Thursday, August 21, 2014

Greenwich 1: On the Thames

Last May John and I went to the ferry docks in Southwark near the Millenium Bridge to catch a City Ferry to Greenwich.
The view from the docks of St Paul's and the busy workboats
of the Thames was fascinating.
Soon our ferry arrived
with its jolly crew and we were off!
The view past London Bridge and the new buildings popping up on Canary Wharf.
At last we arrived at the 17th century buildings of the Royal Naval Academy at Greenwich
to be greeted by a statue honouring the  famous Tudor sea captain, Sir Walter Raleigh. This must be the place!

Greenwich 2: The Painted Hall

After a quick visit to the visitors' centre, John and I headed directly to the mall between the buildings of the Royal Naval College. Originally commissioned as a Royal Hospital for Seamen, the buildings were designed by Sir Christopher Wren between 1692-1693 
and completed by his fellow 17th century architects, Nicholas Hawksmoor and Sir John Vanbrugh. It  was reassigned as the Royal Naval Academy in 1873 and stands as London's most complete Baroque landscape. That's the Queen's House visible in the middle distance.
First we visited The Chapel, built in 1779 as part of the Royal Hospital for Seamen and redesigned in 1781 with the large altar painted by Benjamin West.
Next we visited the fabulous, theatrical, Painted Hall, designed by Wren and Hawksmoor and decorated by Sir James Thornhill in 1708 to honour the role of the Royal Navy in Britain's history.
It has been described as "the finest dining hall in Europe".
John and I discovered the mirrors in the centre of the hall which reflect the ornate ceiling painting. 
We couldn't resist doing our portraits in the mirror reflection.
Next we continued through the grand porch
and mall pathway towards The Queen's House.

Greenwich 3: The Queen's House

The Queen's House was our next objective at Greenwich.
In 1616 British architect Inigo Jones was commissioned to build the mansion. He had just returned from Italy where he'd been inspired by Palladio's classical style.
The front steps lead up to the reception hall with its beautiful marble floor. The house was used as a entertainment get-away by Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles the 1st.
John took this shot from the second floor of the mansion. The Queen had apparently requested that Wren leave this open passageway between the two Royal Naval Hospital buildings so that she would have an unobstructed view of the Thames.
The building now hosts a fine collection of English paintings including works by Gainsborough and Reynolds.
We were also fascinated by their collection of naval war artist works. This is Stephen Bones' painting of the separation of officer and crewman areas in a S-class submarine (1945)
and Robert Austin's touching drawing of a nurse carefully removing stitches from the hand of a seaman who'd lost his fingers (1944).
The floors are connected by an elegant Tulip staircase
and the rear porch has a beautiful view of Greenwich Park.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Greenwich 4: Rozanne Hawksley at the Queen's House

We were moved by textile artist Roszanne Hawksley's installation to commemorate the beginning of the First World War. Spread over 4 rooms in the Queen's House, the pieces deal with the meaning of commemoration and memoralization.
Let's begin with a "sweetheart token" pincushion with bird bones and a blind cupid.
A hand-sewn body bag for burials at sea.
For Alice Hunter, 2003 refers to Hawksley's widowed grandmother who made a living sewing sailors' collars from the First til the 2nd world war.
A poignant Memorial wreath of military gloves.
Included in Hawksley's installation are 3 portraits of stoic, war-experienced sailors by war artist, Eric Kennington.
A final "sweetheart token" pincushion. Rozanne Hawksley's installation is on until November 1st, 2014.

Greenwich 5: the Observatory

Directly behind the Queen's House, John and I revelled in the sight of parklands and The Royal Observatory.
Famous for marking the Greenwich Meridian (0º longitude) and Greenwich Meantime, the Observatory was built in 1675 by Charles II to aid in navigation at sea. We immediately set off to see it.
We were not alone. It's one of London's big tourist draws.
The view of the Thames, the Old Naval Academy and the Queen's House from the Observatory hill is definitely worth the arduous climb.
Soon we headed back down into Greenwich town
passing St Alfege Church built by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1718.
This über-hip lady had been showing up in front of us all day. 
As we approached the Thames, we passed the Cutty Sark, a clipper ship that once travelled the world.
John is headed for the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel which will take us under the Thames to the Docklands.
We were surprised how quickly we could walk to the other side. A bit damp and claustrophic!
Once on the other side, we caught a the DLR (Docklands Light Rail) to the Bank tube station and thence quickly home to Spitalfields. A full day of tourism!