diamond geezer

 Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marking the meridian (125 years old today!)

Greenwich Observatory (south)
i) The meridian exits the rear of the Meridian Building virtually unnoticed, its path marked only by an astrolabe (or, more precisely, an armillary sphere) on a plinth in a flowerbed [photo].
ii) From the hilltop, it's straight down the sloping lawn of the Old Royal Observatory Garden. Even if you think you know Greenwich you may never have been here, gated and secluded behind stepped terraces and trees. Access is from a twisting path that kicks off below the front of the Observatory, and the Greenwich Phantom has the full lowdown.

Greenwich Park
iii) A narrow line of Meridian-marking granite slabs crosses The Avenue - the inclined roadway running from the bottom of the Park to the top. [photo]
iv) Mind that horse! The proposed route of the Olympic Cross Country course wiggles twice across the zero degree line (and another twice to the north of the Observatory too). It's just as well that the 2012 course won't be following the meridian precisely, else there'd be a big tree needing major surgery, and groundsmen would also need to clip the edge of an overgrown old reservoir. Olympic bosses continue to reassure us that the historic Park will be be perfectly well protected from the trampling hooves of global equestrians and, more importantly, perfectly safe from the massed paranoia of certain local neigh-sayers.
v) These could be renamed the Meridian Tennis Courts.
vi) The semicircular Rose Garden is an elegant and peaceful part of Greenwich Park [photo], in bloom even in October! If you fancy a nice sit down, some of the benches around the hedged perimeter are in the western hemisphere, and some are in the east.
vii) Next up, the Ranger's House once used to be home to the Greenwich Park ranger [photo]. More surprisingly, in 1815 that park ranger was Princess Sophia Matilda, the niece of George III. Today English Heritage run the place, and use the house to display a diamond magnate's decorative arts collection. Unfortunately it's shut for the winter to casual visitors at the end of September, and so I arrived a week to late to look inside. The Greenwich Meridian passes through the dining room, the Crimson Parlour and the Gallery, and is marked by a metal plaque on the outside of the southern garden wall [photo].
» Various large enamelled maps around Greenwich Park purport to show the location of the meridian. Be warned that these aren't terribly accurate, and show (for example) the line passing through the putting green and the wrong bit of the Observatory. Too expensive to replace, presumably, although I'm pleased to see that the Royal Parks website includes an updated and rather more precise version.

Blackheath
viii) Ah, the vast grassy plateau of Blackheath, across which the meridian spans the boroughs of both Greenwich and Lewisham. If you mind the footballs, kits and peace campers, it's possible to walk along the invisible line almost completely unobstructed (apart from a rather awkward crossing of the busy A2 near the Blackheath Tea Hut). On the southern edge a slightly-toppled litter bin (on the corner of Hare & Billet Road and Mounts Pond Road) really ought to be an official meridian marker, but sadly isn't [photo].
ix) Onward through the verdant detached gardens of The Orchard and the big villas on Eliot Vale. (Blimey, isn't undulating Heath Vale lovely?) Then across the Lewisham-Kidbrooke railway line, and through the heart of the Sacred Heart Convent on Belmont Hill.

Lee
x) On Lee High Road, near the bus stop at the junction with Halley Gardens [photo], is the southern meridian's first pavement plaque [photo]. I had to negotiate a passing couple with a snappy staffie, but once they'd gone I paused by the roadside to take a proper look. This groovy flat stone was laid by the local Mayor in 1984, and apparently commemorates both the meridian's centenary and Lewisham's Anti Racist Week [photo]. The significance of this combination completely escaped me, but maybe there was a special 2-for-1 offer on chiselled slabs at the time. Whatever the reason, the complete ordinariness of this inner suburban street highlights the quintessentially random passage of Greenwich's longitudinal legacy.

See also:
Greenwich Meridian Trail - take a walk along the meridian through Greenwich and Greenwich Park (with a nice map to print out)
International Meridian Conference - complete scans of the proceedings (13th October 1884 on pages 73-112)
Celebrate the meridian's 125th birthday with a lecture at the Royal Greenwich Observatory next Tuesday.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream