Thursday, June 3, 2010

Greenwich National Maritime Museum

Greenwich, a borough of London, has its roots deep in London's royal lineage. A royal residence as far back as the time of Edward I and called Greenwich Manor by Henry IV, Greenwich Palace was named Bella Court while owned by the Duke Humfrey of Gloucester. Humfrey, younger brother of King Henry V, was a founding donor of an early collection at Oxford University that became the Bodleian Library (The oldest reading room in today's Bodleian Library is Duke Humfrey's Library). Greenwich's renamed Palace of Placentia fell under royal ownership of Henry VI after Humfrey's death. Greenwich Palace remained England's main royal palace through the birth and lifetime of Henry VIII and fell out of favor during the reign of Charles II.

The Queen's House, built by James I for his queen, Ann of Denmark, still stands as the central building of the National Maritime Museum. In 1694 the Royal Naval Hospital was built by the design of none other than Sir Christopher Wren (great bio on Wren) as a residentian hospital for seamen. This became the Old Royal Naval College in the late 1800s, and was taken over by the Greenwich Foundation in 1998. Be sure to check out the breathtaking Painted Hall, originally designed by Wren to be the dining hall of the hospital but never used as such in Wren's time. In 1657, Wren was commissioned to design the Royal Observatory to help the first Royal Astronomer perfect sea navigation. Today the observatory keeps Greenwich Mean Time and houses the Prime Meridian and London's only public camera obscura, among many other astronomical items of interest. The Caird Library is located on the first floor of the museum and was completed in 1937. Its collection currently contains over 140,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals focusing on maritime history.

More on Greenwich:
History of the National Maritime Museum
Map of the 3 sites
Biography of Admiral Nelson
History of the Old Royal Naval College
Collections of the National Maritime Museum

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