Greenwich, London Borough Genealogy

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Guide to London Borough of Greenwich history, family history, and genealogy: parish registers, census records, birth records, marriage records, and death records.

Greenwich town.jpg

History[edit | edit source]

Borough of Greenwich coat of arms
Greenwich Borough location in Greater London
Logo of Greenwich Borough

As with most of the other London Boroughs, the British Government action of 1965 destroyed all traces of the original settlements from the point of view of Family History. Researchers should instead consider researching Redbridge in its original county of Kent.

The place-name 'Greenwich' is first attested in a Saxon charter of 918, where it appears as Gronewic. It is recorded as Grenewic in 964, and as Grenawic in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1013. It is Grenviz in the Domesday Book of 1086, and Grenewych in the Taxatio Ecclesiastica of 1291. The name means 'green wic or settlement' (from the Latin 'vicus').

The settlement later became known as East Greenwich to distinguish it from West Greenwich or Deptford Strond, the part of Deptford adjacent to the Thames, but the use of East Greenwich to mean the whole of the town of Greenwich died out in the 19th century. However, Greenwich was divided into the registration subdistricts of Greenwich East and Greenwich West from the beginning of civil registration in 1837, the boundary running down what is now Greenwich Church Street and Crooms Hill, although more modern references to "East" and "West" Greenwich probably refer to the areas east and west of the Royal Naval College and National Maritime Museum corresponding with the West Greenwich council ward.

Tumuli to the south-west of Flamsteed House, in Greenwich Park, are thought to be early Bronze Age barrows re-used by the Saxons in the 6th century as burial grounds. To the east between the Vanbrugh and Maze Hill Gates is the site of a Roman villa or temple. A small area of red paving tesserae protected by railings marks the spot. It was excavated in 1902 and 300 coins were found dating from the emperors Claudius and Honorius to the 5th century. This was excavated by the Channel 4 television programme Time Team in 1999, broadcast in 2000, and further investigations were made by the same group in 2003.

The Roman road from London to Dover, Watling Street crossed the high ground to the south of Greenwich, through Blackheath. This followed the line of an earlier Celtic route from Canterbury to St Albans.[16] As late as Henry V, Greenwich was only a fishing town, with a safe anchorage in the river.

During the reign of Ethelred the Unready, the Danish fleet anchored in the River Thames off Greenwich for over three years, with the army being encamped on the hill above. From here they attacked Kent and, in the year 1012, took the city of Canterbury, making Archbishop Alphege their prisoner for seven months in their camp at Greenwich, at that time within the county of Kent. They stoned him to death for his refusal to allow his ransom (3,000 pieces of silver) to be paid; and kept his body, until the blossoming of a stick that had been immersed in his blood. For this miracle his body was released to his followers, he achieved sainthood for his martyrdom and, in the 12th century, the parish church was dedicated to him. The present church on the site west of the town centre is St Alfege's Church, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1714 and completed in 1718. Some vestiges of the Danish camps may be traced in the names of Eastcombe and Westcombe, on the borders of nearby Blackheath.

The Domesday Book records the manor of Grenviz in the hundred of Grenviz as held by Bishop Odo of Bayeux; his lands were seized by the crown in 1082. The name of the hundred was changed to Blackheath when the site of the hundred court was moved there in the 12th century. A royal palace, or hunting lodge, has existed here since before 1300, when Edward I is known to have made offerings at the chapel of the Virgin Mary.

Subsequent monarchs were regular visitors, with Henry IV making his will here, and Henry V granting the manor (for life) to Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, who died at Greenwich in 1426. The palace was created by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, Henry V's half-brother and the regent to Henry VI in 1447; he enclosed the park and erected a tower on the hill now occupied by the Royal Observatory. It was renamed the Palace of Placentia or Pleasaunce by Henry VI's consort Margaret of Anjou after Humphrey's death. The palace was completed and further enlarged by Edward IV, and in 1466 it was granted to his queen, Elizabeth.

Ultimately it was because the palace and its grounds were a royal possession that it was chosen as the site for Charles II's Royal Observatory, from which stemmed Greenwich's subsequent global role as originator of the modern Prime Meridian.

