Nelson, Neptune and Britannia at Greenwich

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Greenwich, Nelson pediment © David Gill

The Nelson pediment at Greenwich is full of classical allusion. It was designed by Benjamin West and completed in 1812 (not the inscription below the central group).

At the centre is the body of Nelson presented to the helmeted Britannia by a Triton on behalf of Neptune (at the left). A winged victory presents Neptune’s trident to Britannia, indicating that Nelson’s victory has provided control of the sea. A British sailor is adjacent to Neptune with the announcement ‘Trafalgar’.

On the other wide are the personifications of the nation states of Great Britain: Scotland (with a thistle), England (with a rose), and Ireland (with a shamrock). (Note the absence of Wales.) Between these ‘kingdoms’ and Britannia is a winged figure (a ‘Naval Genius’) reminding the viewer of the victories at the Nile and Copenhagen. The lion holds a tablet reminding us of the 122 (CXXII) battles fought by Nelson.

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Greenwich, Nelson pediment © David Gill

The pediment forms part of the Nelson Trail in Greenwich.

Zenobia and the trade in cheese

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Zenobia figurehead © David Gill

One of the figureheads displayed at the Cutty Sark, Greenwich is from the Zenobia, wrecked off the Norfolk coast in 1882 (further details). The Zenobia was built to carry fruit, but was sold and then based in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk to carry cargoes of cheese to Holland.

The vessel was named after Zenobia of Palmyra (Syria).

Imperial Measurements to Return

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Standard Measurements at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich © David Gill

It has been announced today that, as part of the preparation for Brexit, the UK will be jettisoning metric measurements and returning to the ‘Imperial’ measurements of inches, feet and yards. This adventurous initiative has been put in place to ensure that UK citizens have a unique British perspective on distance and location.

This move is likely to prove a challenge to those under 60 who have been brought up on millimetres, metres and kilometres. However older citizens may feel reassurance from this reintroduction. It also needs to be remembered that the UK continues to measure longer distances in miles and speeds in miles per hour. It is hoped that the move will standardise the units of measurement.

It is unclear if petrol stations will be required to sell fuel in gallons rather than litres, or that car dealerships will need to show fuel consumption in miles per gallon (as opposed to kilometres per litre).

One of the additional benefits of this change is the likely improvement in mental numeracy as calculators on phones and tablets will not readily convert to and from a non-metric system.

A short ceremony to anticipate the forthcoming legislation will be conducted by the Greenwich meridian line with the slogan, “Now is the time to put feet back”.

The necessary process will not be contained within the Great Repeal Bill, though it is understood that a series of possible names are under active consideration, among them the Large Yard Bill.

World Heritage at Greenwich

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Greenwich © David Gill

We took a group of students to explore different aspects of the World Heritage Site at Greenwich. The view down through the Royal Naval Hospital towards the hospital (and Canary Wharf beyond) must be one of the most stunning in the south of England.

Students were able to look at the Cutty Sark, the hospital, the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory.

Tourism in Contemporary Cities

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Greenwich © David Gill

The International Tourism Studies Association (ITSA) Biennial Conference 2016 is taking place in Greenwich this week. One of the themes is ‘Heritage tourism in cities’, with an emphasis on UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

I will be presenting an analysis of visitor figures for UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece with a special emphasis on the period of austerity. One of my strands will be the city of Athens with the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Athenian Acropolis.

Visitor attractions in UK

The Duveen Gallery at the British Museum

The Duveen Gallery at the British Museum

The latest figures for the top UK visitor attractions for 2014 have been announced (see ALVA). Top of the list is the British Museum with 6.695 million visits. Other attractions that caught my eye include the Tower of London (no. 8; 3.075 million), Greenwich Old Royal Naval College (no. 13; 1.749 million), Edinburgh Castle (no. 17; 1.480 million), Stonehenge (no. 21; 1.346 million), The Roman Baths in Bath (no. 27; 1.143 million), Fountains Abbey (no. 77; 366,150), and Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall (no. 162; 104,511). One of my favourite spots, Glenfinnan (NTS), came in at no. 212 with 20,491.

The list is demonstrating the importance of the heritage sector to the UK economy.