Greenwich (St. Alphege)

GREENWICH (St. Alphege), a market-town, borough, and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Blackheath, lathe of Sutton-at-Hone, W. division of Kent, 5 miles (E. S. E.) from London; containing 29,755 inhabitants. This place, which derives its name from the Saxon Grenawic, "green creek" or "bay," is first noticed in the reign of Ethelred, as being for three years the station of the Danish fleet, when in 1011 those northern invaders entered this part of Kent, and, encamping on Blackheath, made predatory incursions into the surrounding parts of the country. Having devastated the city of Canterbury, and brought away Alphege, archbishop of the province, they detained him prisoner in their camp for more than seven months, and at length put him to death for refusing to exact from his diocese an exorbitant sum of money, as the price of his ransom: after his martyrdom, he was canonized; and the church of Greenwich, which had been the scene of his sufferings, was dedicated to him. The establishment of a royal residence here may be traced as far back as the reign of Edward I.; and Henry IV. dates his will, in 1408, from his manor of Greenwich, which Henry V. granted for life to Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, who died here in the year 1417. It passed afterwards to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and uncle to the king; who in the year 1433 obtained a royal licence to fortify and embattle his manor-house, and to empark 200 acres of land adjoining it: he rebuilt the palace, and inclosed the park, within which he erected a tower, on the spot where the Royal Observatory now stands. On its reverting to the crown, after the death of the duke in 1447, Edward IV. expended considerable sums in enlarging and beautifying the palace, which in 1466 he granted with the manor to his queen, Elizabeth. The marriage of Richard, Duke of York, with Anne Mowbray was solemnized here with great pomp during this reign. Henry VII. resided frequently at Greenwich, where he founded a convent adjoining the palace, for a prior and twelve brethren of the order of St. Francis, which, after its dissolution in the reign of his successor, was refounded by Mary, and finally suppressed by Elizabeth in 1559. This, also, was the birthplace of Henry VIII., who was baptized in the parish church, and during whose reign it was one of the principal scenes of that splendour and festivity which distinguished his court. Here his marriages with Catherine of Arragon in 1510, and Anne of Cleves in 1540, were celebrated. The princesses Mary and Elizabeth were born here, and Edward VI. kept the festival of Christmas, 1552-3, in the palace, where he died in the month of July following. The assizes for the county were held here in the first, fourth, and fifth years of the reign of Elizabeth, and in 1577 the town sent two burgesses to parliament. Elizabeth made Greenwich her favourite summer residence. Mary, daughter of James I., was baptized here with great solemnity in 1605.

