If you missed the latest consultation days about the proposed pedestrianisation of the town centre last week, you still have time to have your two penn’orth online at the Council website. Personally, I don’t totally object to the plans. They will inconvenience a few, admittedly, but not nearly as many as are currently inconvenienced. I know that not everyone agrees with me from the heated language in the air when I went to Devonport House to see what was suggested this time but hey – I think they’ve done their best with a difficult remit and in general I support the idea.
What might be good would be if they had a trial period where they just cone-off the areas suggested, to see how it works before actually committing to the changes – it would be utterly crazy traffic chaos for a bit, but at least not permanent in case it’s a total disaster.
But that’s not what I’m posting about today.
There was another consultation going on at the same time, which didn’t seem to be getting so much attention as the roads (for obvious reasons), but which could have a significant effect on the centre of Greenwich.
It’s about what to do with the (small) pot of cash the council have to try to make Cutty Sark Gardens less of an eyesore. It seems mainly to consist of – well, of putting in some gardens, actually (at the moment it’s the worst misnomer in town – neither Cutty Sark NOR gardens to be seen at Cutty Sark Gardens) which gets two Phantom thumbs-up – anything that will provide green, shade and even a little moving water (couldn’t work out if the water feature was a pond or something more) plus some shelter from the howling gales in winter seems like a good thing to me.
I understand that at least one of the restaurants on the new pier is to be a chain (Zizzi) which is a bit ho-hum but even just finishing that bloomin’ pier now would be a plus.
But what really excited me was chatting to one of the chaps working on the project, where he told me that next month (maybe this month now – we’re in July now) they begin an archaeological dig underneath the car park underneath Cutty Sark Gardens. This came as a big surprise to me – I hadn’t any idea that they were planning anything like that, but presumably it’s a legal obligation or something these days.
I was even more surprised when he told me what they were looking for. Vikings. They may well find things above the Vikings - the ancient high street passes right through the site - but the Holy Grail (or unholy grail, I guess, unless you’re an Odinist) is Dark Age-ery. He told me that there were 45 long-ships moored at Greenwich for a while.
FORTY FIVE? Blimey.
I don’t know whether that number is in the Anglo-Saxon chronicles. Julian Watson tells me he’s not seen the figure before, but confirms the chronicle does imply that the fleet were at Greenwich 1011-1016, though whether that was constant or not isn’t clear. But then the Anglo Saxon Chronicles aren’t known for their crystal clarity. Apparently they’re pretty vague about Greenwich all-round. It doesn’t even say that Alfege was murdered here but Julian tells me a near contemporary biography of him does. And according to Michael Wood, whose heart, despite his branching out into the likes of India, Shakespeare and Troy, still lies with the Dark Ages, the the site of the martyrdom would be exact - details like that were really important to people then.
I asked the guy at the consultation what specifically he hoped to find. He smiled and said that as a planner, it would be most convenient to just find a handful of coins or a belt buckle, then quickly cover it all up again. But the twinkle in his eye said that as a Greenwichian, a long boat would be spectacular. I agree. Forty five long-boats might be a bit inconvenient though…
Why isn’t Greenwich Council shouting about this from the rooftops? I’ve heard nothing at all about this dig (and the knock-on effects for the car park, I guess.) The guy told me that the Museum of London Archaeological Service (MOLAS) like working with the council because they do things right now (as opposed to previous decades) so why aren’t they telling us this as a good news story – I mean god knows, they need one.
I can’t find anything about it on the MOLAS website, either, but while I was trying to find out anything at all about this, I did discover a drawing of how they think the Greenwich Tide Mill would have looked…