Christmas sparkle comes to Greenwich

Don’t you remember when security deemed that entrance to and out of the Royal Naval College was somewhat restricted to view both the Painted Hall and the Chapel? – only at Christmas time did one have the magic opportunity to access the hallowed naval monuments.

As friends of the choir we were indeed privileged to attend the 7 Lessons and Carols – then to drinks in the wardroom as guests of the mess and treat of all treats a random after supper singing of carols around the Painted Hall which the choir had selected for its unique acoustic surprises amongst the deep shadows and candle lights and vast empty tables echoing to the more extreme songs of joy and wonderment.

It is such a privilege for one and all to view the fantastic flood lit architectural drama reflected in the tideway – no longer empty as passing pleasure craft and ferries whizz past throwing up a blaze of sparklingly lit waves reflecting both the old and the new. Wren’s once secret world is now open to the grandest of son et lumiere presentations – the Cutty Sark and its surrounding gardens bejeweled in luminescent pin pricks of joy up in the rigging and amongst the stalls set up for us to enjoy.

Cutty Sak lit up001

The brave new world of towering apartment blocks have encroached both up and downstream and across in Island Gardens. The blazing panoply of banker’s wealth dazzle us with excess – even the laser beam depicting the prime meridian is lost amongst the ever rising waterfront of Blackwall Canning Town and beyond. Now a bold new intercontinental hotel neighbour to the O2 stands up to be counted – the adjacent golf driving range flood lit so extreme enthusiasts can ‘drive off ‘ to improve their handicap.

Three bells strike out as I write echoing across the historic waterway to challenges of the everyday drama across the world as rain storms beat down upon the ebbing tide – relief all round as flood water dissipates once more – Thank God!!

 Waterloo show001

Waterloo show002


The Greenwich Historical Society sprung to attention at the Old Royal Naval College when President Mr Antony Cross and his cohort extraordinaire, Mr Horatio Blood performed, with a keen supporting company, a production of ‘The Battle of Waterloo’ in miniature courtesy of the exquisite ‘Pollock Toy Theatre’ – performed in the vaulted undercroft of the Painted Hall. A debatable script with musical accompaniment charmed the audience with numerous changes of sets and movable military maneuvers cut out for the occasion. The packed audience seated around in the same historic setting where the government held a private enquiry to determine the future of the historic estate.

The short listed contenders ( ie the NMM and the University of Greenwich) stood up to make their case as future tenants. The brilliant and realistic University submission saved the day – as everybody gathered there heard and realized the potential of a new university campus in Wren’s remarkable palace – the later addition of the Trinity College of Music to the campus has also had a profound effect on the then fast failing town centre – alas poor Woolwich missed out but the magic Cross Rail will more than compensate as it leaps to completion.

As an inquisitive neighbour the proposed redevelopment of Greenwich Hospital as a residential leisure centre appalled me but now this national asset has matured under expert management to be an historical cultural hub to the emerging city.

Be sure to visit The Greenwich Gallery where I have presented this concept in graphic form.

Exhibition opens weekdays 9.30 -5.30 and 12 -4 at weekends until December 23rd 2015






About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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