Previously to the breaking out of the parliamentary war Charles I. occasionally resided here; and in 1642, the tower in the park, then called Greenwich Castle, and which had been used sometimes as a place of residence for the younger branches of the royal family, frequently as a place of confinement, and occasionally as a castle, was thought to be of so much importance, that the parliament issued immediate orders to secure it for their use. When the ordinance for the sale of lands belonging to the crown was passed, in 1649, Greenwich house and park were reserved, and subsequently assigned as a residence for the Lord Protector; but the exigences of the government induced the house of commons to order their sale. Several of the offices and premises adjoining now passed to different purchasers, but the palace and the park remaining unsold, in 1654, were again, by an ordinance of the house, settled upon the Protector and his heirs. After the Restoration, Greenwich came into the possession of the crown, and the palace being greatly decayed, Charles II. ordered it to be taken down, and commenced the erection of a magnificent palace of freestone, one wing of which was completed at an expense of £36,000. Here that monarch occasionally resided, but no further progress was made in the work, either by himself or his successor. Greenwich has been the place of debarkation of many illustrious visiters, and of several royal personages: among the latter may be noticed the Princess Augusta, of Saxe Gotha, afterwards married to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and mother of George III.; and the Princess Caroline, of Brunswick, consort of George IV. The remains of Admiral Lord Nelson were landed here, after the memorable battle of Trafalgar, in 1806, and lay in state in the hall of the hospital for three days prior to their removal for interment in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Between the park and the river is Greenwich Hospital, the magnificent structure appropriated as an asylum for the decayed veterans and disabled seamen and marines of the British navy, and for the maintenance of the widows and children of such as have fallen in the service of their country. This noble institution was established in the early part of the reign of William and Mary; and upon the suggestion of Sir Christopher Wren, the unfinished palace of Charles II., afterwards enlarged under his gratuitous superintendence, was, by royal grant, appropriated to this patriotic purpose, in 1695. The king appointed nearly 200 commissioners, including the principal officers of the state and other distinguished persons, to frame statutes for the management of the royal hospital, and, by letters-patent, granted the annual sum of £2000 for completing the works, and carrying the plan into effect. By a commission issued in the reign of Anne, seven of the commissioners were constituted a general court, of which any two members of the privy council, with the Lord High Admiral or the Lord Treasurer, should form a quorum. Similar commissions were issued by succeeding sovereigns, on their accession to the throne; and by an act passed in the 10th of George IV., to provide for the better management of the affairs of the hospital, it is now placed under the control of the Lord High Admiral, or the commissioners to whom that office is usually entrusted. The establishment includes a governor, lieutenant-governor, four captains, four commanders added to the establishment in 1840, eight lieutenants, and two chaplains, a secretary, cashier, steward, clerk of the cheque, and clerk of the works. The medical department consists of an inspector of the hospitals, a deputy inspector, surgeon, dispenser, and four assistant-surgeons. The civil department comprises five commissioners, two of whom, the paymastergeneral and the first commissioner of woods and forests, are ex officio commissioner of the hospital, and three are resident commissioners, who have salaries. On the opening of the hospital, in 1705, fifty-two pensioners were admitted: the number in the three following years was increased to 300, and, progressively increasing with the augmentation of the funds, in 1738 amounted to 1000. Since that period the buildings have been considerably enlarged, and there are at present 2710 pensioners, who, in addition to lodging, clothing, and maintenance, receive a weekly allowance of pocket-money. There are three matrons; and 105 nurses, widows of seamen, besides their maintenance and clothing, receive a salary of £11 per annum, for attending the pensioners when sick, and keeping their apartments and linen in order. The number of persons resident within the walls of this splendid establishment, including inferior officers and servants, is not less than 3500.

The ample funds by which the institution is supported have arisen from numerous sources. Among these were a grant of £2000 per annum, by King William; a subscription of £8000 raised at the commencement of the work, by the original commissioners; a grant of £19,000, the amount of various fines paid by merchants for smuggling; the forfeited effects of Kid, a pirate, amounting to £6472, granted by Queen Anne in 1705; the moiety of an estate bequeathed by Robert Osbaldeston, Esq., in 1707, amounting to £20,000, with the profits of his unexpired grant of the Foreland-light dues, which have since been transferred to the corporation of the Trinity House; an estate devised by Mr. William Clapham, of Eltham; a benefaction in malt-tickets of £1000, by some person unknown; a legacy of £3381 by John de la Fontaine, Esq.; a bequest of £2000 by Mr. Evelyn; and fines for fishing with unlawful nets, and for other offences on the river Thames. With these several sums, and others not detailed, an investment has been made, producing £70,000 per annum; to which may be added £30,000 per annum, arising from estates in the counties of Cumberland and Durham, containing valuable mines of lead and other ores; the profits of the market of Greenwich, given by Henry, Earl Romney, in 1700; a per centage on freights; and other sums; with £20,000 per annum from the consolidated fund; forming in the aggregate an income of nearly £130,000.

