Greenwich Reach Chart: Click for full screen, zoomable, scrollable version

Greenwich Reach Chart: Click for full screen, zoomable, scrollable version

NB Click divider icon bottom left for distances and bearings

Greenwich Reach is upstream of Blackwall Reach and downstream of Limehouse Reach. From the Old Royal Naval College, past Greenwich Pier and the Cutty Sark.

Jubilee Line tunnels

1999: between Canary Wharf and North Greenwich.


Docklands Light Railway tunnels

1999: between Island Gardens and Cutty Sark.
Greenwich River Thames Site

Old Royal Naval College

LEFT (south, Greenwich) Bank, the Navy's oldest charity.
Greenwich Hospital website -

Greenwich Hospital is an ancient Crown charity providing charitable support including annuities, sheltered housing and education, to serving and retired personnel of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines and their dependants.

The Royal Charter of William and Mary dated 25 October 1694 established the Royal Hospital for Seamen (latterly known as Greenwich Hospital) as a home for retired seamen of the Royal Navy, and to provide support for seamen's widows and education for their children, and the improvement of navigation. The first Pensioners arrived at Greenwich in 1705. By the end of the century there were more than 2,000 pensioners living there.

With changing social conditions, and after more than 20,000 ex seamen had passed through the Hospital's care, the last Pensioner left in 1869. The Hospital then devoted its resources to paying pensions and educating children. It still pays charitable annuities today and provides sheltered housing for eligible elderly seafarers and substantial grants to naval charities. At present the main beneficiary is the Royal Hospital School which was founded in Greenwich in 1712 and moved to Holbrook, near Ipswich, in 1933.

The Royal Naval College used the Hospital's original buildings at Greenwich from 1873 until July 1998. The Hospital then gave a 150-year lease to the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College, a charity established to take responsibility for preserving, finding new uses for, and encouraging public access to the Royal Hospital site. The buildings once used by the Royal Hospital School in Greenwich were taken over by the National Maritime Museum in 1934.

... we still strive to follow the spirit of our original Charter:-
The reliefe and support of seamen serving on board the shipps or vessells belonging to the Navy Royall who by reason of Age, Wounds or other disabilities shall be uncapable of further service at sea and being unable to maintain themselves. And for the Sustentation of the Widows and the Maintenance and Education of the Children of seamen happening to be slain or disabled. Also for the further reliefe and Encouragement of seamen and Improvement of Navigation.

Greenwich Hospital, 1750 -, Canaletto

Greenwich Hospital, 1752 -, Canaletto

Greenwich Hospital, 1752 -, Canaletto
- Another version? Or the same cleaned?

Greenwich Hospital, 1802, Ireland
Greenwich Hospital, 1802, Ireland

"Greenwich Hill" by William Gifford (1756-1826)
"Greenwich Hospital" by William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850) -

COME to these peaceful seats, and think no more
Of cold, of midnight watchings, or the roar
Of Ocean tossing on his restless bed!
Come to these peaceful seats, ye who have bled
For honor, who have traversed the great flood,
Or on the battle’s front with stern eye stood,
When rolled its thunder, and the billows red
Oft closed, with sudden flashings, o’er the dead.
O, heavy are the sorrows that beset
Old age! and hard it is,—hard to forget
The sunshine of our youth, our manhood’s pride!
But here, O aged men! ye may abide
Secure, and see the last light on the wave
Of Time, which wafts you silent to your grave;
Like the calm evening ray, that smiles serene
Upon the tranquil Thames, and cheers the sinking scene.

Greenwich 1822, after William Anderson

Greenwich Hospital,Tombleson 1832 Greenwich Hospital,Tombleson 1832

View from Greenwich Park,Tombleson 1832
View from Greenwich Park,Tombleson 1832

View near Greenwich,Tombleson 1832
View near Greenwich,Tombleson 1832

1833: The Dublin University Magazine -

Looking at [Greenwich Hospital] from the river, it is, I suppose, one of the grandest piles of building in the world the Custom-house and the Bank in Dublin not being excepted.

The foreigner is amazed when he learns, as he sails up to London, that the superb palace which he looks upon, is the place where England lodges and provides for her old sailors, who have been wounded or worn out in the glorious service of the British navy. I like this exceedingly - it is not mere vanity - it is a noble ostentation - a fitting compliment to the force which makes Britain what she is, or rather what she has been, for times have changed.

