Park Vista Plaques

For a short street, Park Row manages to pack in a lot of history. Probably because it skirts the park (natch) it still has curious buildings – from the fab Plume of Feathers to the very very curious jumble of periods and styles that house what I believe to be the oldest building in Greenwich and the vicarage.

With ancient buildings come strange decorations, and Park Row has its fair share of them – not all of which are particularly old.

Take the splendid fellow above, for example – when Benedict sent him to me, I had never actually spotted him before, my head always turning away from the – what – 1980s? – flats and towards the more intriguing, dark and mysterious Dwarf Orchard. There’s something very deco-y about it – but I have no idea what on earth inspired a plaque with an Ancient Greek warrior in Park Row. Any clues?

Talking of that mysterious orchard, our Ancient Greek soldier has a sort of mythological friend opposite him, albeit ‘Roman.’ Or is he Celtic? My money would be on the Roman god Neptune, as he looks to date from the same sort of time as the Royal Naval College – mid-late Victorian? (I don’t actually know, of course…) but I guess the whole park/foresty/conduity thing might imply a Green Man.

I’ve seen pictures of this guy (or someone who looks very much like him) peddled on the net as being the one down in Jack Cades Cavern – it’s said there is a carving of a head down there – though given the place hasn’t been opened for about 60 years, I’m doubtful the photo’s actually of this chap’s twin. Surely any pictures taken from the cavern would be somehow more ‘official?’ I’m guessing that this head is the one in the pictures.

Moving on, we come to the extraordinary collection of buildings and periods that is the vicarage (is it all the vicarage? I’m sure someone can tell me…) Sorry about the rubbish pics from now on, btw – anyone who knows me will tell you my photography ain’t gonna win any prizes…

There are two curious items on here. The first is truly glorious, and, according to my New Best Friend, the Rev. L’Estrange, dates back to Henry VII (whose chapel was uncovered a couple of years back, looked at by a few archaeologists before being turned into a car park; I’m still smarting from that one…) It’s a fabulous coat of arms, clearly from A Long Time AgoTM.

The good reverend doesn’t know who lived in this little Tudor house – and nor, frankly, do I, though we both have different theories. He suggests that it was either the house of the Master of the Horse, because it’s so close to the old tiltyard, or that it was the cook’s gaff.

I’ve heard (and, annoyingly, I can’t remember where) that this was a conduit house that received the water from all the pipes in the park. A much less romantic notion, of course, so let’s go with the Master-of-the-Horse suggestion. History is not always about reality…

The Reverend L’E. seems to think this plaque would have originally have been over the main gate to the palace. Apparently when he was writing his history of Greenwich in 1886, the carving had only just been revealed – the current vicar (the Rev. Brooke Lambert) cut that rather fetching curve in the outer wall so people could see it. What a kind chap.

There’s one other little decoration which is also fun. The carved floral wreath on the wall to the right as you look at the building. It was discovered in one of the cellars of the vicarage and (presumably by the same vicar who cut a hole in the wall) displayed for all to enjoy. My NBF tells me it’s Elizabethan.

One Comment to “Park Vista Plaques”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is Old Father Thames at Lechlade.

    He also features on numerous keystones on the walls along the river in Central London. The stone in the wall looks like one of these which has been removed. Here are some examples.

    OFT is a river god, which have been represented since at least Roman times as bearded old men.