see also Greenwich Fair - click here
Here is Greenwich, and here is the façade and the cupola of the sailor’s
hospital, with a semicircle of wooded hills in the background. We have left the
fog behind us in London, and the evening sun looks out from the clouds as if he
would say—” I am alive and in health, for all that the Londoners believe me
to be ailing or inn articulo mortis.” Our
boat rushes past time “Dreadnought”—we touch the shore—the engines are
stopped—we are at our’ journey’s end. ...
... As a contrast to this luxuriant hotel, we see, on the other side of the hospital, partly along the shore, partly near the park, and in the interior of sundry lanes and alleys a vast number of pot-houses, tea-gardens, and places of a worse description, where every vice finds a ready welcome. Boys and girls standing at the doors, invite the passing stranger. “Good accommodation. Very good accommodation, sir.” We know what that means, and go our way. But that young fellow in the sailor’s jacket, with the girl hanging on his arm ; they are caught! They enter the house.
Forward to the green, leafy, hilly park! On the large grass-plots whole families are stretched out in picturesque groups, from the grandfather down to the grandsons and granddaughters, and along with them there are friends, country cousins, maid-servants, and lap-dogs with a proud and supercilious air, for they know, sagacious little animals, that their owners are continually paying dog-tax for them. This is Monday, the Englishman’s Sunday. There they are chatting, laughing, and even getting up and dancing, eating their cold dinner’s with a good appetite and a thorough enjoyment of sunshine, air, and river-breeze, and they are all cheerful, decent, amid happy, as simple-minded men and women are wont to be on a holiday and on the forest-green. And the deer, half-tame, comes out of the thicket and ask for their share of the feast, and we go our way up the hill lest we disturb the children and the deer.
From the top of the hill we look down upon one of the most charming landscapes that can be imagined in the vicinity of a large capital. That ocean of houses in the distance, shifting and partly hidden in the mist ; the docks with their forests of masts, the Thames itself winding its way to the sea, green, hilly country on our side, with the white steam of a distant train curling up from the deep cuttings; and at our feet, Greenwich with its columns, cupolas, and neat villas peeping out from among shrubberies and orchards.
We share the hill on which we stand with the famous Greenwich observatory. Probably the building has a better appearance than it had at the time when Flamstead, with generous self-denial, established the first sextant on this spot. But even in our days, the exterior of the building is by no means imposing. Here, then, we stand on the first meridian of England. The country’s pride has, up to the present time, retained it here, while the French established their meridian at Paris. But the communistic spirit of science undermines the existence of either, and the Greenwich meridian will not, I am sure, resist the spirit of the age. It will sooner or later resign its pretensions in favour of the chosen of all nations.
The road from the observatory to the back-gate of the park leads through an avenue of old chesnut-trees. They are in a flourishing condition, and the chesnuts are quite as good as those of Italy and southern France. Among these trees stands the official residence of the Ranger of Greenwich-park,—a nobleman or gentleman whose duty it is, in consideration of six or eight hundred pounds per’ annum, to pass a few summer months in this delightful retreat, and to supply Her Majesty’s table with a haunch of venison once every twelvemonth. The post is a sinecure, one of those places which every one inveighs against, and which every one would be glad to possess.
We have crossed the park, and are on Blackheath,—a sunny place, which derives its gloomy name from the Gipsies who used to be encamped upon it in the “days of auld lang syne.’ Neat villas, covered with evergreens, surround this black heath, and a hundred roads and paths invite us to stroll on and on, through garden-land and park-like domains. We resist the temptation. The sun has gone down.
Max Schlesinger, Saunterings in and about London, 1853
PARK, five miles from London, on the Kentish bank of the Thames. Accessible by steamboats
from any of the bridges; omnibusses from the City and Charing Cross;
and by rail from the Greenwich Railway Terminus, London Bridge.
Our account of this picturesque demesne we condense from Black's "Guide to Kent:"
"'Would you believe,' wrote Horace Walpole to Bentley, 'I had never been in Greenwich Park! I never had; and am transported. Even the glories of Richmond and Twickenham hide their diminished heads.' It was first surrounded with a wall of brick by James I., and was 'tastefully laid out' by (it is said) Le Nôtre, in Charles II.'s reign. The alms and chestnuts were planted by Evelyn. The views from the higher ground - from 'One-Tree Hill' - (on the east), and the ascent crowned by the Observatory (west) - are very fine; the broad abundant River, with its goodly burden of tall ships, lending a singular animation to the picture. The grounds are agreeably diversified with hill and dale; and from the walks, frequented by happy mothers and gamboling children, the tourist may readily - withdraw to secluded bowers of leafiness-the same, perhaps, which afforded a pleasant shelter to brave old Samuel Johnson when he lived in Church Street (in 1737), and, walking in the Park, composed a considerable portion of his tragedy of 'Irene.'
"Many eminent hands' have written of the humours of Greenwich Fair, the great saturnalia of the lower orders of the Metropolis ; but it was 'put down' in 1856, after having exhibited a gradual decline for many years. The Park, however, is still a favourite resort of the London millions; and the tourist should certainly contrive to visit it on a summer-holiday, not only for its own beauty, but for the enjoyment to be derived by a pure mind from contemplating the happiness of others. Shopmen, in strange imitations of aristocratic attire; the London gamin, with the unwonted luxury of a cheap cigar or a penny pie; the well-to-do tradesman, with his wife in the gayest of shawls, and his daughter in the most modish of bonnets; coquettish nursemaids and trains of merry children; a limping pensioner or two; a soldier, with his wife or sweetheart on his arm; the invariable Hindoo, with a tray of suspicious-looking comestibles; ginger-beer vendors, retailers of apples, oranges, and nuts; adventurous speculators, with 'Aunt-Sally' as their main attraction; foreign sailors, rolling out strange oaths; English seamen, jovial, good-tempered, and frolicsome; and the scientific entrepreneurs, who, affected by the genius loci, offer you the assistance of their telescopes at the moderate charge of one penny;- such are a few among the myriad varieties of human character noticeable in Greenwich Park on one of the people's holidays.
Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865
GREENWICH PARK, GREENWICH. A finely diversified park of 174 acres. Open free. Trains from Charing Cross, and steamers from Westminster and other piers down the river.
Reynolds' Shilling Coloured Map of London, 1895
see also A.R.Bennett in London and Londoners - click here