Anniversary of the opening of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel


It was on this day, August 4th, in 1902 that a new way of getting across the Thames, built by the London County Council, opened to the public. The new foot tunnel, which had taken about three years to build, connected Greenwich with Millwall on the other side of the river. The anniversary of the opening provides a good excuse for looking through the newspaper archives for reports from the time. [Read more…]

The woman that walked to the Painted Hall from Cornwall (and nearly wasn’t allowed in)

Here’s a great story found, found in an 1851 edition of the West Kent Guardian, of how an 84 year old woman walked from Cornwall to Greenwich to see the Painted Hall but almost wasn’t allowed in because she looked too “grotesque”.

Mary Callinich arrived at the gate to Greenwich Hospital, having first visited the Great Exhibition, and asked to see the Painted Hall and the Chapel.

The Sergeant guarding the entrance gate, rather unsympathetically, denied the Cornish pensioner entry on the grounds that she had “got such a funny hat”. With that, she whipped out a black velvet bonnet and obviously transformed her appearance such that she was promptly allowed in.

She expressed her “highest gratification” as she departed after a two hour visit. Having seen what she came for, one wonders if the formidable Mary Callinich simply walked back to Cornwall afterwards.

Read the full article below:


You can find more interesting newspaper stories from the past in the British Newspaper Archive.

London Borough of Greenwich created 50 years ago today

In the big local government shakeup of 1965, the London Borough of Greenwich was created, bringing together the Metropolitan boroughs of Greenwich and Woolwich. That change came in to effect fifty years ago today, with the new borough using the name of Greenwich but being based in Woolwich.

At the very last meeting of the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich, councillors used the final motion to express their “deep regret that the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich” was to lose its identity on 31st March 1965. [Read more…]

April Fools’ Day joke gone wrong

It’s that slightly infuriating day in the year when you can’t trust all that you read as folk try and catch you out with an April Fools’ Day joke. I did one when a few years ago when I put an article on the site saying there had been a spelling mistake in the Queen’s Royal Charter and the borough had been named as Royal Greeenwich (with three Es) in error – I believe it did fool a few people! [Read more…]

Who is writing and recording Greenwich’s history?

In the name of historical accuracy I have just been tangling with how to make a comment on a Wikipedia page – on one hand its all lovey hippy Californiarey and the other hand its impossible. So I thought I would stick with Rob and write something about current historical writing in Greenwich.

Now I am very aware that there are a lot of us at it –every day I see on twitter something someone had published or brought out about our area. Some of it looks a bit dire – and most of it I will never really see. Review copies no longer seem to be around. If it is industrial in nature I do try and track it down and give it a write up on the GIHS blog – but that is sometimes pretty hard work. [Read more…]

The Grave of John Flamsteed

This is the story of how the grave of John Flamsteed – the first scientist appointed as the Royal Astronomer – went unmarked after his death for the best part of two centuries.

The name of John Flamsteed is a familiar one around Greenwich. He was the first Astronomer Royal and he himself laid the foundation stone for the new Royal Observatory which was built by Royal Warrant as a base for astronomical studies.

Flamsteed House (pictured below), as it’s now known, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and is the original Observatory building which also housed the astronomers’ apartments. [Read more…]

Gasholder Trumps

Last week I went to a conference on gasholders.  I have been researching gas industry history for many, many years and we have a large and important (and probably doomed) holder just down the road. I used to sit at Council meetings with a little paper model of a gas holder on my desk – the only person who noticed it was Chris Roberts (and he laughed, he did, honestly).

The conference was organised by the Institution of Gas Engineers — and the industry is one that doesn’t really recognise people who don’t work for it (never has) but they did allow specialist historians like me to go. But they did get us all to stand up at the start so we could be identified as the aliens among them.

[Read more…]

Frank Burton

It’s never been easy to park near The Valley on Charlton’s matchdays. So before the club generously offered me a spot in Valley Grove behind the away end, I tried my luck up on the heights around Charlton House, which made it a piece of cake cruising down Charlton Church Lane, but not so pleasant toiling uphill later on, especially when we lost.

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I want to talk about the Greenwich riverside…

I really want to talk about the Greenwich riverside, and perhaps about the industrial past – but, before that to say ‘thank you’ to Rob for this slot, and that it is flattering to be asked to write next after Denise – and of course to wish her the best of luck in her new role in the future.

I should also mention the experience of having been a local councillor – I could write so much on that – and also to say that I know how many desperate issues there are to be addressed in our area.  Most of them – tunnels, supermarkets, roads, housing  – are things taking place because of the development process and – sadly – they are really too much for one old lady ex-councillor to take on.  I’m happy to support other people. But don’t think that because I haven’t mentioned them here that I don’t know or care about them.

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