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Monday, 7 March 2011

The Greenwich Meridian

At the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, south London, there is a metal line set into the floor which marks the 'Prime Meridian', zero degrees longitude. Of course, this imaginary line extends beyond Greenwich and right around the planet but it seems more significant here at the 'Home of Time'.

 It is possible to stand here with one foot in the eastern hemisphere and one in the western, as I have done.
The significance of this site dates from 1884, when the Prime Meridian was defined by Sir George Biddell Airy, the seventh Astronomer Royal, as a reference point for astronomical observations and time itself.
This is a fascinating place and the whole of Greenwich is a very poplular tourist destination not only for the old observatory, beautiful Old Royal Navy College and Hospital (laid out by Wren and Hawksmoor in the 17th centuty) but also an interesting Arts and Crafts weekend market. The sad news is that formerly one could straddle the line free of charge but from today (Tuesday March 9th 2011) a charge of £10 is introduced! Perhaps I should have posted this earlier. Sorry.
The Old Royal Observatory (Photo credit:
For the information in this post I am indebted to the interesting website Tired of London, Tired of Life.


Anonymous said...

The elegant and sober Sir Tom Eagerly:
Hi Bazza, as one of my biggest fans you will be pleased to know I am back on the loose!
With satnav, of course one can find the meridian out side of Greenwich and straddle the hemispheres elsewhere for free.
Pleased to hear about young Sonny, by the way. Well done that boy!

klahanie said...

Hi bazza,
And before I commence on another one of my 'award winning' comments, I have to duly note that the illustrious and charming old chap, Sir Tom Eagerly, has graced you with his presence. Thus, may I say, welcome back, good and kind, Sir Tom :)
Right where was I? Oh yes, I have been to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and it is indeed a fascinating place, well worth a visit. When I was a little boy, I briefly lived in Blackheath and visited there on numerous occasions.
Cheers bazza.

bazza said...

Sir Tom! Welcome back. You are a legend in your own lunch-time. Did you get time off for good behaviour?
It's true one could find the meridian with satnav but not to the exact inch like in the Royal Observatory.

Gary: I'm not sure if 'graced' is the right word but Sir Tom is welcome back.
I thought you originated from BC; obviously I was wrong! Blackheath is one of my favourite parts of London.

joanne fox said...

£10 to stand on a line? What is the world coming to?! I realise it's not just any old line, but even so, we do have to eat...

Kelly said...

That would be better than cool to be able to stand over that line and be able to say that. Worthy of taking a picture and putting it into the family album. But I do hate it when places like this suddenly charge you something for an activity that was free of charge for so long. Now if it were me, I'd make a statement of protest by dropping my pants, while carefully straddling the line and dropping a load onto that same line. Of course, that might bother the authorities. :-)

Why hello, again, Sir Tom.

bazza said...

joanne and Kelly: I suppose they would say that they need to raise funds to keep the old place going. All of the major museums and art galleries in the UK are free at the moment but that will probably come to an end in the current economic climate.
Kelly, you have a unique way of leaving a sign of your disaproval!
Sir Tom should liven things up a bit!

THE SNEE said...

Now this is fun! Too bad they charge to straddle the line. It takes the fun out of spontaneously standing in two hemispheres. When I was little, we could go up to the top of the Empire State Building in NYC for free. Now, it costs $40.00.

On our way to Canada, we always pass an amusing, yet intriguing sign that says, "halfway point between equator and Arctic'". The latitude and longitude are written below.

BTW, checked out the site on London....and...I LOVE IT!

bazza said...

Snee: Hi. About twelve years ago I was on top of one of the twin towers in NYC, I don't think I paid much for that. $40 for the Empire State seems excessive though.
That London site is great and you can search for most of the popular things and lots of unusual stuff there including some out-of-the-way suburban ideas. Great for tourists and locals alike!

John said...

Hi bazza,
Ten quid! Blimey, that seems a bit excessive. The Meridian line is present at Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire and as far as I am aware it is free to visit and straddle the said line! At least it was on my visit a year ago.
Interesting post, as always, you are a font of knowledge bazza.

bazza said...

John: In their defence, I suppose they need to keep the place going and in good condition (which it certainly is).
Thanks for your kind compliment; that's how I think of your site, which I recommend to all my visitors!

Stephen Simmonds said...

Hi Bazza,

Strangely enough, I read a few days ago about someone who lived close to the meridian (outside London): he had lived in one hemisphere and crossed to the other hemisphere to go to school. For rather less than ten pounds, too.

You may be interested to know that I finished the post on the Biltmore Library, adding the link to a blog that has a great set of photos.

Strangely enough, soon after I started obsessing about it, I found that an associate had a conference planned for the Biltmore Estate this month - on my birthday, too!

bazza said...

Hello Stephen. I thought there might be more to come on your last post as it stopped in mid-sentence!
I will visit again in a moment.
Are you going to that conference?
Have a great Birthday anyway.

Rob said...

I've been there a couple of times. I think I took someone's photo standing on that metal line.
This week it was featured on Brian Cox's documentary.

bazza said...

Hello Rob, it's always good to hear from you.
I don't know about the documentary you refer to; perhaps he got the idea from me, just as I got it from elsewhere as descibed at the bottom of the post!

Meg Rosoff said...

It'll probably go up to £2012 for the Olympics. Can't wait.

bazza said...

Hi Meg. I hadn't thought of that. They may have an eye on all the rich tourists coming to London for the Olympics. They will need to be rich to afford the stadium tickets.
By using the Streetmap website one could mark one's own Merdian line and undercut Greenwich! Possibly.