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National Maritime Museum, London


The National Maritime Museum has around two million items relating to maritime history. Collections range from charts and maps, to ship plans and models, figureheads, coins, uniforms, historic photographs, flags, and time keepers. The collection of time keepers and navigation equipment is particularly apt at Greenwich. In pre Sat Nav days, a ship's position north to south could by judged by observation of the sun or stars, but working out a position east to west was much more difficult. On Flamsteed Hill above the museum lies the Royal Observatory, where astronomers spent years plotting movements of moon and stars, in an attempt to help navigators with this problem. Eventually it was the invention of a clock able to keep time at sea that allowed ships to plot their positions east or west of a home port. It was decided that the standard "home port" for the production of charts should be Greenwich, and that all ships would plot their position east or west of a prime meridian which would run through Greenwich.






The stern of HMS Implacable - a row of terraced houses.

If Greenwich is the world's home port, the museum also shows the poignant way in which sailors have always tried to take their homes with them around the world. Marine architecture tends to follow land based architecture. The stern sections of eighteenth and nineteenth century Royal Navy ships are reminiscent of Georgian terraced streets in London, Bath or Brighton. As Captain Jack Aubrey says in Master and Commander: " though we be on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship is England."

Ship design bears out Aubrey's words. Today cruise liners increasingly mimic the hotels and shopping malls that people are used to back home. Ships are little national communities, and reveal much about the societies that made them.

Greenwich as a whole is fascinating from the point of view of maritime history. The Old Royal Naval College and the tea clipper Cutty Sark are close to the museum.

Two restaurants offer refreshments.



Opening Times: Please use contact details below.

The Caird Library is dedicated to maritime literature and documents. Identification is required for entry to the library.

Address: The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF

Directions: Car parking is difficult, so it is best to use public transport if possible. The Docklands Railway runs to Island Gardens, where there is a foot tunnel which takes you to Greenwich. Alternatively there are regular river boat sailings from central London. This is a great way to get to Greenwich. Go to for details of sailings. Click on "River". Click here for an interactive map centred on the Queen's House and National Maritime Museum.

Access: All galleries are accessible to wheelchair users. Parking for disabled visitors can be booked in the car park. Telephone 020 8312 6608 giving at least twenty four hours notice. Also use this number to book touch tours.


telephone: 020 8858 4422

information line: 020 8312 6565

web site:


e-mail: library@








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