A look at the Greenwich area's literary history


From print to screen, the Greenwich area - and even our campus - has played backdrop to some pretty well-known stories.

Did you know that the local area has some interesting connections with storytelling?

Here’s a few examples...

To start with Shakespeare himself, it’s rumoured that the first-ever performance of “The Comedy of Errors” took place at the Royal Palace of Placentia - now the site of the Old Royal Naval College and home to the University’s Greenwich Campus - in 1594.

Fast-forward to the (relative) modernity of the early 20th century and Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Agent" - considered by some to be one of the writer’s best works - puts the Royal Observatory, in Greenwich Park, centre-stage when it becomes the target of an anarchist plot. Written several decades later, T.S. Eliot's 1922 "The Waste Land" - one of the 20th century’s most important poems - mentions Greenwich and the river.

As to more things theatrical, Jonathan Harvey's 1990s play, "Beautiful Thing" is set in Thamesmead (in the Royal Borough of Greenwich) but Greenwich features as a key location when the play’s teenage characters travel to Greenwich and visit the ‘Gloucester’ (today, the Greenwich Tavern).

The University itself - in both its previous and current forms - hasn't escaped the attention of writers. Greenwich alumna, and award-winning author, Nina Stibbe's 2013 memoir, "Love, Nina," is an amusing account of the writer’s time in the 1980s studying English at Thames Polytechnic, since incorporated into the University of Greenwich.

Move the action to the 21st century - and the focus to the campus of today - and "Francis Plug: Writer in Residence" is a comic tale by writer Paul Ewen. It follows the life of a (fictional) writer-in-residence working at the University! Featuring cameo appearances from actual members of staff, the novel serves up a slightly surreal story with plenty of laughs.

And, of course, you’re likely to have seen the University's Greenwich campus on your TV screens, though you possibly didn’t realise it! The site has served as a backdrop for numerous movies and TV shows including Gulliver’s Travels (2010); Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (2011); James Bond: Skyfall (2012); Les Misérables (2012); Now You See Me 2 (2016); The Crown (2016 -); Enola Holmes (2020); Bridgerton (2020 -).

It all goes to show that the Greenwich area has been - and still is - a hot and happening place!