Steeped in history and culture, Greenwich is also a World Heritage Site and the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Meridian Line. Its famous landmarks include the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory, and Sir Christopher Wren’s Old Royal Naval College. Jonathan Chandler of The Greenwich Society explains what makes Greenwich so special.
"Londoners all have their favourite places in the city, some preferring the north to the south or vice versa. Everyone, however, no matter in which neighbourhood they actually live, will have their own special favourites – whether a quiet and secret oasis or a busy and noisy meeting place – and will visit whenever they can. The river is still both a dividing line between some older communities and at the same time a link that, along with the spreading public transport network across the whole metropolitan area, has opened up the entire city to residents and visitors alike.
Greenwich occupies a special place on the river in London that makes it a not only a unique location but an attractive combination of ancient and modern. From the Royal Observatory, down the grand sweep of the Royal Park to the spectacular buildings of the Old Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark by the Thames, the World Heritage Site looks up river to the steel and glass of the City of London and the West End and down river past the peninsula and O2 Arena through docklands towards the sea.
The ancient history of Greenwich has seen it grow from a village on the river to become a royal hunting lodge and then a palace for the Tudor monarchs. The development of the maritime technologies necessary to aid the navy and merchant shipping sealed its importance and made it the home of time itself, with the prime meridian running through its centre. The Greenwich Hospital was not only a charitable home for injured and retired naval seamen but a work or architectural genius involving Christopher Wren, Nicholas Hawksmoor and John Vanbrugh. This dramatic history is plainly visible in the buildings, streets and open spaces of the town today.
As a place to live and work, of course, Greenwich spreads further out than its historic centre, bordering Deptford and Lewisham, Blackheath and Charlton. The people who call Greenwich home are not only drawn to the heritage that makes the centre of the town a place of international repute but also the market that has traded in the town since 1700, the local shops, the schools, amenities and services, the restaurants and bars. There is also an immense variety of streets and communities, from the riverside to the park, along main roads and in quiet back street with housing that is Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, 20th century and also very modern.
The Greenwich Society, which was born as a civic amenity group in the late 1950s, aims to work to make Greenwich a better place for all who live, work and study here – from Deptford Creek to the O2 and from the river to Blackheath. The Society has a special interest in thriving, long and sustainable businesses, the town’s commercial centres East and West, regeneration, traffic management, the natural and built environment and relations with the local authority and all the agencies who have to manage change. Whether it is the watchfulness that is required to protect the town’s heritage or the natural concerns of local residents to improve its amenities, the Greenwich Society welcomes members and gives a voice to everyone who cares about the past, the present and the future."
The Greenwich Society