The national spirit has miserably fallen away into a petty, hateful, cosmopolite pseudo-philosophy, and Englishmen, instead of feeling the glory of Greenwich, grumble at the expense. There are men, aye, and popular men, too, who, if they had their will, would sell that magnificent building to the highest bidder, and lodge the old sailors at the lowest rate for which they could make a "contract". This mean spirit of thrift would never have made the character of a great nation, and will not maintain it now that it is made.

Greenwich 1835 - (British School)

1837: Knickerbocker -

I walked to Greenwich, three miles, where, as you know, is the observatory from which longitude is reckoned all over the world, as the school-girls are well aware.

The observatory is on a high, steep hill, in the centre of a large and beautiful park, filled with hills and dales, deer, trees, ponds, and every thing pretty.

The prospect from the observatory is superb. London on the left - St. Paul's and a few spires only peeping above the dun smoke - the Thames, winding about in a zig-zag direction, covered with the 'freighted argosies' of all nations, some just arrived perhaps from the East Indies or the North pole - some destined for Botany Bay or Nootka Sound ; beyond, the green hills and meadows; and at your feet this lovely park, and the noble hospital for seamen, on the banks of the river.

It is a scene for a painter.

Greenwich 1837, William Anderson

Greenwich 1837, William Anderson

Greenwich 1840, attributed to George Chambers

1842: Greenwich Hospital and the Dreadnought (Naval Hospital ship) -

Greenwich Hospital, 1842
Greenwich and the Dreadnought, 1842
Behind the hulk of the Dreadnought, in use as a naval hospital, rise the steeple of St Alphege Church and, on the hill above, Flamstead House; on the left the Royal Naval Hospital.

Greenwich 1844, Sebastian Pether

Greenwich 1854-65?, Henry Pether

Cutty Sark

LEFT (south, Greenwich) Bank. Cutty Sark website

2007: The Cutty Sark was seriously damaged by fire. This happened during a thorough going restoration and much of the ship had been stripped and stored elsewhere.
2012: The Queen officially re-opened the refurbished Cutty Sark

16 Frith photos of Greenwich

Poplar Blackwall and District Rowing Club

RIGHT (north, Isle of Dogs) bank opposite the Royal Naval College and next to the beautiful Island Gardens.
Poplar Blackwall and District Rowing Club website -

Poplar, Blackwall and District Rowing Club (PBDRC) was formed in 1845 and is believed to be the third oldest rowing club in Great Britain.

The Club has a successful record in regattas, and in recent years has produced international oarsmen such as John Roberts (rowing's Paul Gascoigne of his era - silky skills in the boat, minimal training, interspersed with plenty of beers, according to Martin Cross in "Olympic Obsession" some things never change!)
and Colin Seymour, Olympic scullers Mark Hunter and Kenny Dwan and current international and GB scullers and oarsmen.

All those rowing at the Club enjoy an exhilarating, competitive sport, which is an equally good recreational pastime. The Club has a deep sense of history and strong links to the community, something recognised by Steve Redgrave.
[At Henley] there are also boats from what might be described as "working-class" clubs, like the Poplar, Blackwall and District Rowing Club, down on the Isle of Dogs. Sir Steve Redgrave in "A Golden Age"

1822: Anne Lister's Diary 1st September, on a steamer following the Royal Squadron of George IV -

Just after passing Woolwich the Lord Mayor with some of the principal city officers and some ladies came in his lordship's gingerbread state barge to meet his majesty [George IV]. The royal yacht and the barge stopped a little distance right ahead of each other for a little while, the 2 bands playing. The Lord Mayor then turned about and led the way to Greenwich.

The Times of this morning says:
Just before the royal yacht reached Blackwall, the Lord Mayor in the City Barge towed by the Eagle, a Ramsgate steam packet, drew gently off into the centre of the river and taking the lead preceded the royal squadron until it arrived at Greenwich.

Soldiers drawn up in front of the hospital, along the quay, the river crowded with boats. It seemed a miracle we did them no damage, that rammed with our prow, and hung round us on all sides. There would have been many more had the time of the king's arrival been more known. We passed a great many boats full of people rowing as fast as they could to come in for the sight, full of company that would not believe us they were too late. We made the best of our way.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

1902:  connecting the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich.
Similar to Brunel's tunnel at Wapping, they are reached by vertical shafts of each bank, although this time with the added comfort of lifts to take people down to the tunnel level.   Each shaft is topped by an elegant pagoda which houses the lift machinery and a spiral staircase. The entrances are at:
Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs;
By the Cutty Sark at Greenwich,


Jubilee Line tunnels

1999:  between Canada Water and Canary Wharf.


