View of the Altazimuth Building and Library at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

A view looking north from the South Building of the Observatory, in the 1950s, with the 19th-century Library block on the right. The parapet over the south door of the Altazimuth Building (1899) originally had the same decorative terracotta capping that still exists on the north end, but this was lost to a Second World War bomb which exploded on the south side and damaged both buildings more generally. When repaired, the parapet was simply remade in plain brick, as depicted here. The Library did not long survive the final relocation of the Observatory's scientific functions to Herstmonceux, Sussex, mainly in 1953-54 though they were only finally clear of the South Building by April 1957, and it was demolished soon afterwards as part of the National Maritime Museum's conversion of the site to museum purposes.

In the early 1950s, the artist Glyn (Owen) Jones was involved reconstructing Thornhill's trompe l'oeil ceiling decoration above the altar at St Alfege, Greenwich. He was subsequently allowed what became eventually over a year's use of empty space in the South Building of the Observatory (June 1956-July 1957), to paint a series of mural canvases for Trinity House as part of its restoration after wartime bombing, another project masterminded by Richardson and his partner E.A.S. Houfe: the main installation of these was in March 1957, though Jones was still working in the South Building in April after the RGO had finally left it. Its use as a studio was courtesy of Richard Woolley, as Astronomer Royal, and involved extension of the original six months (June to November 1956), when this proved too short. This picture – really an oil study – was presented by Jones as a token of thanks to the RGO that November after Woolley allowed an initial three months extension, though he subsequently said Jones could remain until his work was completed, which appears to have been to July 1957, when he moved his final Trinity House pieces up there on the 18th. Woolley acknowledged receipt of this study in a note of thanks from Herstmonceux dated 13 December, still in Jones's extensive papers (family collection). It is one of the items inherited and returned to Greenwich from the RGO organization on its closure in 1998 and is signed by the artist and month/year dated in red capitals, on two lines, lower right. The month date is either May or 'Nov' and the year either '51', '54' or possibly '56', but largely obscured by the fabric-covered fillet mount set inside what is probably an earlier gilt frame. The trees are bare, which may suggest it is a bright autumn (November) view.

Object Details

ID: ZBA1800
Collection: Fine art
Type: Oil Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Jones, Glyn (Owen); Jones, Glynn O. Jones, Glynn Owen
Date made: early 20th century; circa 1950 circa 1950 -53 1951-54 1951 - 56
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Overall: 540 mm x 435 mm

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