Yesterday saw the opening of the new £6m Discover Greenwich centre at the magnificent Old Royal Naval College. The centre tells the strangely neglected story of Greenwich, birthplace of Henry VIII, home of Mary and Elizabeth and the site of Wren’s sublime Royal Hospital for Seamen. Architecturally Greenwich is one of the richest locations in Britain with works by Inigo Jones, Nicholas Hawksmoor, John Vanbrugh and James Stuart as well as Wren. To make things even more attractive to the visitor, the Royal Hospital’s Old Brewhouse has been brought back into use by the local Meantime (geddit!!!) brewery. The site once brewed and piped beer directly to the Pensioners’ Dining Room, where each man survived on a daily ration of three pints.
Alistair Hook, Meantime’s master brewer, aims to restore some authentic brews to what was once ‘the centre of the brewing world, the city that created India, Pale Ale, Porter and Stout’. Perhaps he could offer a history lesson to the normally erudite and historically literate Mayor Boris Johnson, who while opening the centre, declared Greenwich the birthplace of ‘England’s most famous son’. Presumably he’s referring to Henry. But is the old monster really deserving of that epithet? It certainly led to a scratching of heads. I have come up with a short list of historical figures for whom the epithet is more fitting:
William Shakespeare, Horatio Nelson, Winston Churchill, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and no doubt there are more.