it closed in 1869. From 1873 to 1998 it was the Royal Naval College of Greenwich. As I move on from, arguably, the thing Greenwich is known for, I have to pass round the back of an old pub. The Trafalgar Tavern, built in 1837 ‘was a popular haunt for writers, and artists’ such as Dickens, and even gets a mention in his last novel ‘Our Mutual Friend’. (5) However the pub closed in 1915 due to a decline in the village. It spent a short time as converted flats during the Second World War, which luckily saved it from being demolished. But in 1965 it was returned to its original purpose, and successfully reopened as a tavern, and has been open ever since.
(5)’Royal Greenwich’, Hamilton, Olive and Nigel. (1969) PP. 121
As I walk further down, the giant thing taking up immediate eye sight, is Greenwich Power Station. Built in 1902, with an uncanny resemblance to that Pink Floyd album, it was built to provide power to the London Tram Network and The London Underground.”The station originally had a coal-fired boiler house and an engine room. This housed four compound reciprocating steam engines driving flywheel-type alternators with an output of 6,600 volts and 25 hertz” (6) Very much like the aforementioned Battersea Power Station, which also originally had coal-fired boilers (7).This fits in perfectly with the early 20th century and because this is when electricity was really beginning to be used on a mass scale.
As I pass by the massive Edwardian structure I am hit by surprising route laid out ahead. Literally. Due to massive amounts of building going on my view is extremely restricted by a 6 foot high makeshift wall, just so you can’t spy on what they’re doing. However, my view of the river and the land across it is not compromised. Many derelict boats tied to rotting docks plague my view. Its a pretty shabby looking place, and as every woman contemplates walking alone in dodgy places ‘Damn I should have bought someone.’ But nevertheless I am not one to be frightened easily so I persevere. As it is not 1800 anymore I may go where I please, when I please. I also don’t have the fear of someone seeing me after dark and risking them think I’m a prostitute. Which would have probably worried a woman out at night alone in 1800.
Despite the boring nothingness on the south side I look over to the north, or more specifically, The Isle of Dogs. In the 18th Century; Greenwich, Deptford and the surrounding areas began to fill up with dockers and their families. I learn that ‘Cubitt Town’ was established especially to house these people and their families (8). This is in the area of ‘Crossharbour’. I imagine this explains why all I’ve been seeing for the past half hour is houses. A little before Cubitt Town, on the South Side is a building with
‘Morden Wharf’ painted on it. I try to research in depth as to why someone has painted this, and try to get the general who/what/where/when/why, but alas find nothing, apart from that’s what the place is called (great) and behind it is the beginning of the Blackwall Tunnel.
(8)’London’s Docklands; A History of the Lost Quarter’, Rule, Fiona. (2009) PP. 14
Its now dark and freezing and I’m in desperate need of a hot beverage, but the view of Canary Wharf is pretty in the dark, and walking along the river is peaceful. I think about Brooke’s quote of ‘Cities, like cats, reveal themselves at night.'(9) which is bizarre when I put it into play, because right now everything seems peaceful, which I think we’d all agree London is not. I end my walk when I reach the O2.
-‘Dickens’s Dictionary of the Thames 1893’, Dickens, Charles. 1893. (1893)
-‘London’s Docklands; A History of the Lost Quarter’, Rule, Fiona. (2009)
-‘Royal Greenwich’, Hamilton, Olive and Nigel. (1969)