The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 49 Greenwich and Woolwich


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5+ miles Greenwich (Ship Hotel, by the pier), famous for its Hospital, Park, and Observatory, is beautifully situated on the south bank of the Thames, 5 miles below London Bridge. During the first three-quarters of the 19th century it was noted also for the 'Whitebait Dinner,' with which the ministers of the Crown annually celebrated the close of the parliamentary session. Greenwich Fair, notorious for its boisterous merriment, was suppressed in 1856. From Greenwich Station we follow the tramway-lines to the left. In Church St., where Johnson resided in 1737, is the parish church of St. Alphage, or Alfege (rebuilt in 1718), dedicated to an archbishop of Canterbury who was martyred here by the Danes in 1012. The church contains monuments to General Wolfe (died 1759; west end of north aisle) and Thomas Tallis (died 1585), eminent as a composer of church music (east end of north aisle), a Canadian flag presented in memory of Wolfe (1921), and a window commemorating the baptism of Henry VIII. in the old church. Lavinia Fenton, Duchess of Bolton, the original 'Polly Peachum' in Gay's 'Beggar's Opera,' is buried in the churchyard (no monument). Nelson St. leads to the right from Church St. to King William St., at the north end of which is Greenwich Pier, near the entrance to Greenwich Tunnel. In King William St. is the entrance to Greenwich Hospital, now the Royal Naval College. A public footpath skirts the river-front, Greenwirn Hospital occupies the site of 'Placentia' or the 'Pleasaunce,' a palace built in 1433 for Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, which afterwards became a favourite residence of the Tudor sovereigns. Here Henry VIII. and his daughters Mary and Elizabeth were born, and here Edward VI. Died. The palace fell into decay during the Commonwealth, and Charles II. began a new building, of which only the west wing, by Webb, was erected. After the naval victory of La Hogue (1699) Queen Mary decided to complete the palace as a hospital for disabled sailors. Her plan was carried out after her death by William III., and the new buildings, designed by Wren, were opened in 1705. During the Napoleonic wars the number of pensioners in the Hospital rose to its maximum (2710 in 1814). In 1865 it was 1400, and of these only some 400 preferred to remain as in-pensioners rather than accept the out-pensions offered by the Admiralty. In 1869 there were no in-pensioners left, and in 1873 the buildings were assigned to the Royal Naval College for the higher education of naval officers. The annual income of the Hospital is about �200,000, out of which pensions are paid and the Royal Hospital School maintained.