London's Hidden History
We are now entering an area overflowing with maritime history, going back to the days when we had ships of wood and men of steel unlike today when we have ships of steel and... just joking shipmates!
Now when you go to a station called Cutty Sark you know what to expect and you will not be disappointed. This magnificent tea clipper, built in 1869 on the Clyde, was the Concorde of her time but now she is suffering from age, with an intended lifespan of thirty years which has been exceeded by more than a hundred year so it's no surprise her timbers are shivering!
With no support from the Government or the local Council urgent funding is needed so all hands on deck and save our ships Cutty Sark the world's last tea clipper.
So much to see in Greenwich but so little time so perhaps visit the most ignored and forgotten maritime monument on the riverside walk. Remember good old George Peabody, statue by the Bank Station, he financed an expedition to search for Sir John Franklin lost in the Arctic trying to find a water route across North America and who was on that rescue adventure in 1853 but Jean Rene Bellot - a Frenchman. A Frenchman in the nineteenth century trying to save the life of an Englishman, this cannot be so - oh yes it was! Sadly Jean lost his life in the attempt.
An obelisk of red Aberdeen granite, designed by Philip Hardwick, was erected by Lady Franklin to his memory and can be seen by the Royal Hospital Buildings. Furthermore a stretch of water in the Arctic - the Bellot Straight - was named after him. Le garçon fait bonne!!
Now this is a secret and you need patience and a good eye to spot this one. Into the grounds of the Royal Naval College and make your way to the incredible Painted Hall - you ain't seen anything like it! The paintings by Sir James Thornhill could almost rival those of the Sistine Chapel - but we are not here to marvel at art as we are looking for the "ghost hand"?
On the wall facing you as you enter the Hall is a mural of the family of the House of Hanover, George I stands proudly in front of the group but hey ho his wife, Queen Sophia, was left back in Germany. Some talk of hanky panky on her part but although her portrait cannot be seen her dismembered hand can. What? Yes, look very closely at the stairs below King George and you will see the faintly painted ghost hand of Sophia. Spooky!
For a more detailed history of Maritime Greenwich visit the Tourist Information Centre by the Cutty Sark where you will receive not only a warm welcome but expert advise on what not to miss. Time to set rail to the next port trainmates!
Modern Gent, 145 Snargate Street, Dover, Kent CT17 9BZ, UK – Telephone +44 (0)1304 208358