Wapping to Rotherhithe Tunnel

Wapping to Rotherhithe Tunnel
Wapping to Rotherhithe Tunnel cross section from "The Thames Tunnel", 1825

1825: March, construction started on a foot tunnel to connect Wapping in the north with Rotherhithe to the south. The first tunnel under the Thames - designed and built by Marc Isambard Brunel.

A TUNNEL under a River of the magnitude of the Thames, which now bears on its bosom the Columbus of 3690 tons the largest ship in the world, will appear, perhaps, to some persons, of not very easy comprehension. As this is a novelty connected with commerce the engraving [above] is intended to convey a more complete idea of this grand undertaking than could be given by mere description.

The cut represents the Thames as seen from the north shore, with Rotherhithe Church in the distance on the south. A ship is seen going down the river, and a steam-boat proceeding up the river ; and the subaqueous and subterraneous archways are from the one to the other shore.

It will be thus seen that the Tunnel will consist of two archways, and, in order that there may be no obstruction to carriages, those going from the north to the south shore will pass through one, while those from the south to the north will pass through the other archway. These passages will be paved, or macadamized, and there will be distinct footpaths for foot passengers. In the centre, between the two archways, and dividing the two roads, will be a line of numerous arches of communication, spacious enough to admit of persons passing from one road to the other; and in each of these arches will be fixed a strong gas-light.

The approaches to the entrance of the Tunnel will be by descents of easy declivity, not exceeding four feet per hundred feet ; one, smaller, for pedestrians ; another larger for carriages ; and so easy will the descent be, that the heaviest loaded waggon will never need to lock a wheel. The descent from the north side will be near to the end of Old Gravel-lane, at the eastern end of the London Dock ; and, on the south side of the river, from a spot near to Rotherhithe Church.

Wapping to Rotherhithe Tunnel cross section
Wapping to Rotherhithe Tunnel cross section

20th JULY, 1827
Another edition of this little pamphlet being called for, it may be proper to say a few words as to the accident which has stopped the progress of the tunnel.

The great interest the public have taken in this truly national work has made it a matter of notoriety, that in May the water of the Thames broke into the tunnel, between the termination of the brickwork and the shield, from causes which have been amply detailed in the newspapers. Measures were immediately set on foot for stopping the influx of water, which have, in a great measure, proved effectual ; the water is so far reduced, that there is great probability the work will re-commence very soon, and proceed without further delay.

It may, with great truth, be said, that no accident to any public work could have excited more sympathy and regret, and where success will be hailed with greater joy.

1830: -

Near Rotherhithe Church. And opposite the end of Old Gravel-lane, on the Wapping Side of the River.
Notice is hereby given, that the Public may view the Tunnel every day (Sundays excepted), from Seven in the morning until Eight in the Evening, upon payment of one Shilling for each person. The Tunnel is lighted with Gas, is dry and warm, and the descent is by a safe and easy staircase.
By Order,
James Birkett,
Clerk to the Company.
Walbrook-buildings, May 14, 1830

1837: Knickerbocker -

To-day I have 'done' Thames Tunnel, ... The tunnel is just like the pictures of it. You have to descend as many steps to get to it as would take you to a church steeple. I walked to the end of this subterraneous cavern, where they were at work, under the very centre of the river.

Ugh! Only to think of being at the mercy of those frail brick arches, under the very bed of a mighty river, on which the largest ships are moving over our heads! What if they should come in contact with the arches, at low water! The whole place would be instantly filled, and wo to the luckless wight who happens to be in it! In case of such an accident, there is no chance of escape.

1840: April, the tunnel was completed.  Numerous roof falls, flooding and other problems beset the whole undertaking.
1843, January, Queen Victoria officially opened the tunnel to the public. -

Wapping to Rotherhithe Tunnel Medallion
Tunnel Medallion

1844:  View of the Rotherhithe Tunnel
The tunnel was never a success as access to it had to be via vertical shafts on each bank and the dark and dank conditions soon made it unpopular.
1869, the tunnel was taken over by the East London Railway.
It is still used by the East London Line of the Underground and has recently undergone a major refurbishment.


Shadwell Stair, by Wilfred Owen

I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair.
Along the wharves by the water-house,
And through the cavernous slaughter-house,
I am the shadow that walks there.

Yet I have flesh both firm and cool,
And eyes tumultuous as the gems
Of moons and lamps in the full Thames
When dusk sails wavering down the pool.

Shuddering the purple street-arc burns
Where I watch always; from the banks
Dolorously the shipping clanks
And after me a strange tide turns.

I walk till the stars of London wane
And dawn creeps up the Shadwell Stair.
But when the crowing syrens blare
I with another ghost am lain.