Greenwich through the Ages
Greenwich is a district in South East London, rich with historical monuments and maritime legends. Originally named Greenwich by the Danes because of the greenery and the nearby river, the town is today divided into East Greenwich and West Greenwich. The district has a very strong history from the time of the Danish conquest and earlier. Today, it is one of the most historically rich districts of London, and is a showcase of Britain’s culture and heritage. In addition, it is also where the Prime Meridian is located and hence Greenwich Mean time. Greenwich is also a UNESCO heritage site.
Greenwich, due to its strategic location, has always had settlers. There is some evidence of Bronze Age artefacts found in excavations, quickly followed by traces of Celtic, Saxon and Roman civilisations. Greenwich played an important role during the Danish invasions with the Danish army camping on the riverside in Greenwich.
The Greenwich Palace was built at the time of the Plantagenets by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and has since been popular among the royalty. Renamed as Palace of Placentia, this Greenwich palace not only was the main residence of Henry VII, but also saw the birth of two of the most famous monarchs in England, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. William Shakespeare is known to have staged plays for Elizabeth I in this palace. The Civil War saw this palace used as a prisoner of war camp, and during the Restoration period, it was pulled down to make way for a grander palace for Charles II.
Much of the history of Greenwich has been concentrated in this palace, which exists no longer. Charles II also built the Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory. Mary II commissioned the Royal Naval Hospital in 1692. When George I landed in England for his accession, it was in Greenwich. Very recently, Greenwich was given the status of Royal Borough for the diamond jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II.
Greenwich has a strong maritime history ever since the Danes camped there, and possibly, since a long time before that. Since the 16th century, Greenwich has been a focal point for British seafaring, ever since Henry VIII financed and built the navy that soon became very popular and powerful. Henri Grace à Dieu, the largest ship ever in England was launched from Woolwich by Henry VIII, who had managed to build up the biggest navy England ever had. The manufacture of naval ships would remain primarily in Greenwich until 1869.
One of the major naval contributions that Greenwich has given England and the world is the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Prime Meridian. A prime meridian is a longitudinal line where the longitude is defined as 0°. It was originally used as the average solar time in the Royal Observatory but is no longer used as the global standard of time. This was the standard used for a long time before we moved to Coordinated Universal Time.
Today, Greenwich may no longer be the strategic royal and seafaring hub that it once was, but it still is a major tourist hub. With such a rich and varied history, it is inevitable that it should be so. In addition, we also have the Greenwich University with three campuses, and more than a thousand courses. Very well connected from all parts of London, Greenwich has recently been made a Royal Borough and gains the benefits of being one. Today, Greenwich is well-known as the place to go if you want a little out of the way English experience.
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