Monday, 25 September 2017

Bucket List – part 6: Boat trip back from Greenwich to Westminister …



Not so much history for the return trip … we now will note some sites of interest … probably a fair number of taverns!, gruesome tellings, literary connections …


… if we’d walked further east from Greenwich we would have come to the Trafalgar Tavern built in 1837 on the site of an even older tavern.  Charles Dickens frequented the pub and set the wedding breakfast in Our Mutual Friend there.





Brunel standing against
the launching chains of
the SS Great Eastern



Dickens, along with a great many Londoners, watched in great excitement the launch of the Brunel’s SS Great Eastern from Burrell’s Wharf in the afternoon of 3 November 1857 … he vividly recorded the event: see link below: it’s worth reading for the descriptions!








Great Eastern before launch

The launch was on the opposite side of the river on our return trip towards Westminster … there’s a site called the Drunken Dock – with no obvious derivation of the name ‘Drunken Dock’ but possibly because it was a tidal lock … so drowned on the tide, as regular as clockwork …




Aerial view of the Isle of Dogs

We’re going round the easterly meander of the Thames leaving the Isle of Dogs behind … to Canary Wharf, formerly the West India Docks, now one of two business and financial centres in London – the other being the City itself.





Canary Wharf
The three docks had opened in 1802 but by 1980 had closed to commercial traffic – when the new development started … this area of eastern London is still being revitalised – the new Cross Rail route (Elizabeth Line tube) will be completed by 2019.




The Grapes - at low tide






The next major pub of interest we come to is “The Grapes” which has stood on the pebbled Limehouse Reach for nearly 500 years.  It has a lot of history – best checked out at the pub’s site.  Raleigh, Pepys, Dickens … now Sir Ian McKellen and the owner of The Evening Standard, Evgeny Lebedev …






… the last two mentioned have teamed up with The Felix Project, the food waste charity recently launched, … in this instance ‘to re-use your loaf and make beer’ …. they get more ‘waste’ bread than the Project can give away … so are using the surplus to make beer: sold at The Grapes, amongst other outlets …





Bread Banger - outlet for
the Felix Project


The history of beer and bread are inextricably linked … as evidenced in a 3,900 year-old Sumerian poem describing the production of beer from barley via bread.  So the wastage our modern world ‘allows’ us … utilises that bread waste into various modern ales.







Execution Dock
The Prospect of Whitby’s pub name … comes from the coal-carrying vessels from the north east coast of England – possibly established in 1520.


The tavern’s history is long … and has a dubious reputation being situated next to the former Wapping Execution Dock.  “Hanging” Judge Jeffreys lived nearby so he could watch … as according to legend, criminals would be tied up to posts at low tide and left to drown when the tide came in – actually three tides … just to make sure?!  Not nice - if you want to read more: it is here!




Opposite in Rotherhithe (south side) – the Mayflower lay at anchor before departing on her voyage to the ‘New World’ in July 1620.  


The Mayflower painted by William Halsall in 1882 -
in Plymouth Harbour


This voyage has become an iconic story in some of the earliest annals of American history … those 102 Pilgrims with crew established a rudimentary form of democracy after their landing in the New England winter.






The Tower of London and
Tower Bridge

We cruise upstream ever westwards past numerous docks, admiring Tower Bridge as we go underneath it, passing the imposing Tower of London – a fortress, a royal residence, an arsenal, more famously a prison … finally the keeper of the Crown Jewels and major tourist attraction.





The Museum ship: HMS Belfast – the last big gun cruiser from World War 11 … which escorted convoys as part of the Arctic Campaign … dwarfs our tour boat as we pass her by …


Billingsgate Open Air Fish Market
beginning of 1800s


Old Billingsgate – had been London’s main fish market for over 900 years … it is situated in the City.  The new fish market is now within the Canary Wharf development, but outside of the 'City'.





Top of the Monument
with viewing platform


Fishmongers’ Hall is the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers (founded in 1272), one of the livery companies of the City of London.



Behind these two is “The Monument” designed by Christopher Wren, completed in 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London 1660.  The column stands 202 feet (62 m) high – the same distance as from the starting point of the fire in Pudding Lane.


