Today, Greenwich Park, the oldest of the Royal Parks and Blackheath are famous for being the start of the annual London Marathon, which continues a much earlier sporting theme.
Blackheath was the venue for the first game of golf in England. Following the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth as James I of England. He took up residence with his large Court at nearby Greenwich Palace. Golf was a popular game in Scotland and the King’s Court needed a flat area to practice their game. It did not take too long for them to walk up the hill, out of the park and onto the wide, area which is Blackheath.
In 1616, James I instructed Inigo Jones to build a house for his queen, Anne of Denmark within the grounds of Greenwich Palace. The Queen’s House was designed along classical Italian lines and became the first Palladian building to be built in England.
The site of Greenwich Palace, next to the River Thames, is where Sir Christopher Wren laid out his great master plan for Greenwich Hospital in 1694. Wren was a brilliant architect and mathematician and his plan for Greenwich Hospital allowed the Queen to enjoy views of the river by placing the great buildings to either side of the Queen’s House.
At the top of the hill, King Charles II had founded the Royal Observatory to study the stars in 1675. The Royal Observatory, which now includes London’s only planetarium, the modern Peter Harrison Planetarium is to be found at the top of the steep hill which leads up to the Prime Meridian of the World where time begins. The World’s time is calculated from Greenwich Meantime, GMT.
The statue of General Woolf, next to the Royal Observatory has great panoramic views of Canary Wharf and London and looks down to the National Maritime Museum with its new Sammy Ofer wing.
Across the road, Greenwich Hospital now known as the Old Royal Naval College with its great Painted Hall and Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre – both free to the public, is also home to the University of Greenwich and Trinity Laban.
The recently refurbished and reopened Cutty Sark is in dry dock, next to the ORNC and the pier. The world’s sole surviving tea clipper, has undergone a £50million restoration plan and is part of the Royal Museums Greenwich along with the Royal Observatory and National Maritime Museum which incorporates The Queen’s House.
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