Tag: Navy

Caird Library at Royal Museums Greenwich

Like the Deptford Dame I was invited to a bloggers preview of the re-opening of the National Maritime Museum’s Caird Library last Saturday.

The Caird Library used to be housed in the main part of the museum, but with the building of the Sammy Ofer wing the opportunity was taken to move and extend the library into a new space. Caird Library staff can now keep a significantly larger percentage of the 2,000,000 item collection on-site, and items can be retrieved from storage within forty minutes.

Along with The Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the museum is in the process of rebranding itself as part of Royal Museums Greenwich to tie in with the Queen’s decision to make Greenwich a Royal Borough as part of her Jubilee celebrations.

This event was an opportunity to promote the new wing, the free facilities available at the Caird Library and to show how the three museums are trying to have closer ties with the local community and those interested in Naval history.

I went along with my Twitter pal @mtcrowe as the RMG’s Digital Marketing Officer Emma McLean was happy for us all to bring a plus one to help us spread the word. After an introduction by Emma, Eleanor Gawne, Head of Archive and Library, gave us a talk about the development of the new facility, and with her Caird Library colleagues, a tour in small groups of the new storage spaces.

Unfortunately for us bloggers and photographers, photos were not allowed of the storage areas. However we were told that the storage areas have 9km of shelving spread over two and a half floors. They also feature those really cool rolling racks that you see at universities and wonder if anyone has ever gotten squished in. đŸ˜€

After the formal bit we were given plenty of time to have a nose around the new facilities and to look through items the Caird Library team had prepared for us from a list given to us with the invitation.

As you can see from the PDF many of the items listed have information and photos about them listed on the Caird Libray’s site, very useful for research purposes if you can’t come to the library yourself, and also useful in deciding what to ask the team to retrieve from storage.

Below is one of the items I requested to see and as I love maps this was a delight. The maps shows the course of the river from London to the sea.

River Thames printed chart by Richard Stanier dated 1790 ( G218:8/1) includes both the River Thames and the Thames Estuary, with cartouche

Books detailing the sinking of the Royal George whilst anchored off Portsmouth, the ship was built down the road at Woolwich.

An Account of the Loss of the ‘Royal George’ at Spithead, August, 1782… the 27 books that make up this collection are bound in wood taken from the wreck

Medical textbook owned by Captain Bligh, cited as particularly interesting due to its provenance. I had never heard of the term before but take great delight in understanding it now, I aim to use it in conversation to impress in the future. Tee hee.

Captain Bligh’s copy of William Buchan,’ Domestic Medicine: or a Treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases by Regimen and simple medicines with an appendix, containing a dispensatory for the use of private practitioners’ (London, 1779, 6th edition (PBD6069). Originally the property of Captain Bligh and subsequently in the possession of Fletcher Christian and the mutineers on the Pitcairn Islands

As mentioned above, you can access the Caird Library’s content for free, including log books, Admirality records, certificates of competence, letters, diaries, crew lists, business records (including the P&O archive), charts and maps. You can also read the 200 journals they subscribe to, and use their computer stations to access online journals and resources. Photocopying and scanning facilities are available, and content can be saved to USB stick to take home.

Another interesting feature is the hundreds of ship plans that can be accessed using a large touch-screen computer. These plans have been painstakingly scanned in and the staff are aiming to slowly scan in all of the 1,000,000 they have in storage over a number of years. The most famous of ships have had their plans scanned in first, so contact the library to see if your favourite is available.

This is the first local event I have been invited to through my blogging endeavours and having not visited the museum before, oops, it was an excellent event to have been invited to. I hope the RMG carries on with these kind of events as any kind of free public outreach event is an excellent way to encourage people to do something they wouldn’t have done before.

I also had the opportunity to talk to an astronomer from the Observatory and to promote the astrophysics talk my Dad does around the country. Hooray! It is a little dream of mine that one day my Dad will speak at the Observatory round the corner from my house. We also used to visit the park and the Observatory when I was young as we are from the area.

Here are some links to other blogs from this event:

Bloggers Preview of New Library, Caird Library blog

The Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum, Deptford Dame

The Holy Grail of Nautical Books, Night of Bones

The Old Order Changeth, Gentlemen and Tarpaulins

Nerding Out at the Maritime Museum, Ice Floe


Graves in The Pleasaunce

With the assistance of Google I decided to briefly research the lives of a few of the 3,000 or so Navy seaman buried in the East Greenwich Pleasaunce. This beautiful and hidden little park cemetery has some amazing gravestones scattered about and I took a few photos of ones I liked the first Saturday in April.

