(Above) Actors recruited for the opening of Discover Greenwich on their way to the new-look site. © Michael Walter/Troika
Discover Greenwich, the £6 million "contemporary cultural venue" uniting tales of Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I at the naval World Heritage Site, will open to the public tomorrow (March 23 2010).
Gold coins from the reigns of Edward IV and Henry VIII, lead Tudor rose ceiling decorations, an ivory knife engraved with roses and foliage and combs and bone dice from Greenwich Palace are on display for the first time at the Royal Naval College site, procured from Greenwich Palace in a revealing glimpse into life at the Royal Palace.
A building which once piped beer into the Pensioners' Dining Room in Royal Hospital as a "restorative drink" has become The Old Brewery, featuring dining facilities and an "experimental micro-brewery"
A reconstruction of the Chapel Royal, where Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves, includes music and incense, and a restored Tudor window bears the badges of the King and Anne Boleyn.
Nine stone heads feature Poseidon, Galatea the sea nymph and a lion in a sample carved for the Palace by Robert Jones at the start of the 18th century, joined by ancient columns, an 18th century stone lion made by Benjamin West in commemoration of Admiral Nelson, a recently discovered model of the Chapel roof made by Robert Mylne in 1779 and a display on the 18th century Royal Hospital for Seamen.
The exterior of the £6 million building. © Discover Greenwich
Drawings and charts by the likes of Christopher Wren and Queen’s House builder and Renaissance visionary Inigo Jones are accompanied by a clutch of short films by TV presenter Dan Cruickshank explaining the impact their designs had on Greenwich and London.
Numerous hands-on activities and games supplement a new learning centre for children, but The Old Brewery – an “experimental micro-brewery” at the heart of sparkly new dining facilities built on-site – may be of more interest to adult visitors.
An interactive central model of the Maritime World Heritage site through the ages features. © Warren King 2010
Brewing an “astonishing range” of beer in copper-clad vessels, the intoxicating churn will create bespoke beverages alongside faithfully-followed Tudor recipes, using bog myrtle and wormwood among an unorthodox list of ingredients.
Originally used to provide three-pint daily rations to the Pensioners’ Dining Room in the building, the Old Brewhouse will return for the first time in 140 years with a Belgian Abbey-style ale which has spent a year in 350-litre oak casks.
Culture Minister Margaret Hodge expressed particular satisfaction at the Clore Learning Centre for children playing a pivotal role in the new development. © Discover Greenwich
Culture Minister Margaret Hodge, whose department granted the critical final £700,000 in funding to the project last April, said the attraction would allow tourists to travel from the resident Cutty Sark to the 2012 Olympic Games “in the space of a few hours”.
“I’m delighted that the final piece of the funding puzzle was provided by the Government last year for this fantastic project,” she added.
“I’m particularly pleased to see that schoolchildren and adults alike will have the opportunity to learn new skills and crafts in the Clore Learning Suite.”
The Old Brewery mail hall. © Discovery Greenwich
Mayor of London Boris Johnson opened the centre.
“It will, I hope, also attract a new generation to the area, to discover in a new way the pivotal role it has played in the history of London, Britain, and the world,” he mused.
“The new centre will offer Londoners and visitors from the UK and across the world the opportunity to learn more about the fascinating history of the place.”
TV historian Dan Cruickshank admires one of the exhibits at the launch. © Adrian Brooks
Historian David Starkey was also at the launch, celebrating the development in typically verbose fashion.
“A great and magnificent swathe of British history is encompassed by Maritime Greenwich,” he said, lauding “the noblest group of buildings in England” and their “incomparable setting”.
“Discover Greenwich provides the opportunity to get under the skin of this World Heritage Site, to see its history laid out before you and understand how Greenwich, London and Britain have evolved together.”