The Buildings are situated on a terrace fronting the Thames, 875 feet in length, and terminated at each extremity by an alcove. In the centre is a landing-place from the river, from which the view of this sumptuous pile is strikingly magnificent, extending through a lengthened perspective of elegant building enriched by the stately domes of the hall and chapel, from each of which is continued a noble colonnade of the Doric order, 347 feet in length, terminating with the palace of Henrietta Maria, consort of Charles I., now the Naval Asylum, above which is seen the Royal Observatory on an eminence in the park. On the west side of the principal quadrangle, which is 273 feet wide, and in the centre of which is a statue of George II. by Rysbrach, sculptured out of a single block of marble taken from the French by Admiral Sir George Rooke, is that part of the hospital called King Charles' Building. In the centre of the river front of this range is a handsome portal, leading into an inner quadrangle separating the wing of that monarch's unfinished palace from a range of building formerly of brick, but which, having fallen into decay, was rebuilt of Portland stone in 1814. On each side of the portal, which is ornamented with pilasters of the Corinthian order surmounted by an entablature of festoons and flowers, are four lofty Corinthian columns supporting an entablature and pediment; in the tympanum on the eastern side of the portal are the figures of Mars and Fame, finely sculptured. The east front of the range, facing the principal quadrangle, has in the centre a tetrastyle portico of the Corinthian order with an entablature and pediment, leading also into the inner quadrangle, and at each extremity, four pilasters of the same order, with an entablature surmounted by an attic and handsome balustrade. The west front is decorated with six lofty Corinthian columns in the centre, and on each side enriched with pilasters. This range contains the apartments of the governor and lieutenant-governor, the governor's hall, council-chamber, and other offices, with wards for 476 pensioners. On the east side of the principal quadrangle is that part of the hospital called Queen Anne's Building, corresponding, in every respect, with the exception of some of its minute details, with that of King Charles, and with it forming the entire front towards the river. This range, in addition to apartments for officers of the establishment, contains wards for 442 pensioners.

To the south of these buildings are those of King William on the west, and Queen Mary on the east, erected by Sir Christopher Wren, to which there is an ascent from the principal quadrangle by a double flight of six steps, forming a terrace on the southern side, from which is a fine view of the river. In the former of these ranges is the painted hall, and in the latter the chapel of the hospital, whose finely-proportioned domes, by a projection of the ranges contracting the area of the quadrangle, are brought into a prominent point of view, in which they display with full effect the gracefulness of their elevation. The entrance to the Hall is through a vestibule, in which are various emblematical paintings, and portraits of several of the British admirals and benefactors to the hospital: the internal view of the dome, which is finely embellished with paintings, and from which hang many of the colours taken from the enemy, is strikingly beautiful. A flight of steps leads from the vestibule, through a lofty portal, into the grand saloon, 106 feet in length, 56 in width, and 50 feet high, lighted on one side by a double range of windows, the jambs of which are empanelled and decorated with roses; corresponding with these windows on the opposite side, are recesses containing emblematical figures painted in chiaro-oscuro. A range of Corinthian pilasters, supporting a rich entablature, surrounds the saloon, the ceiling of which is exquisitely painted in compartments by Sir James Thornhill; in the centre are the figures of King William and Queen Mary seated on a throne, attended by the cardinal virtues, and surrounded with representations of the seasons, the signs of the zodiac, and numerous allegorical devices from mythology and history. A series of portraits of the most distinguished admirals, and paintings of their principal naval engagements, decorate the walls; and over the great arch at the upper end of the hall, are the British arms, supported by Mars and Minerva. From the saloon a flight of steps leads into the Upper Hall, in which the funeral car of Lord Nelson was deposited. The ceiling is decorated with paintings of Queen Anne and Prince George of Denmark, with various emblematical figures; in the angles are the arms of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, between which are represented the four quarters of the world, with their several emblems and productions. On the left of the entrance is a painting of the landing of the Prince of Orange, and over the mantel-piece, one of the landing at Greenwich of George I., of whom and of his family are portraits at the upper end of the hall. Here, also, is an elegant model on a large scale, of a design for the Nelson Monument by Mr. Bell, given by that gentleman to the hospital; and in a glass case is the coat worn by Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar. Adjoining the hall is the armoury.

To the south of the painted hall is a continuation of King William's buildings, the east front of which is of Portland stone, with a colonnade of the Doric order, 347 feet in length, consisting of double columns 20 feet high, with a return measuring 70 feet in length at the extremity of the range. In the centre is a handsome Doric portico, supporting a pediment, in the tympanum of which is an emblematical representation of the death of Admiral Nelson, in alto relievo. It leads into the quadrangle which separates the eastern from the western side erected by Sir John Vanbrugh; this part, which is of brick, is ornamented in the centre with four massive Doric columns, nearly six feet in diameter, with an entablature and triglyphs of Portland stone. The buildings forming King William's range, in addition to apartments for officers, contain wards for the accommodation of 559 pensioners.

