View of Greenwich and the River Thames from Greenwich Park

(Updated January 2014). A panoramic vista with Greenwich in the foreground and London in the distance on the right. The viewpoint is from One Tree Hill in Greenwich Park, with the Royal Observatory built in 1675 on the left. From the hill an avenue of trees leads down to the white façade of the Queen's House, designed by Inigo Jones. The columns of its upper-floor loggia are just visible above the trees. There are deer grazing in the park in the foreground on the right. To the right of the Queen's House are the buildings of the still incomplete Royal Hospital for Seamen (now the Old Royal Naval College). The dome is presumably that of the Hospital's King William Court, substantially complete by 1707, with its accompanying ranges and the eastern façade of the King Charles Court to the right. However, the artist (perhaps working from prints) has misunderstood both the layout and elements of detail which are hard to square with the buildings as they exist. The Queen Mary Court, with the matching dome was only built between 1735 and 1751, after the presumed date of the painting. To the left of the Queen's House are the domestic buildings of Greenwich, with parish church of St Alfege prominent. This was built from 1712 by Hawksmoor, replacing the medieval church whose roof collapsed in 1710, the medieval tower being cased in Portland stone and a spire added by John James in 1730. Since the tower is shown in this form, the painting must date from 1730 or later. The tower of St Nicholas, Deptford, is visibly beyond. Immediately to the left of St Alfege is a house facing up Stockwell Street towards Croom's Hill, which had belonged to John Roan, who founded the local Roan charity, and which may later have become the first 'Mitre' inn. Further left, the detached villa with three dormers (originally with one more above) in the roof is a house occupied by Justice Abraham Harrison , c. 1703 -17, which stood where Burney Street now meets the foot of Crooms Hill, and the larger house with a roof turret to its left uphill is that of the Cottle family (c. 1655-1719), known to have existed by 1638 and demolished in 1837 when King George Street was formed, joining the Hill at that point.

The artist has established a scene of parkland and fine high-status buildings. The foreground on the left is wooded with figures variously occupied. Some are involved in hunting with one man on horseback and the others on foot with hounds. The River Thames, a vital national artery with its associated shipping, is visible in the middle distance on the right. Prominence has been given to the buildings of the Royal Dockyard at Deptford, with ships in reserve lying off it. The viewer's eye is led round the meandering river and towards London in the far distance. The capital's skyline consists of the towers and spires of several churches built after the Fire of London 1666 as well as The Monument, completed in 1676 as a memorial to the fire. The view is dominated by work of Sir Christopher Wren. The newly built spires of his city churches culminate in the dome of St Paul's, which echoes his earlier Greenwich dome in the foreground. Such symmetry identifies Greenwich's relationship with the capital and its significance for the nation.

The details in the painting also crucially identify Greenwich with the monarchy, Protestant faith, commerce, leisure, science and learning. Connected to London by the Thames, it identified as a place for the powerful and wealthy. After the plague and subsequent fire the king was anxious to establish a palace away from any potential danger from the crowded city. The painting thus serves to reinforce the rebirth of the monarchy and position Greenwich at the heart of the project. It has been tentatively attributed to Peter Tillemans (1684 -1734).

Object Details

ID: BHC1834
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: British School, 18th century; Tillemans, Pieter
Places: Greenwich; Greenwich Park Royal Observatory
Date made: circa 1730
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Painting: 819 mm x 1410 mm; Frame: 960 mm x 1480 mm x 105 mm

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