The palace was the principal residence of Henry VII whose sons Henry (later Henry VIII) and Edmund Tudor were born here, and baptised in St Alphege's. Henry favoured Greenwich over nearby Eltham Palace, the former principal royal palace. He extended Greenwich Palace and it became his principal London seat until Whitehall Palace was built in the 1530s. Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves at Greenwich, and both Mary (18 February 1516) and Elizabeth (7 September 1533) were born at Greenwich. His son Edward VI also died there at age 15.

The palace of Placentia, in turn, became Elizabeth's favourite summer residence. Both she and her sister Mary I used the palace extensively, and Elizabeth's Council planned the Spanish Armada campaign there in 1588.

Subsequent monarchs visited the area regularly, and Greenwich was to come to be known as Royal Greenwich.

Queen Victoria rarely visited Greenwich but in 1845 her husband Prince Albert personally bought Nelson's Trafalgar coat for the Naval Gallery.

In 1838 the London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR) completed the very first steam railway in London. It started at London Bridge and had its terminus at London Street (now Greenwich High Road). It was also the first to be built specifically for passengers, and the first ever elevated railway, having 878 arches over its almost four mile stretch. In 1853 the local Scottish Presbyterian community built a church close by. The church was extended twice in the 1860s during the ministry of the increasingly well known Dr Adolph Saphir, eventually accommodating a thousand worshippers.

In 1864 opposite the railway terminus, theatrical entrepreneur Sefton Parry built the thousand seater New Greenwich Theatre.[21] William Morton was one of its more successful managers. The theatre was demolished in 1937 to make way for a new Town Hall, now a listed building under new ownership and renamed Meridian House.

George V and Queen Mary both supported the creation of the National Maritime Museum in Greewnwich, and Mary presented the museum with many items.

The Prince Albert, Duke of York (later George VI), laid the foundation stone of the new Royal Hospital School when it moved out to Holbrook, Suffolk. In 1937 his first public act as king (three weeks before coronation) was to open the National Maritime Museum in the buildings vacated by the school. The king was accompanied by his mother Queen Mary, his wife Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) and the Princess Elizabeth (now Elizabeth II.)

Princess Elizabeth and her consort Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (who was ennobled Baron Greenwich on marriage in 1947) made their first public and official visit to Greenwich in 1948 to receive the Freedom of the Borough for Philip. In the same year, he became a trustee of the National Maritime Museum. Philip, now the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was a trustee for 52 years until 2000, when he became its first patron. The Duke of Edinburgh has also been a patron of the Cutty Sark (which was opened by the Queen in 1957) since 1952.

During the Silver Jubilee of 1977, the Queen embarked at Greenwich for the Jubilee River Pageant. In 1987, Her Majesty was aboard the P&O ship Pacific Princess when it moored alongside the Old Royal Naval College for the company's 150th anniversary celebrations.

To mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, it was announced on 5 January 2010 that on 3 February 2012 the London Borough of Greenwich would become the fourth to have Royal Borough status, the others being the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. The status was granted in recognition of the borough's historic links with the Royal Family, the location of the Prime Meridian and its being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [1]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries (Civil)[edit | edit source]

Charlton Cemetery
Cemetery Lane
Charlton, SE7 8DZ
Phone: 020 8856 0100

Plumstead Cemetery
Cemetery Road, (off Wickham Lane)
Abbey Wood, SE2 0NS
Phone: 020 8856 0100

Eltham Cemetery and Crematorium
Crown Woods Way
Eltham, SE9 2RF
Phone: 020 8856 0100

Woolwich Cemetery
Kings Highway
Plumstead SE18 2DS
Phone: 020 8856 0100

Greenwich Cemetery
(Shooters Hill) Well Hall Road
Eltham, SE9 6UA
Phone: 020 8856 0100

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Parishes[edit | edit source]

St Alfege
Church address:
Greenwich Church St
London SE10 9BJ
Phone: +44 20 8853 0687

Christ Church, East Greenwich
Church address:
179 Trafalgar Rd
London SE10 9EQ
Phone: +44 20 8853 3235