Opposite to the entrance into the painted hall is the Chapel of the hospital, of which the interior and roof were destroyed by fire in 1779, and restored in the most elegant style of Grecian architecture, from a design by James Stuart, publisher of the Antiquities of Athens. In the vestibule are statues of Faith, Hope, Meekness, and Charity, after designs by West; a flight of fourteen steps leads through folding-doors of mahogany exquisitely carved, with an architrave, frieze, and cornice, of statuary marble, beautifully enriched, into the chapel, which is 111 feet in length, and 52 in breadth, with a lofty arched ceiling divided into compartments, and elegantly ornamented with foliage and other designs. The altar-piece of the chapel has a painting of the shipwreck of St. Paul, by West; and in the segment, between the cornice and the ceiling, is a painting in chiaro-oscuro of the Ascension, designed by West, and executed by Rebecca, terminating a series of subjects from the life of Our Saviour, which is carried round the upper part of the chapel. To the south of the chapel is a continuation of Queen Mary's building, of Portland stone, similar in design, and, though less elaborately ornamented, corresponding in style with the continuation of King William's, having in front a Doric colonnade of equal length, with a return 70 feet long at the southern extremity. This range of building, which, like each of the three others, forms a detached quadrangle, altogether contains wards for the accommodation of 1170 pensioners. The extremities of the two ranges of William and Mary form the grand south front of the hospital, between which is a singularly beautiful perspective view of the river, and of the country on the opposite bank.

The west entrance to the hospital is formed by massive rusticated stone piers, supporting a terrestrial and a celestial globe, each 6 feet in diameter, on which are traced the great circles of the sphere, rectified for the latitude of Greenwich. Without the walls, on the west, is the infirmary, a modern quadrangular building of brick, 193 feet in length and 175 in breadth, containing apartments for the medical staff, a surgery, dispensary, and small chapel, and wards for the reception of 256 patients. Adjoining the infirmary is a building for the accommodation of 117 helpless pensioners and their nurses, with hot and cold baths, and a room containing a good medical library. The east entrance to the hospital is through iron gates handsomely decorated, opposite to which is a range of brick buildings, comprising the commissioners' board-room and the requisite offices for the secretary, cashier, steward, clerk of the cheque, and other civil officers.

To the south of the hospital are the schools of the Royal Naval Asylum, now incorporated with the hospital, for the clothing, maintenance, and education of the children of seamen. They comprise an upper and a lower school. The first consists of 100 sons of commissioned and ward-room warrant officers of the Royal Navy, and Marines, presented by the Board of Admiralty collectively, and of 300 sons of officers of the same or inferior rank, nominated in rotation by the lords and the first secretary of the Admiralty, and by the commissioners, governor, and lieutenant-governor of the hospital, individually. The scholars are admitted between the ages of eleven and twelve, and are instructed in writing, arithmetic, the mathematics, navigation, and the drawing of charts on geometrical principles; on leaving school they are bound apprentice to the sea-service for seven years. The lower school consists of 400 boys, children of inferior warrant and non-commissioned officers and seamen; they are admitted from nine till twelve years of age, on petition to the governor of the hospital, according to their father's claim for service, and when they are fourteen are apprenticed to the sea-service. There was formerly a school for 200 girls in connexion with the establishment, but it has been discontinued since April, 1841, on the recommendation of a commissioner appointed by the Admiralty, and the efficiency of the boys' schools much increased by the appointment of additional masters. The schools are supported from the general funds of the hospital. The present schoolhouses consist of two wings, each 146 feet in length and 42 in breadth, connected with the central building by a colonnade of the Tuscan order, 180 feet long and 20 wide, affording a sheltered area for recreation in wet weather. The central building, formerly the palace of Henrietta Maria, consort of Charles I., erected in 1635, and considerably enlarged for its present purpose, contains apartments for the superintending captain, the chaplain and head master, the assistant masters, the matron, nurses, and others connected with the schools. In the western wing are the chapel and the upper schoolroom, the latter 100 feet long and 39 wide, with a side recess 22 feet square; over which are two spacious dormitories, containing each 200 hammocks. The-east wing comprises the lower schoolroom, of equal dimensions with the upper; two similar dormitories, each containing 200 hammocks; and a refectory 143 feet long and 39 wide, in which the scholars dine together; also a room for washing, in which are arranged in a circle 100 separate cisterns, and other apparatus for 100 boys to wash at once from a running stream. Connected with this part of the building are wash-houses, laundries, a kitchen, brewhouse, bakehouse, and other requisite offices. The grounds surrounding the building are pleasantly laid out; on the lawn in front of the central portion is a piece of heavy ordnance mounted. To the west of the asylum, in a detached situation, is the infirmary belonging to the institution.

