Vikings, Martyrdom and a Tea Clipper

Yesterday was a pretty awesome day to be a Greenwich tax payer as the council and the folks behind the Cutty Sark had decided we would get a free trip on the refurbished tea clipper. It isn’t even open yet, and we even beat Her Majesty The Queen!

I booked tickets for 4pm, and with some time to kill before then we decided to go to the church of St Alfege as they are celebrating the murder of Ælfheah of Canterbury who was captured and martyred by marauding Vikings in 1012.

Being agnostic I wasn’t so bothered about how wonderful it was that St Alfege died because he wouldn’t let his mates pay a ransom to the Vikings to secure his release, but we did get an awesome church built on the spot where he died instead.

Thanks to the church and Regia Anglorum we also got an 11th century Anglo Saxon village for the week and I took some photos of this fantastic re-enactment .

Also, if you are in Greenwich on Christmas Eve, the church choir perform on their own shortly before the midnight mass. They are amazing. Stunning singers.

Men being manly with axes.

Loom weaving.

Women chatting. Nothing ever changes.

Thread making? Or the earliest form of a friendship bracelet?

Embroidery.

Oh no! The Vikings are back! Quick! Hide the babies!



Beautiful ship #1.

Making flour? Looks a lot like the process still used in Morocco to make Argan oil

Harp playing too! 🙂

After that wonderful experience, I walked round the corner of my local area to see stunning ship #2!

So, the Cutty Sark. A major landmark in Greenwich, engulfed by fire in 2007, fastest tea clipper in the west, cost £50 million to refurbish yadda yadda yadda. But what did it feel like to go into the new building?

AMAZING. FRIGGING AMAZING*.

It is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I felt quite emotional as I slowly walked along the gangway that takes you into the ship itself. I stared up at the gorgeous plating on the hull and was in awe. Amazing.



Stern and rudder

“Composite construction, a wooden hull on an iron frame”



Replica tea chests hung from the ceiling and tea chest patterns were marked on the floor of the lower hold.

Video screens depicting the tea trade were lined up on both sides of the lower hold.

A large wall covered in material and rows of seating made up the Michael Edwards Studio Theatre. A video showing the Cutty Sark’s routes round the world was projected onto the wall.

The inside of the hull bathed in green.

Upstairs is the ‘tween deck which focused on the crew of the Cutty Sark, and the wool and whisky trades. There was also a interactive video display where people could steer the Cutty Sark home from Australia. I sadly ran the ship aground in Antarctica!

Video projected onto the side of a bale, I thought this was a really great way of displaying content.



Above the ‘tween deck is the main deck where you get to see the top half of the ship in its full glory. There aren’t any exhibitions to see here but exploring the deck, seeing the views, the masts and the 11 miles of rigging is more than enough to keep you enthralled.

Best weather ever.

I doubt this beautiful view would have been possible without the 3 metre raising of the ship.



Gorgeous.



View towards St Alfege showing the blue sea the ship floats on.

After the main deck you take the stairs or lift down to the Sammy Ofer Gallery where you can see the rest of the hull. Unlike the SS Great Britain in Bristol, the sealed off hull area isn’t humid or uncomfortable and is instead light, spacious and airy.

Stern and rudder from below


The gleaming belly.

Wonderfully, the concrete sides from the previous dry dock haven’t been covered up and you can see the differences between the 1950s refurbishment and now.

This practice has been maintained throughout as the new metalwork added to the ship, to make it structurally sound, has been painted grey and the original metalwork has been painted white.







At the stern of the ship is a wonderful 19th Century figurehead collection, children will love it. The white figurehead is Nannie Dee, an figurehead that used to be on the front of the ship… I think.

I do like the sea of glass, the reflections are lovely.

Lots of space and the cafe feels quite unobtrusive from this end of the gallery.

We had to have a cup of ship’s tea, or Twinings tea to be accurate. 🙂

I didn’t get the shot quite right but I tried!

I absolutely love history and having a slice of shipping history fifteen minutes walk from my home is just wonderful. I haven’t been to the ship before and I can only imagine how awful it was for locals when it was burning back in 2007.

I have been to a number of modern museums and comparing it to the Museum of London at Docklands I can only say it is just as good. Both make me want to go back again and again. And once all the exhibits and activities are finished the museum will be even better.

It is a shame entry is £12 when The Queen’s House and the National Maritime Museum are free but the Observatory is not free, so hey ho, some things are worth paying for.

A day later I still feel really happy and excited to have gone and a second trip is a must. Greenwich is such a lovely place to live.

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More photos from the day can be found here.

*These happened to be the words I used to describe how I felt when I briefly chatted to Richard Doughty. Poor man. I made a bee line for him as soon as I recognised him off the telly!

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