The Shard:
Check photo out for how
the composite of this image
was put together and where
the shots were taken from



Southwark Cathedral – you have to see and spend time in – so I’ll leave that for another day … but completely swamping this part of London is The Shard (shard of glass). It is 1,016 feet (309.6 m) tall … the picture has all the details of how and where from it was taken – worth a read … if you’re interested in photographic technicalities …



Borough Market – a foodie heaven – is just south of Southwark Cathedral … well worth a snack, coffee, dining interlude …




Another tavern – Anchor Tavern – dates back to Tudor times and has associations with both William Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson.


Borough Market - foodie heaven!


On the opposite side of the river sits the Livery Hall of the Worshipful Company of Vintners established in 1364 – it has an interesting history … see link at end.





The 'wobbly bridge' connecting
South Bank to the north with a vista towards
St Paul's Cathedral


The Vintners face Shakespeare’s Globe on the south bank, along with the house where Christopher Wren, the architect, lived whilst St Paul’s was being built …



… the spread of theatres, taverns, bear-pits and brothels were common in Southwark, free from the restraints of the City regulators … which have a history all of their own.




Gloomy as you can see ... but the scaffolding
is just visible as it surrounds the
tower of Big Ben


We now have the Millennium Bridge (often known as the ‘wobbly bridge’) … which allows pedestrians to walk across the river – tying together the Globe, the Bankside Gallery and Tate Modern on the south bank, with a clear view across to St Paul’s Cathedral …


We have passed lots of bridges, other sites of historical interest, new developments that seem to abound in London and on its skyline – and finally one last mention “The London Eye” – the Ferris Wheel – the tallest in Europe – something else I have yet to do …


Big Ben and its environs
We have arrived safely at our terminus – the Westminster Pier … could get our land legs back … as we walk up to Westminster Bridge … admiring the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben – now starting to be shrouded in scaffolding – as major repairs are effected.


Big Ben is in dire need of some restoration … actually that’s wrong … the Great Bell as it is correctly known, though affectionately called Big Ben by us all … the tower needs repair and is officially, as of 2012, known as the Elizabeth Tower.


Big Ben's clock face - the hour hand
is 9 feet (2.7m) long, the minute
hand is 14 feet (4.3m) long


I guess as I’m talking about Big Ben … I’ll add a few notes – the clock bells will remain silent for four years (except at odd times – New Year’s Eve, and Remembrance Day).  Do you know the ring of the 13.7 tonne bell can be heard ten miles away … some distance: I wouldn’t like to work in its close proximity …





Lamp posts on
the Bridge

Previously the clock has been stopped, or slowed the passing of time by starlings perching on the minute hand in 1949; by an explosion in 1976; for maintenance in 2007 … but life will go on now as then and when the bells return to ring in 2021 Big Ben will return to normal.


'Revolving Torsion' kinetic
sculpture/fountain by Naum Gabo


We walked over Westminster Bridge, walked a little way down the southern embankment noting St Thomas’ Hospital, Florence Nightingale Museum, and in the Gardens overlooking Parliament was Mary Seacole’s Memorial Statue …





Judge Jeffreys - I've no wish for
you to summon him!





Well – we have now returned, I expect you’re tired of my ramblings … but sometimes better ‘too much’ than too little ... and anyway guess what – we needed a drink!!  Well wine for one and water for t’other (me) … and then our train home – when I could have a slightly stronger drink …




Thanks for being with me along this journey – I will add a couple of posts after our We are the World Blogfest this weekend …. when contributing bloggers spread Love and Peace … please join us – all welcome!  Details in this post.


Description of the building of the SS Great Eastern, and Dickens' 'write-up' on its launch ... the expectations of the crowds on the river banks, on little ships, in the water ... including development in this area of the land of promise - do read!

History of The Grapes public house

The Felix Project .... reducing food waste and food poverty ... 

The Weird Beard Brew bread bangers ... recycle bread into beer for charitable purposes .... 

Origins and Development of The Vintners' Company 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Bucket List visit - part 5: Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College ...



We then had a gentle walk along the river bank past the Cutty Sark to ‘touch sides’ with the Painted Hall, which is in the process of a conservation project lasting until 2019.  I was with the friend from South Africa who could not have made the scaffold tour on offer, nor did we have time …
The Cutty Sark - restored ... it has been lifted
9 metres so can be accessed at ground level -
there will be a museum with various features ...
the restoration and conservation are continuing
ready for the 150th anniversary in 2019


… but it has whetted my appetite to make a plan to get back to take the tour … talking of appetite – the last time I wrote about the Painted Hall was for the Olympic 2012 Great British Menu …


In that post I gave a brief summary about the history of the Hall, but little about the art itself. 



