National Maritime Museum - Greenwich
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is one of London’s more picturesque UK attractions, situated between, the Thames, old Royal Naval College (now Greenwich University), Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory. The Museum incorporates the Royal Observatory and Queen’s House, and is part of the Greenwich Maritime World Heritage site.
If Portsmouth is the spiritual home of the Royal Navy, then Greenwich is the historical home – the Romans landed here, Henry the VIII lived here, the Royal Navy’s ships were built and victualled here until this part of the Thames became too small to accommodate the increasingly large vessels, and Nelson’s funeral flotilla set off from here. The Home of Prime Meridian and Greenwich meantime, Greenwich has also long been recognised as the home of timekeeping and maritime navigation.
This long and proud history is reflected in the architecture of the Greenwich Maritime Museum, and in its collection, which numbers of 2 million objects of naval interest, making it possibly the largest museum of its kind in the world. The Museum also has the world’s largest maritime reference library with over 100,000 volumes, and the most important collection of portraits in the UK after the National Gallery.
Established in 1937, the National Maritime Museum occupies buildings that were part of the old Naval School in the grounds of Greenwich Park. The Museum also incorporates the former royal residence now known as the Queens House – designed by architect Inigo Jones. Having benefited from National Lottery funding and a £20 million gift from Israeli shipping tycoon Sammy Ofer, the Maritime Museum is now ready to continue welcoming visitors well into the twenty-first century.
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich welcomes over 1.5 million visitors a year, making it one of the leading UK attractions. Many come to see the Nelson exhibition – Lord Horatio Nelson (1758 – 1805). Nelson was the iconic vice-admiral who galvanised the nation with his victories over the French and Spanish navies, leading to his death at the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October, 1805. He was posthumously elevated to almost god-like status in Britain, receiving a huge state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral, and his statue placed upon the eponymous column in the centre of Trafalgar Square.
The Museum has an extensive collection of Nelson memorabilia, including the actual clothing (complete with bloodstains) that the great man was wearing when a French sharpshooter sent a musket ball tearing through his shoulder and into his spine. In typically stoic fashion, Nelson’s last words were: “Thank God I did my duty.”
Elsewhere the Maritime Museum houses and extensive collection of arms, embodying the brutality of war at sea though the use of mortars, cannons, cannonades, muskets, swords and daggers. The Museum also has many ‘ethnographic weapons’ including spears and bows brought back from the expeditions of Captain James Cook (1728-1779). The National Maritime Museum is also home to over 3,200 exceptional naval models, making it the finest collection of its type in the world.
A UK attraction of superlatives, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich embraces history, art and geography in a stunning setting. Entry to the Museum is free, and there is also a well-stocked and reasonably priced gift shop offering a unique array of merchandise.
National Maritime Museum Opening times:
Monday – Sunday 10:00 to 17:00
How to get there:
By train - Greenwich or Maze Hill stations from Charing Cross
By tube – Jubilee line to North Greenwich
By bus – 177 and 53 from Trafalgar Square
By Docklands Light Railway to Greenwich