St John's Blackheath
Church address:
Stratheden Rd
Blackheath, London SE3 7TH
Phone: +44 20 8305 0520

St Nicholas'
Church address:
Deptford Green
L London SE8 3DQ
Phone: +44 20 8692 2749

Grace Church
Church address:
King William Court
Old Royal Naval College
London SE10 9NN
Phone: +44 20 8692 5763

Non Conformists[edit | edit source]

Other Christian and non-christian groups follow:

  • Baptist
  • Christ Church
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  • Emmanuel Church
  • First Church of Christ Scientist
  • Ichthus Christian Fellowship
  • Jehovah's Witness
  • Methodist
  • Presbyterian
  • Roman Catholic
  • Seventh Day Adventist
  • Unitarian

Non Christian groups that meet regularly in Bournemouth include:

  • Buddhist
  • Hindu
  • Jewish
  • Muslim
  • Sikh

Civil Registration[edit | edit source]

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the UK government, from July 1837 to the present day.

Greewnwich has its own registry office. Information follows:

Greenwich Register Office
Woolwich Town Hall
Wellington Street
Woolwich SE18 6PW
Phone: 020 8921 5015

Other web sources for BMD information follow:

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Occupations[edit | edit source]

Greenwich is one of the largest of the 33 London Boroughs with an area of 5,044 hectares, has 13 kilometres of Thames frontage and is one of 12 boroughs that make up the London Thames Gateway, the UK’s largest regeneration area. The borough has a rich heritage set in its maritime and military past, largely associated with the river and more recently as an industrial center at the Royal Arsenal. Woolwich served as a royal dock for 350 years, and was one of the world’s largest centers for arms manufacture. The dockyard and arms manufacture provides major employment for the local population.

Tourism is becoming an increasingly important factor in Greenwich's economy. In 2015, 18.5 million people are expected to visit the borough for a day or more, generating over £1.2 billion; this figure is expected to increase by more than 25% by 2018. Evidence of the tourism boom includes the construction of a 452-room InterContinental Hotel near the O2 Arena (opened in 2015) and London's first cruise ship terminal, at Enderby Wharf (opened 2017). Apart from the many museums and historic buildings in Greenwich town and Greenwich Park, the main tourist attractions are: the Cutty Sark, The O2 Arena, Emirates Air Line (cable car), Eltham Palace (which expected over 100,000 visitors in 2015), Charlton House and the Thames Barrier. In addition, the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich is starting to promote itself as a tourist attraction. [2]

Greenwich has major opportunities for employment in the construction industry. The Council has granted planning permission for over 15,000 new homes in the past five years, with around 35% being affordable homes. Having delivered over 12,000 new homes since 2001, planning permissions are already in place for a further 18,000 new homes to be built in the next decade and capacity exists for further new housing proposals to come forward at strategic development locations such as Charlton Riverside.

Townships within the Borough also offer significant employment opportunities:

  • Woolwich is a famous historic town and has tremendous potential to once again become a thriving center. It has an exceptional setting on the Thames with a stunning historic legacy of high quality buildings and is benefiting from major new transport infrastructure.
  • Charlton Riverside is an Opportunity Area identified for intensification for mixed use development and with significant capacity for jobs and new homes. Charlton Riverside has potential to accommodate an exemplary new urban district, demonstrating the highest standards of design quality and sustainability and opening up a new section of the river bank as an attractive public space.
  • Greenwich Peninsula remains largely undeveloped with a significant derelict area to the West of the Peninsula which has been held back by two century-old factors: the remnants of its industrial history and the southern approach to Blackwall tunnel. The huge potential of the site lies in its riverside location with spectacular views to the west over Canary Wharf and Greenwich, with its World Heritage site.
  • Eltham needs to realize its potential to offer a th Eltham riving town centrelocation known for its retail and leisure offer combined with the rich history of Eltham Palace and its surrounds. [3]

Societies[edit | edit source]

Archives[edit | edit source]

Web Sites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Greenwich" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,, accessed 26 June, 2018.
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Royal Borough of Greenwich" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,, accessed 24 June, 2018.
  3. Hays Group analysis of the Greewich Borough opportunities,, accessed 1 July, 2018.