The Painted Hall full of scaffolding as the art works
are restored and repairs are made


Our history here is extraordinary … always reminding us how the country developed, and what amazing talent was able to come to the fore with engineers, architects, designers, artists and many other creatives.





Another view of the Painted Hall with
the west wall in full view at the end



If you can believe it – this Painted Hall was created as a dining hall - an eating place - for the naval veterans, who had survived their sea voyages of exploration in the 1600s.


Unsurprisingly upon completion it was considered way too grand for everyday use … and became (surprisingly) one of London’s first tourist attractions – the Pensioners being hired to give guided tours.


This shows the four courts at Greenwich,
the Queen's House at the back centre - with
the National Maritime Museum to the right


In the 1800s until 1936 the Painted Hall was also known as the National Gallery of Naval Art - with 300 naval-themed paintings – which now form the foundation of the National Maritime Museum’s art collection just up the hill.






James Thornhill's work:
William and Mary

James Thornhill (1675 – 1734) had painted the interior of the dome in St Paul’s Cathedral and in 1708 was appointed to decorate the Hall.


His instructions were to include as many naval references as possible, boast the triumph of William and Mary in the Glorious Revolution in 1688 over James II with royal propaganda.


His vision is superb … he worked on dry plaster, and without 21st century scaffolding – not a job I’d have liked in any form.  It took him 19 years … but thereafter he was knighted!


Royal Symbolism


Signs and Symbols are depicted in the art, particularly astronomical features – so important to navigation – together with the famous astronomers of the day … 





The Painted Hall
... including – guess who … the man with the prosthetic nose whom I wrote about last year … Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601) - the last of the ‘naked eye astronomers’.


I’ve set out some links below if you’d like a better understanding of the wonderfulness of this incredible building or perhaps part of the great courts of Greenwich and to see in close up some of the restoration work.


As tends to happen in this country … if we dig down we find new to us undiscovered buildings … it has happened at the Painted Hall.  They are working at bringing the Undercroft back into existence as a shop-restaurant and visitor centre for this part of the Old Royal Naval College.


c/o Old Royal Naval College - major archaeology
So what appears … but the remains of Greenwich Palace, birthplace of Henry VIII and of his daughters Mary and Elizabeth I.


The new archaeological finds of this Tudor Palace – originally called Palace of Placentia (Palace of Pleasant Abode – from the Latin ‘placere’ “to please”)  will be included within the conservation and construction project being undertaken under the auspices of the Painted Hall Restoration Project.


A sketch of the early Greenwich  Palace
(Palace of Placentia) as published in
The Gentleman's Magazine 1840


Our history just goes on and on … and how much we learn along the way … finding out about all these talented people who were able to translate the vision given to them by their patrons.




Then over nearly six hundred years the site reflects the country’s development from early Tudor and on into our own 21st century … what changes …


When I’m able to get up to London again and take part in a scaffold tour – I’ll let you know …


Conservation trials in the Painted Hall - Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) Painted Hall Project



A guest article in the Tudor Times about the Palace of Placentia - this is fascinating, just adding to the history

My earlier post on the Great British Menu dinner held in the Painted Hall just before the London Olympics 2012

The post on Tycho Brahe and his prosthetic nose 

The Cutty Sark 150th restoration project - to be completed by 2019 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Bucket List visit - part 4: Lunch in Greenwich ...



We walked back along the river spotting “The Sail Loft” – to my surprise I’ve just noticed it’s another Fullers … this time … a Kitchen Establishment, not a Pie and Ale pub …



We sat outside overlooking the Thames and its opposite bank of the Isle of Dogs – this is where the river has one of its largest meanders.  At some stage! I’ll do another post about the Isle of Dogs – but for now lunch calls …





We people watched, looked across trying to remember where a friend used to live whom we visited soon after I came back early 1990s … but it’s all been developed in the last 30 – 40 years … there’s a park and a charity farm – so the Isle of Dogs is thriving …



The Isle of Dogs as shown in
John Rocque's map of 1747 before
any development



… a footpath runs under the Thames, while the Docklands Light Railway also connects, where the history in Greenwich can be found.  I wrote another post about St Alfege Church on its millennium … lots of extra information in there if you care to take a look …


Back to lunch … we decided we just needed a main course … one of us was happy with her pink Pinot Grigio, while I had tonic water …




… I chose Devon Crab and Shellfish Linguine, white wine and parsley sauce … and I must say it was delicious …






T’other main party had the Frontier Battered North Atlantic Cod, chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce … remarking she hadn’t had mushy peas for ages …



Looking down from the first floor



We were very happy and took our time, still nattering! mulling over life, debating what we should do next before we returned back upstream.