The town of Greenwich is pleasantly situated at the base and on the western declivity of the commencement of a range of heights which form the southern boundary of the vale of the Thames. The streets in the lower part, towards the river, are narrow, and the houses mean and irregularly built; but in the higher situations, especially on the west side of the park, towards Blackheath, are many respectable houses. A spacious street, leading directly from the church towards the hospital, and forming the principal thoroughfare to Woolwich, was made some years ago; and Croom's-Hill Grove, a handsome range of houses, has been more recently completed. A new pier of brick, for the accommodation of the numerous visiters who resort hither in steam-boats from the metropolis, has been erected under an act of parliament obtained in 1836; it has a frontage of 360 feet towards the river, and is accessible to vessels of the largest class: the cost of its erection exceeded £35,000, and the number of passengers who landed on one WhitMonday was estimated at 50,000. A convenient markethouse has also been lately opened. The town is partially paved, is lighted with gas, and supplied with water from the Kent water-works at Deptford. A small theatre is opened occasionally during the winter, and a literary and scientific institution has been established.

The park, comprising nearly 200 acres, was walled round by James I., and planted and laid out in the reign of Charles II. The scenery is diversified with extensive lawns, and stately avenues of fine old elms and chesnuttrees; the views from many of the higher grounds are magnificent, especially those from the Observatory, and an abrupt eminence called One-Tree Hill, embracing the hospital, the winding Thames crowded with shipping, and a rich variety of other interesting objects. The Royal Observatory was erected in 1675, on the site and partly with the materials of the ancient tower built by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, which, with every requisite aid, was granted by Charles II.: it was completed under the superintendence of Flamsteed, who, on the recommendation of Sir Jonas Moor, was appointed astronomer-royal, and took possession of it in the following year. Since the time of Flamsteed, from whom it obtained the appellation of Flamsteed House, the institution has continued to improve, and at present it is replete with astronomical instruments of every description, and of the most accurate construction. It is under the superintendence of an astronomer-royal, appointed by the Queen, and six assistants, and is annually visited by a deputation from the Royal Society, under whose inspection the observations made by the astronomer-royal are annually published, pursuant to an order of George III. The longitudinal distances, in England, are invariably calculated from the meridian at Greenwich.

