As part of the Greenwich Park Revealed project we're planning to uncover the park's amazing history for the world to see. We took a look at a few things that have changed - and some that have remained the same - over the last hundred years.
The Royal Observatory, 1902-2018
The General Wolfe Statue was built in 1930, around 25 years after the original photo. It commemorates Wolfe’s victory against the French at Quebec that secured Canada for the British. He was a Greenwich resident and is buried at St Alfege church.
As you can see from the photo, the area where the statue now sits has long been a popular spot for the public to take in the view over London and its docklands. In 2014 people made an astounding 4.7 million visits to the park, with many of them making their way to the top of the hill.
Looking up at Flamsteed House, 1905-2018
There’s one obvious difference in this view looking up the hill towards Flamsteed House – deer. Greenwich is the oldest of London’s deer parks with red and fallow deer having been a part of the landscape since being introduced by Henry VIII in 1515. They roamed freely for over 400 years, until increasing visitor numbers lead to them being given their own area of the park.
There were 4.7 million visits to Greenwich Park in 2014 and we estimate that number has increased even further in the last few years. This has a huge and often unseen impact on the park, with footsteps compacting the ground and leaving grass bare, leading to excessive soil erosion. As well as being a risk to public safety, footfall can have an effect on the acid grassland of the park that’s home to some rare insects. Greenwich Park Revealed is aiming to enhance this valuable habitat and take measures to preserve the historic landscape.
The View from Greenwich Meridian, 1910-2018
While the scenes inside Greenwich Park have a lot that’s unchanged over hundreds of years, the contrast between the views of London’s Docklands from the early 20th century to present day is dramatic. By 1909, shortly before this photo was taken, the docks were a thriving hub of warehouses and wet docks where ships were loaded and unloaded.
The docks were targeted by German bombing during the Second World War. Though they recovered in the 1950s, a big change would come during the following decade when the shipping industry began using containers and London’s docks were too small for the larger ships. They all closed between 1960 and 1980 and development of Canary Wharf began in 1988, with 1 Canada Square completed three years later. Today the area is once again one of London’s business hubs, albeit with an entirely different industry and social structure.
Blackheath Avenue, 1904-2018
The Avenue and Blackheath Avenue were formed in the 1660s and first opened up to vehicles in 1875. To this day they retain their distinctive double rows of horse chestnut trees, and two of the originally planted sweet chestnuts can be found in the Flower Garden.
A tree survey in 1812 showed that nearly half the trees in the park were elm, but by 1999 disease and decay meant there were no elms left in the park. A similar change is approaching with sweet chestnut trees, with many needing to be replanted in the coming years as they die off. One of Greenwich Park Revealed's aims will be to replant some of the trees along the park’s historic avenues.