GREENWICH, England – This beautiful little village on the south bank of the Thames River can trace its history back more than 3,000 years, when Celtic tribes came across the English Channel from Europe and established a rudimentary port here.
And in 55 B.C., Roman Gen. Julius Caesar invaded England, turned into into one of his far-flung colonies, and had his architects and engineers build a villa or temple on a site in Greenwich that today is known as Maze Hill.
But my wife, Ludie, and I, who had not visited this UN World Heritage City in at least 15 years, were interested in exploring more recent history when we traveled to Greenwich by slow boat, a 35-minute, six-mile ride from London along the meandering Thames.
Our first stop was the Royal Observatory, the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Greenwich Median which marks the point where longitude starts. Additionally, the Median marks the dividing line between the eastern and western hemispheres.
At precisely 1 p.m. daily, a ball that was installed in 1831 dramatically drops from the observatory’s high ceiling to signal to the world what the GMT is at that very moment.
The GMT recorded by the ball is used internationally, and GMT is a world-wide reference of hours and half-hours “ahead of GMT” or “behind GMT.”
We also came to Greenwich to see its port, from which British Adm. Lord Richard Howe’s ships sailed to North America in 1777 in a futile effort to put down the American rebellion.
But our favorite moment was to re-visit Nevada Street.
That’s right. There’s a Nevada Street in Greenwich, England.
Nevada Street begins near Croon’s Hill in central Greenwich, and the first building one comes upon is the Greenwich Fan Museum, the only fan museum in the world. Here are displayed more than 4,000 fans, some of them inlaid with gold and silver and dating to the 11th century.
Nevada Street contains four houses, two of them dating to the mid-1770s, as well as:
The aptly-named Greenwich Theater. Built in 1895, it serves as a movie house and a place where plays are performed including those of Shakespeare, Chekov, and Genet. Susannah York and Vivian Merchant have starred in some of these, and Oscar-winning film star Helen Mirren is a theater patron.
Oliver’s Wine and Jazz Bar is one of Nevada Street’s favorite spots. Tucked away in a tiny basement accessible by a rickety flight of narrow stairs, Oliver’s features English and European musical groups and daytime jazz sessions.
Across the street from Oliver’s is the 200-year-old Spread Eagle Tavern and Heap’s Sausage Shop which advertises “Gourmet Sausages Made on the Premises.”
Another shop has a bicycle in the window and a sign that says “Mike the Bicycle Repairman.” Further down Nevada Street is a fish and chips shop, another bar named “Ye Olde Rose and Crown,” and the Nevada Street Deli that serves delicious mushroom, carrot and tomato salads, roasted vegetables and smoked salmon.
At the foot of Nevada Street, where it ends and merges with Greenwich Park, lies the street’s most prominent attraction: A 15-foot, 20-ton statue of King William 1V, who ruled Britain from 1830 until his death in 1837 at the age of 71.
Carved in granite in 1844 by British sculptor Samuel Nixon, the statue portrays King William, who saw service as a young naval officer in America before the Revolutionary War, holding a telescope and wearing the full dress uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet.
A son of King George lll, who ruled during the American Revolution and later went insane, King William 1V was known as the ‘”sailor king” and was popular with his subjects.
But he is best known for his personal indiscretions:
William fathered 11 illegitimate children before he became king, one by a mistress whose name is unknown, and 10 by another mistress, a stage actress named Dorothy Jordan.
Before he ascended the throne, William also married. His wife, half his age, was named Adelaide Saxe-Meiningen, and she was a princess of a minor German duchy.
Because William had no heirs (Adelaide lost three children in infancy), he was succeeded to the throne following his death in 1837 by his cousin, Victoria. She reigned until her death in 1901, and her rule is the longest of any British monarch. Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, had nine children, all of them legitimate.
No one here knows how Nevada Street got its name. It was originally named Silver Street and renamed Nevada Street in the early 1900s.
No matter. Nevada Street is rich in history and there’s a lot to see and do here.
By the way, I’ve learned that there’s a short street in London named Nevada Court. I hope to visit it on my next trip here.
David. C. Henley is Publisher Emeritus of the LVN.