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Grand axis

The Grand Axis

Attribute 3

The success of the composition at Greenwich was extended by Hawksmoor across the River Thames to the north as far as the tower of his church of St Anne at Limehouse. Unfortunately, visibility of this monumental piece of civic design has been lost. Despite the early buildings of Canary Wharf being located ‘off-axis’, later buildings obscure the vista of St Anne’s and no specific landmark has been introduced to take its place.

The 19th century church of All Saints on Blackheath was constructed so that its spire recognises and enhances the Grand Axis to the south. The dominance of this element remains and the vista along Blackheath Avenue, flanked by the chestnut trees on both sides, still forms a major part of the overall composition.

The symmetry is emphasised at local level by the fine gates to the Old Royal Naval College, including Watergate, and the National Maritime Museum with its building layouts lying on the axis. This is further punctuated by the statue of General Wolfe erected in 1930 on the same centreline, at the edge of the scarp looking over the ‘oxbow’ of the Thames. Wolfe is buried in the crypt of St Alfege. Although small from a distance, the statue also forms an important part of the composition seen from lower Grand Square in the Old Royal Naval College. The statue of George II (by Rysbrack, 1735) in the centre of Grand Square further reinforces the axis.

There are opportunities with further development on Canary Wharf to resurrect the relationship of the new buildings there with the Grand Axis. The vistas (north and south) from the scarp at the Wolfe statue are as significant as the view to it from Island Gardens.

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