NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, GREENWICH ENGLAND.
The historic buildings of the National Maritime Museum, form only part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, for it also incorporates the adjoning seventeenth century Queen's House, designed by Inigo Jones, and the nearby Royal Observatory at the top of Castle Hill in Greenwich Park. There is no entrance fee to any of these three sites.
Situated in Greenwich, South East London, this marvellous museum is the leading maritime museum of the United Kingdom and more than likely the largest museum of its kind in the world.
Each one of the these three venues is full of historical interest and there is too much information to just devote one page to all three, so each venue will be dealt with seperately on their own individual page.
It owes it's existance to Sir James Caird, Baronet of Glenfarquhar, a shipowner and the principal donor in the creation of this wonderful museum, which is situated in the heart of Greenwich in south east London.
Having built a considerable fortune from his shipping interests, his love of all things Maritime led to his desire for the preservation of British naval and shipping memorials.
It was Sir James who in the 1920s, commendably contributed the largest sum of money required to undertake the repair and restoration of H.M.S. Victory, the flagship of Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.
He tirelessly, but unsuccessfully tried to save H.M.S. Implacable, the second oldest ship in the Royal Navy, (H.M.S. Victory being the oldest) which had fought side by side with the Victory at Trafalgar.
Implacable was scuttled in 1949, one hundred and forty four years after this French built 74 gun third rate ship of the line, had been captured and incorporated into the Royal Navy in 1805.
The seeds of the National Maritime Museum had been sown way back in 1910 when a desire to promote the academic field of maritime history in the United Kingdom, led to the foundation of the Society for Nautical Research.
These seeds began to germinate in 1927, when Sir James joined a board of trustees, which had been established through the Society for Nautical Research, and which would work towards establishing a foundation for the preservation of Britain's Maritime history.
When in 1933, the Royal Hospital School, historically nicknamed "The Cradle of the Navy" moved from Greenwich to Holbrook, Suffolk (John Constable country), Sir James Caird generously offered to fund the entire project of renovating the building and turning it into a museum.
An exceptional range of historical maritime artifacts were purchased, again by Sir James. He bought the A.G.H. Macpherson Collection of maritime prints, and purchased the ship models previously belonging to the Training Ship Mercury.
This Training Ship was retired, the school closing in 1968 and, I believe it is now at the Chatham Historic Dockyard, undergoing repairs and restoration to bring it back to it's original state. (For anyone interested in Maritime History, Chatham Historic Dockyard is a museum open to the public)
(As an aside : Maybe of interest to our American visitors. Did you know that the desk used by the President of the U.S.A. in the Oval Office was made in Chatham Dockyard?)
Wherever and whatever, all kinds of nautical instruments, artworks, models of ships, globes, rare books, ships compasses. Whenever these historical artifacts became available, Sir James would be there to purchase them.
The National Maritime Museum Act was passed by Parliament in 1934 and on 27th April 1937, accompanied by his daughter Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI made a journey down the River Thames, to formally open the museum to the public.
The National Maritime Museum now has the most important holdings in the world, on the history of Britain at sea. It comprises over two million items including those aquired by Sir James Caird, of maritime art (both British and 17th century Dutch), cartography, manuscripts, flags, medals, weapons, naval uniforms, ship models and plans.
Only the National Portrait Gallery Collection exceeds in size, that belonging to the National Maritime Museum, but the holdings of the National Maritime Museum which relate to Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson and Captain James Cook are unrivalled anywhere in the world.
The largest maritime historical reference library to be found anywhere in the world is housed in this museum, featuring one hundred thousand volumes of text, including fifteenth century books.
There is an active loans programme, which ensures that items from the collection can be viewed around the United Kingdom and also abroad.
The National Maritime Museum is open daily throughout the year except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
It closes early on New Years Eve but stays open late on New Years Day. Family events are held there throughout the year and there are a number of temporary exhibitions held, some of them free and others which do charge an admission fee.
It is advisable to find out more about opening times and forthcoming events by visiting the National Maritime Museum website prior to your visit.