Wall decorated with old tea boxes - used for packing
and transporting in the Clippers


I’ve included a few photos to give you a glimpse of The Sail Loft … fortunately there were few dining – so we were mostly left to get on with it … I’m sure it’d be packed out in the evenings and at weekend – it was quite a large place as you can see …




Looking east up the river towards the Cutty Sark, and
the mooring areas for the River Cruisers



Well that was lunch!  Next we visited the Painted Hall, and glanced at the Chapel … walked back passed the Cutty Sark on our way for our return trip.







My post on St Alfege Church, Greenwich  

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories



Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Bucket List visit - part 3: Boat Trip down the Thames to Greenwich ...


This is something I had never done – or really had never thought about doing!  So I was very happy to tag along to tick off another experience … or more likely open my eyes as a way to get to Greenwich along the river.

Lonely Planet's Thames Hop-On-Hop-Off  River Cruise
see here
Greenwich is to be found where the meander is shown.

London arose from the Roman fort ‘Londonium’ two millennia ago … it has enjoyed its eras – for example those Roman times: and how - we keep finding relics …

Westminster Bridge, by the Houses of Parliament,
our starting point

Once the Romans withdrew … the Vikings came and plundered its wealth … but from the late 800s AD Alfred the Great and his Anglo-Saxons drove out the invaders to lay claim to their port and establish a new golden age of trade along old man River Thames.



Ethelred the Unready


The Vikings came again, Ethelred the Unready needed Olaf the Norseman to help upset those plunderers and recapture the city: they pulled the early London Bridge down – so the Vikings left.



Benedictine Monks had in the 700s settled further up the river on Thorney Island – the early Royal residence of King Canute, then Edward the Confessor - and we know who came next: the man that conquered.




It was Edward who had established the historic division between the centre for trade – the City of London –and that of government – the City of Westminster …


… which William endorsed when he conquered England in 1066 – by issuing what is known today as the “William Charter” – see my post on this amazing tiny piece of treasured parchment.


The Tower of London outside the eastern
walls of the City of London
We left on the boat trip from near enough Thorney Island … now under Westminster Bridge, and the Houses of Parliament and other iconic buildings … the Thames has been tamed (perhaps!) … it is now confined not being allowed to spread its wings out into flood plains that are no more.


William the Conqueror built the Tower of London … which lies outside the City of London walls – yet is today still an iconic landmark for tourists and visitors alike …


View from Greenwich Park looking
north over the Thames and on into London
We cruised down the Thames towards Greenwich - being regaled with numerous interesting subjects which we noted – to the riverside gateway to London, founded by those Romans with empirical desires back in the day. 


Greenwich too has had its fair share of history … it shone in the Middle Ages – Henry VIII and Elizabeth I made sure of that.


Arms of the Metropolitan Borough of
Greenwich - granted 15th July 1903 -
by the College of Arms
Greenwich held its ground for centuries, occasionally foregoing its ‘popularity’ … but revival is rarely far away - as is happening now that that Tudor Palace has been found and is being excavated, conserved and partially restored for us in the 21st century to see.  (My Painted Hall post - part 5 ).


Now we are here – we will have some lunch, wander along the river, visit the Painted Hall, by-pass the Cutty Sark, before jumping onto our cruise ship for its return to Westminster Bridge – knowing that when we arrive at Parliament we will be walking over the home of 8th century Benedictine monks of Thorney Island.


On our return trip I will highlight a few of the riverside places of interest that we passed.


Ready for fooooood? - lunch comes next …

My post on The William Charter - a parchment treasure from 1067 AD (950 years ago)

Flooding in London and Europe going back one thousand years - another of my eclectic posts!  

Go here to look at the route: Thames River Services - the sightseeing spots are quite clearly highlighted ... 


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories