Thursday, 12 May 2011

Wren at his finest

It was a gloriously sunny day last Sunday when thirty two of us , Marketors, family and friends, took a boat from Westminster pier to visit the old Royal Naval College at Greenwich which grew up on the site of the Tudor Palace where Henry v111 and Elizabeth 1 were born. Built in 1695 to house naval pensioners to a Wren design it became the Naval College in 1873, but is now essentially university buildings since the navy left in 1998.

On the boat we were entertained to an amusing chat about the buildings and landmarks on either bank by a crew member, self-admittedly not a qualified guide he was at pains to stress. A point amply demonstrated when he told us on passing the glass building housing the mayor's offices that this was the office building of the Lord Mayor. A mistake our Senior Warden had no problem correcting for him!

After landing we had time for a wander around , in my case to go up to the Observatory to see the Meridian Line and the clock exhibition. Almost a day trip on its own. Then it was time for for a first class lunch, courtesy of Leiths, in the King William Undercroft, an elegant room originally designed as a refectory for the Greenwich pensioners.

We divided into two groups and were taken on a tour of the old college buildings now put to different uses. We saw the remains of the old Greenwich Palace below ground and above ground we saw much including the exquisite chapel, the painted hall and even the old skittle alley (for the amusement for the pensioners to keep them out of the many local pubs we were told). It is little wonder that this is a World Heritage site, it is a great baroque masterpiece. Even Sir Christopher Wren described Greenwich as '' one of the most sublime sights English architecture affords''. He was not wrong. The return trip on the boat ended a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday out.

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