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Greenwich: The Place Where Days Begin and End

de Charles Jennings

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There is probably not a London suburb with more intense historical connections, more diversity and more astonishing buildings and artefacts than Greenwich. There are sections on MARITIME GREENWICH - home of the Maritime museum and the CUTTY SARK; ROYAL GREENWICH - Greenwich Park was Henry VIII's favourite residence and where he met Anne Boelyn; SCIENTIFIC GREENWICH - home of the Royal Observatory and GMT and of course The Dome itself... What's it going to be like compared to similar vast jamborees - the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Festival Britain of 1951, what is that strange fabric stretched over those yellow spikes and WHO is going to settle in the 1400-home Millennium Village, to be opened in 2000, with the remains of the old gasworks lying a couple of feet below?… (més)
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Ah, our beloved Greenwich. A town full of history, naval connections and strong emotional links for my family, a town still punctually visited whenever any family member returns to England. Punctuality is also the mathematical definition of a point in space, and is most appropriately applied to Greenwich where the Meridian of world time and navigation was first fixed at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. This small patch of greenness in among the rotting sprawl of docks, mud and gas-works of South East London has a genealogy encompassing Kings, Queens, sailors, Charles Dickens and Samuel Pepys.

From the large Blackheath above, still a vast open green, past the Meridian Observatory with its charming Wren octagonal rooms and down the ‘tumbling’ hill to the gorgeous Naval College, with the masts of the tea-clipper Cutty Sark soaring above the shores of the Thames each step we take with Jennings’ narrative is full of history. He visits the Trafalgar Tavern, the last survivor of the three famously competing Whitebait serving Inns where one can still sit at wooden benches and eat the famous dish while looking at the largely unchanged view that featured so often in the Pepys diaries. The science of Greenwich – the Observatory, the Longitude, the Harrison Chronometers and the technical schools of the Royal Naval College – is contrasted with the working heritage of ships and docks, and the stunning buildings and river tunnels and ferries.

Charles Jennings, a Londoner himself writes for the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian and the Times and this book explores Greenwich with an investigating, journalistic depth. He elects to structure the work with Chapter headings that nominate the subject of each piece; Maritime, Arty, Working and Scientific and then poses a hypothetical interlocution which he then answers. Other than these rather annoying stylistic questions.. it is like listening again to Donald Rumsfield .. the book is fascinating, and for those that know and love this town offers an affectionate guide and visit.

The author’s other books now tempt and some are already added to The Wish List!
  John_Vaughan | Sep 24, 2011 |
If you are a writer and you see day-trippers and tourists flooding into a place you know well, you can either shout and throw rocks. Or you can try and take a few quid off them.

Charles Jennings' book on Greenwich takes the latter approach. It is not a guidebook, exactly, but an ideal souvenir for any visitor wanting a straightforward account of the place's development from fishing village to backdrop to the Dome. He covers the main historical and physical landmarks: Henry VIII's jousting and mock battles; the creation and eventual failure of the Royal Naval Hospital; the Naval College, the Observatory and the Meridian.
 
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There is probably not a London suburb with more intense historical connections, more diversity and more astonishing buildings and artefacts than Greenwich. There are sections on MARITIME GREENWICH - home of the Maritime museum and the CUTTY SARK; ROYAL GREENWICH - Greenwich Park was Henry VIII's favourite residence and where he met Anne Boelyn; SCIENTIFIC GREENWICH - home of the Royal Observatory and GMT and of course The Dome itself... What's it going to be like compared to similar vast jamborees - the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Festival Britain of 1951, what is that strange fabric stretched over those yellow spikes and WHO is going to settle in the 1400-home Millennium Village, to be opened in 2000, with the remains of the old gasworks lying a couple of feet below?

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