Cutty Sark by night © Cutty Sark Trust
The ten Discover London Trails were developed by London’s Smaller Museums and Galleries Group with support from ALM London (Archives Libraries and Museums London). Covering different regions of the capital, they link smaller museums and galleries with other attractions of interest in half and full day trails.
Greenwich Hospital from the North Bank of the Thames by Antonio Canal Canaletto (1697-1768) from the Caird Collection. Courtesy of National Maritime Museum, London
The trail begins at the Cutty Sark, one of the most beautiful sailing vessels ever made, before a walk along the Thames Path to the fine baroque buildings of the Old Royal Naval College, now home to the University of Greenwich. Here, you will also find the Greenwich Gateway Visitor Centre, for an introduction to Maritime Greenwich. Within the same grounds is Sir James Thornhill’s magnificent ceiling in the Painted Hall and the Chapel, a neo-classical masterpiece.
The Painted Hall. Photography © James Brittain
Behind these buildings, on the other side of Romney Road in the same grounds as the famous National Maritime Museum is the Queen’s House, the first truly Renaissance house constructed in England.
From here, walk through Greenwich’s lovely park through a gate at Crooms Hill on your way to Ranger’s House in Chesterfield Walk. Here you will find a splendid early 18th century villa, with a magnificent rose garden.
Your walk back downhill to the centre of Greenwich takes you to the unusual Fan Museum, with its extensive range of fans and the lovely St Alfege Church in Greenwich Church Street.
The Sickert fan, one of the highlights on show at the Fan Museum. Courtesy of The Fan Museum, Greenwich
Greenwich From One Tree Hill by Johannes Vorsterman (c. 1643-1699) from the Greenwich Hospital Collection. Courtesy of National Maritime Museum, London
Trail in Detail
Moored at King William Walk, overlooking the River Thames since 1957, is the beautiful sailing vessel, the , the last of the tea clippers that crossed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the 19th century. Launched in 1869 as a tea carrier, it took 107 days to win the annual clippers’ race from China to London, making its final voyage in 1938.
See views of the Thames and Docklands from the deck and experience the 'upstairs downstairs' atmosphere of life on board a tall ship, from the cramped conditions of the apprentices’ sleeping quarters to the elegance of the Captain’s saloon. You can also learn about the history of sailing and trade in the Pacific and view the unusual collection of carved ships’ figureheads.
Cutty Sark, 1922, Falmouth © Cutty Sark Trust
Walk along the Thames path past Greenwich Pier until you come to the Old Royal Naval College, originally designed by Sir Christopher Wren as the Royal Hospital for Seamen.
Work on the present building began in 1696 on the site of the demolished Tudor palace, birthplace of Henry VIII and his children William and Mary. It was transformed in 1873 into a staff college where officers of the Royal Navy were taught. Today, it is one of London’s most famous riverside landmarks and home to the University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music.
The Chapel. Photography © James Brittain
The magnificent Painted Hall is one of the finest banqueting rooms in Europe, with stunning paintings by artist Sir James Thornhill. In January 1806, the body of Nelson lay in these splendid surroundings after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Originally designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the neo-classical masterpiece of The Chapel was rebuilt and redecorated by James Stuart and William Newton following a fire in 1779. If in need of a drink, walk a little further along the Thames Path to The Trafalgar Tavern, a charming panelled pub built in 1837, becoming an institution for old merchant seamen in 1915.
The Queen's House. Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, London
Sharing the grounds of the National Maritime Museum is the first classical house in Britain, representing a turning point in English architecture.
Commissioned in 1616 by Anne of Denmark, wife of James I, it was designed by Inigo Jones as a private royal retreat and completed in 1638 after Charles I (James’ son) had given the House to his queen, Henrietta Maria.
Queen Anne of Denmark (1665-1714) painted by John de Critz from the Caird Collection. Courtesy of National Maritime Museum, London
After the Civil War and the Restoration of the Monarchy (1660), the house was little used. Restored to its former glory, it re-opened in 2001 with galleries devoted to the superb art collection of the National Maritime Museum.
Historic Greenwich, a permanent exhibition on the ground floor, shows the original look and position of the house and there are also paintings of early views of Greenwich on show. A particular feature of the house is the spiral, tulip staircase curving upwards without a central support.
Ranger's House – front entrance and gate. Photographer: John Wyand © English Heritage Photographic Library
Behind the Queen’s House turn left through the park and walk towards a gate in Crooms Hill, a well-kept 17th to early 19th century street with a sloping row of fine Georgian houses. A left turn leads you to Chesterfield Walk where you come to Ranger’s House, a splendid redbrick villa built c1700.
Ring inscribed with poem set under crystal within garnet border © The Wernher Foundation. Photographer Jonathan Bailey
This is the new home to the Wernher Collection, the lifetime collection of self-made millionaire Julius Wernher. Extraordinary in both its range and quality, the collection of fine and decorative art with objects dating from 3BC to the 19th century, includes a spectacular display of jewellery, paintings, sculpture, furniture and enamels.
Gold pendant jewel of an opal-set lizard with ruby collar and eyes © The Wernher Foundation. Photographer Jonathan Bailey
Walk back down the hill now for the unique Fan Museum, located in one of the delightful townhouses in Crooms Hill. The only one of its kind in the world, the museum is devoted in its entirety to all aspects of the ancient art and craft of the fan.
It was opened in 1991, owing its existence and appeal to the enthusiasm of Helen Alexander whose personal collection of 2,000 fans from the 17th century onwards has been augmented by gifts from others, including several fans that were made for the stage.
Walking back into the centre of Greenwich you will find Hawksmoor’s elegant St Alfege Church in Greenwich Church Street. It was built in 1714 on the site where St Alfege, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered by Danish raiders in 1012.
Old Royal Naval College. Photograph © James Brittain
Ways of travelling to Greenwich
* Docklands Light Railway (DLF) from bank, Tower Gateway, Stratford, Beckton and Lewisham to Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich
* By London Underground – Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf and change to DLR
* By Mainline Rail Services from Charing Cross, Waterloo East and London Bridge to Greenwich
* By River from Westminster Embankment and Tower piers to Greenwich
The Discover London Trails were created by the Campaign for Museums and supported by ALM London.