JFH Grant, Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve

Sub-Lieutenant John Francis Haughton Grant was 35 when he died in 1919, and he left wife Ivy Sydney Grant of 2 Kearsney Garage, Kearsney, Dover. Originally from the then-Dutch colony of St. Thomas in the Caribbean (now part of the US Virgin Islands), Grant served in the First World War. His parents were Francis Bell Grant and Emily Jane Grant.

There are a number of very new looking gravestones like this dotted around the Pleasaunce and they all seem to be for those who fought in the First World War. Perhaps they are the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission whose register lists Grant and his grave’s location.

Albert Escott, Head Master of the Royal Hospital School, Greenwich

I could not find much about this gentlemen on Google but I did find a Individual Record on the LDS Family Search site that tells us Escott was 41 in 1881, from Bristol and was married. He “entered on a new life, 28th October 1891” and he has a very cool looking gravestone.

Henry John May, Rear-Admiral, Royal Navy

This guy has the coolest gravestone I have ever seen. His family must have had a lot of money to give him such a cool send-off, unless the Royal Naval College decided to honour him in this way. Courtesy of the Dreadnought Project I was able to find out a bit about May, born 20 February, 1853, died 24 April, 1904.

He was President of the Naval War Course at the Royal Naval College from 1900 to his death, and also fought in the Bombardment of Alexandria on the 11th July, 1882. My favourite encyclopedia tells us how “a fleet of about fifteen Royal Navy ironclad ships… sailed to Alexandria when a riot broke out and Europeans were killed”. May was part of the action in this one day skirmish with local Egyptians which left six British and 700 Egyptians dead.

Amongst others he was promoted from Lieutenant to Commander for his presumably valiant deeds. The London Gazette has scans of its previous issues, and you can read about the honoured Navy personnel on their site.

Coolest grave ever.

John Liddell

This innocuous little head stone is the final resting place of the very interesting Dr, then Sir, John Liddell, born 1794, died 1868. Liddell was the Director General of the Medical Department at the Royal Naval College and worked there from at least 1844. Two events involving Liddell that I have found lead me to believe that he cared a lot about the welfare, before and after death, of those he was responsible for.

Greenwich Hospital’s burial grounds have evolved over time, the first burial site was situated on land that now houses numbers 32-40 Maze Hill. This burial site was open from 1707 to 1749 until Goddard’s Ground became the hospital’s second site. Goddard’s Ground is now King William Walk but was home to 20,000 graves by the time it was closed in 1857 (Pieter van der Merwe of the National Maritime Museum has written a very interesting article here if you would like to read more). In 1847 Liddell voiced concerns that “the effluvia of the graveyard might endanger the health and safety of all [as it was] crowded beyond parallel”, and he recommended that the graveyard be closed.

Pushed by the local Parish Council (with help from the Burial Act of 1852) the hospital eventually closed Goddard’s Ground after new land was purchased. This third burial site was named The Royal Hospital Cemetery and is now better known as the East Greenwich Pleasaunce. Burials were carried out here long after the hospital closed in 1869, and in 1926 the land was sold to Greenwich Council and landscaped. The last burial was in 1981.

Liddell was also responsible for a 1848 report relating to the pollution of the area surrounding the hospital. He was concerned that the area now known as Cubitt Town/Island Gardens would be industrialised and built upon so that the whole area surrounding the hospital would be grey and polluted:

” ‘No casual visitor’ wrote Liddell ‘can fail to be struck with the dull and stupified air of a Greenwich Pensioner, or with the monotony and melancholy that pervade[s] the Hospital, where one dull routine of existence is unchequered by any occupation or incident to beguile its weariness.’ ”

Great stuff eh? His report was championed by the Governor of the hospital Admiral Sir Charles Adam and The Admirality, and after a false start or two William Cubitt leased the land to the hospital’s Commissioners in 1852. The hospital itself did not actually do anything with the land in the end and gave it back to Cubitt in 1858 with “with covenants safeguarding the Hospital’s environmental interests.”

Sounds like a bit of a faff but I think Liddell’s report raised sufficient interest for the land to be saved from industrial development and as any local will know the view towards Island Gardens is beautiful. The eventual development of the land into a park certainly makes my day whenever I exit from the foot tunnel and see the graceful trees and view back across the water.

What a cool bloke.

A few more photos of the Pleasaunce…

View east

Pistachios in the Park Cafe

View west

The quote is from The Bible


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