A portion of the population is occupied in manufactures. Near the water-side is an extensive iron-wharf, where several smiths are employed in preparing a supply of such articles as may be wanted for immediate use; and a few of the inhabitants are engaged in the manufacture of combs and machinery. In that part of the parish called East Greenwich are lime-kilns, large foundries, and forges for the manufacture of steam-engines, all kinds of machinery, and engineering, the premises for which occupy a site of 200 square feet near the river. To the east of this are a ropery and canvass manufactory; and beyond are works for the distillation of naphtha, and oil from coal-tar, black varnish, and other produce; and the important establishment for engineering and all kinds of millwrights' work, belonging to Mr. Penn, and celebrated for the manufacture of the patent revolving cylinders for steam-engines. The market-days are Wednesday and Saturday; and fairs are held annually, commencing on the Mondays at Easter and Whitsuntide, which are numerously attended from the metropolis and the populous district surrounding the town. In 1833, an act was obtained for making a railway to London, which was completed in 1839, and is three miles and three-quarters in length: it commences at Londonstreet, Greenwich, where is a station in the Grecian style, containing booking-offices, sheds, workshops, and every requisite for the use of the company. The shed for the carriages is 300 feet in length, lighted on each side by ranges of Venetian windows, and having four distinct lines of way; the whole supported on 9 segmental arches, each 26 feet in span. The cost of this station was estimated at £27,000. By the act of the 2nd and 3rd of William IV., cap. 45, Greenwich was constituted a borough, returning two representatives to parliament, and comprising 5278 acres; the right of election is vested in the £10 householders, and the returning officer is appointed by the sheriff of the county. The town is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold a petty-session every Tuesday, and also of a metropolitan police court. The powers of the county debtcourt of Greenwich, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Lewisham and part of that of Greenwich.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £21, and in the patronage of the Crown, with a net income of £1013; the impropriation belongs to Morden College, Blackheath. The ancient church having become dilapidated, the present structure was built under the act of parliament passed in the 9th of Queen Anne, for the erection of 50 churches within the city of London and its suburbs; it is a handsome edifice in the Grecian style, with a square tower, above which is a cupola supported on pillars of the Corinthian order, and surmounted by a small spire. The interior is ornamented with a painting on panel representing a monumental effigy of Queen Elizabeth, a painting of Charles I. at his devotions, and with portraits of Queen Anne and George I. A chapel of ease dedicated to St. Mary, was erected by means of a grant from the Parliamentary Commissioners, in 1824, at an expense of £11,000, and contains 1700 sittings, of which 645 are free; it is a neat edifice of Suffolk white brick, in the Grecian style, with a square tower of stone, and a portico of the Ionic order. Trinity district church, on Blackheath Hill, was erected in 1839, at a cost of £7000, raised by subscription, aided by a grant of £500 from the Incorporated Society; it is of brick, after the Norman style, with two square towers at the west end surmounted by low octagonal spires, and contains 1240 sittings, half of which are free. The living is in the gift of the Vicar. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyans, and a Roman Catholic chapel. The Grey-coat School was founded in 1643, by John Roan, who endowed it with lands, on which whole streets are erected, producing about £700 per annum. The Green-coat school was founded in 1672, by Sir William Boreman, who endowed it with land now yielding a rent of about £700; the endowment was augmented with a bequest of £5000 by William Clovell, Esq., who was educated in the school, and the management is vested in the Drapers' Company, who have appropriated to it the sum of £300, given to that company for charitable uses. The Blue-coat charity school, for girls, was established in 1732, and is supported by the interest on various legacies, by an estate worth £212 per annum bequeathed by Mrs. Elizabeth Dry, by a recent bequest of £1000 from Mr. Moses, and by subscription. Queen Elizabeth's College was founded in 1576, by William Lambarde, author of the "Perambulations of Kent," who endowed it for 20 aged labourers no longer able to work. Norfolk College was founded in 1613, and dedicated to the Holy Trinity, by Henry, Earl of Northampton, who endowed it with lands now producing about £1500 per annum, for the support of a warden and twenty pensioners, and vested the management in the Mercers' Company: the building forms a neat quadrangle of brick at the east end of the town, near the river, and comprises a chapel, in which are a fine window of painted glass, and a handsome monument to the memory of the founder, removed with his remains from the chapel at Dovor Castle, where he was interred. Eight almshouses were built in 1809, by subscriptions amounting to £1153, and called the Jubilee Almshouses, in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the accession of George III. to the throne: to these, four were added, by subscription among the Greenwich volunteer corps of infantry, in commemoration of the centenary anniversary of the accession of the house of Hanover; and seven more have been since built. The poor law union comprises Deptford, Greenwich, and Woolwich, containing a population of 80,876; a workhouse has been erected on the lower road to Woolwich. In 1784, several barrows were opened in the park, and various military weapons were discovered.

Among the eminent persons who have been interred in the parish are William Lambarde, the Kentish antiquary, who died at West Combe in 1601; Thomas Philpot, who published a survey of Kent from papers collected by his father, and died in 1628; Major-General Wolfe, who fell gloriously in the arms of victory at Quebec, and was buried in the old church of St. Alphege, in 1759; and Lavinia, Duchess of Bolton, who died in 1760. The learned Dr. Squire, Bishop of St. David's, was instituted to the vicarage in 1751. Of the astronomers who have succeeded Flamsteed at the Observatory may be noticed Halley, who died in 1742, and was buried at Lee; Dr. Bradley, who died in 1762; and Dr. Maskelyne, who died in 1811.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.