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Maritime Greenwich: A World Heritage Site

A World Heritage Site

What is a World Heritage Site?

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A World Heritage Site (WHS) is a monument, building, area or landscape that is recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as being 'of outstanding universal value'.

There are more than 500 such sites in over 100 countries.

Royal Naval College and the Queen's House from the Thames.
View full size image Old Royal Naval College and the Queen's House from the Thames. © NMM

World Heritage status emphasises:

  • the importance of a site
  • the need for a site's informed management
  • the need for a site's long-term care and enhancement.

This is supported by a Management Plan to ensure that future generations will continue to benefit from it. Only national governments can apply for WHS status and there is a strict assessment process before it is granted.

'Maritime Greenwich' became the United Kingdom's fifteenth World Heritage Site in December 1997. Others include Stonehenge, Hadrian's Wall, Durham and Canterbury Cathedrals, the City of Bath, and Edinburgh Old and New Towns. In London, the Tower of London and Westminster are also World Heritage Sites.

What is 'Maritime Greenwich'?

Greenwich Market.
View full size imageGreenwich market. © NMM
'Maritime Greenwich' consists of a unique historical and architectural landscape in and around London's oldest Royal Park.

It includes:

  • the Old Royal Naval College
  • the National Maritime Museum
  • the 17th-century Queen's House
  • the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
  • Greenwich town centre.

Alongside this is the importance of historic Greenwich – its major buildings and their uses - to maritime history and science.

Navigation and the Royal Navy were central to the Britain's development as a world-wide sea-trading and imperial power between the 18th and mid-20th centuries. 'Maritime Greenwich' is mostly concerned with these subjects.

Maritime Greenwich's key features are:

  • The Queen's House.
    View full size imageThe Queen's House. © NMM
    the 17th-century Queen's House - the first purely classical building in England, now part of the National Maritime Museum
  • the Old Royal Naval College - designed by Sir Christopher Wren, which formerly housed invalid sailors from Britain's naval wars as the Royal Hospital for Seamen (1705–1869), before becoming the Navy's advanced training college from 1873 to 1998
  • the Royal Observatory - Britain's first purpose-built scientific establishment and 'home' of Longitude 0° and Greenwich Mean Time. The Observatory played a key role in the improvement of navigation, world time-keeping and astronomy from 1676 until the Second World War. It is now part of the National Maritime Museum
  • Stern of the Cutty Sark.
    View full size imageCutty Sark at Greenwich. © NMM
    the National Maritime Museum - occupying fine 19th-century buildings attached to the Queen's House. This is the world's leading museum in its field with superb collections relating to all aspects of Britain at sea, and to many other aspects of European seafaring
  • the Cutty Sark (1869) - preserved at Greenwich, is the world's only surviving tea-clipper. It commemorates the trading side of the Age of Sail
  • Greenwich town centre - this features the fine 18th-century church of St Alfege and also an exceptional number of shops and houses dating from the late 17th-century onwards. It also includes an almost complete late-Georgian shopping and market area.

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