Last weekend I went to Greenwich. The primary reason for going was a seminar on Maritime Records run by the Guild of One-Name Studies, but since it was a place I had never been and had wanted to see, we decided to stay there a couple of nights.
On Friday morning we travelled down to Euston by train and then by tube to Embankment station. Just across the road was the River, where we caught a Thames Clipper river bus to Greenwich – somehow this seemed the appropriate transport considering the maritime theme of the weekend. It was a damp and misty day, but we sat outside to enjoy the view – definitely the best way to see London.
We arrived in Greenwich just after noon, so were able to check into our hotel (The Ibis) and out again to get something to eat. We inspected several pubs but ended up with some soup in Greenwich Market.
It was then back to the river and a ticket for the Cutty Sark. This had opened again earlier this year after a bad fire during restoration in 2007. A bit too much “dumbed down” interactive displays and I’m not sure whether the raised position and curved cover really worked. (The SS Great Britain in Bristol was much better – if you are going to imitate the sea, it has to be level!) The coffee and cakes in the cafe underneath were very nice though.
A quick look at the view of the river and a misty Canary Wharf and it was back to the hotel for a rest. Later we ventured out again for some fish and chips at the nearby Mitre and a orientating walk around the Greenwich Hospital. We were surprised to find the central area roped off, with what appeared to be piles of earth and wrecked cars. There were also massive floodlights. I asked someone manning the barriers what was going on – the reply was that they were making a film called Thursday Morning (looking this up later I discovered that it was Thursday Mourning – the working title of the next Thor movie)
Next morning after a Full English Breakfast at the Cafe Rouge, attached to the Hotel, I strolled along to the National Maritime Museum for the seminar. I didn’t need the coffee and biscuits provided for those who had travelled from afar and after a bit of chat, found a seat in the Lecture Theatre. After the welcome and introduction by Cliff Kemball, seminar organiser and treasurer of the Guild of One-Name Studies, there was a talk on the Naval Records of the National Maritime Museum. This was a two-handed talk by the tall James Davey on the Royal Navy and the not quite as tall Martin Salmon on the Merchant Navy. I seem to have mislaid my notes on this talk but I remember a lot about ships lists and numbering and crew lists (the Cutty Sark was used as an example).
After a short comfort break and a short moment of panic by the organisers, the speaker for the second session arrived. Myko Clelland was from FindMyPast and asked how many people in the audience had used his website. He seemed slightly shocked when practically everyone put up their hand – what else did he expect from a roomful of one-namers? He pressed on at high speed with his advert (sorry, talk) finishing, after questions, in plenty of time for lunch.
There was just time to grab a sandwich or two before assembling for the tour of the Caird Library (conveniently closed to the public for lunch). We were told about how to apply for a reader’s ticket and how to search the catalogue (Aeon) and looked at some documents. Crew lists of the Cutty Sark again and a certificate of competency of Captain Smith of the Titanic – he failed navigation!
After a browse around the museum shop, it was soon time for the afternoon session, starting with Simon Fowler on Royal Navy Sources for One-Name Studies. An interesting talk dealing with how the Navy was arranged and what records are available, both online and at the TNA. After the tea break there was Richard Brooks on Locating Royal Marines. I was looking forward to this session as I have been researching a relative, Robert Madder, who was a marine in the early 19th century. I gained clues on why he may have been a gardener.
The seminar finished at about 5pm and the museum was closing, but I managed to find my way to the back entrance where I had arranged to meet my husband, by the ship in a bottle. He had spent the day at the Observatory looking at telescopes and clocks (he was pleased to find a couple of mentions of Rugby Radio Station) and exploring the area. Back to the hotel for a rest (him) and a discussion on where to eat. Ended up in the Cafe Rouge – well, we had voucher for a free bottle of wine and it was raining. After dinner it had cleared a bit, so we had a walk along the river, admiring the reflections and the floodlit buildings.
The next day the weather changed. Find out what we did in Voyage to Greenwich Part 2