On Saturday 29 July, for the first time we celebrated our Charter Day at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Taking in 600 years of history, our tour included the spectacular Chapel and the Painted Hall and we finished off in the Royal Observatory.
The Old Royal Naval College is built on the site of the Palace of Placentia, where Queen Elizabeth I was born and brought up as a child. Not much of the original brickwork survives, but the brick foundations of the Palace were re-used by Sir Christopher Wren to support the Painted Hall. Recycling is not a new concept – some of the bricks were also used in the construction of the Royal Observatory, and the floors of the Chapel were made from old ships timbers.
We visited the Victorian skittles alley, one of the few pleasures afforded to the pensioners. The room had previously been a smoking gallery, and for years the floors were white from the fragments of discarded clay pipes.
Following our extensive guided tour of the site, we had a leisurely lunch in the Old Brewhouse, overlooking the Thames, before walking up the hill to the Royal Observatory. Here there are John Harrison’s famous chronometers together with Thomas Tompion’s built-in year-running regulators.
Finally, a few of us made it to Queen Elizabeth’s Oak, sadly now dead, but allegedly a tree she played in as a child. A new oak was planted on the site by the late HRH Duke of Edinburgh to signify continuity and regeneration. My sincere thanks to the Mistress for organising the event.