Monday, February 27, 2006

Who owns South London?: 1. Greenwich Market

Recent concerns about a threat to demolish Greenwich covered market has brought to light who actually owns this piece of land. It appears that it is owned by The Greenwich Hospital Charity- but what is this charity? The name is confusing - the charity has nothing to do with providing modern health services. It is in fact a relic of the body set up to run the Royal Naval Hospital for Seamen in the 18th century. The hospital has been closed since 1869, the buildings subsequently housing the Royal Naval College and now the University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music.

The remaining charity is now effectively a property company, owning most of the centre of Greenwich, including the freehold on the old hospital buildings. Its main charitable work is running a boarding school! Furthermore, whereas most charities have a board of trustees, the sole trustee of the Greenwich Hospital Charity is the
Secretary of State for Defence. Its Royal Patron is the Duke of York. The royal and miltary interests that once dominated Greenwich might appear to have lost their influence, but seemingly not when it comes to the question of land ownership.

It appears that the market is safe for the time being, but we will be returning to the mysteries of 'who owns South London?'.


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