When I used to come to Greenwich in the Eighties, I used to think it odd that you could look out of the window of a third storey council flat and see the masts of the Cutty Sark jutting into the sky.Also, the former ocean going clipper was in “dry dock”, so you could walk around it as you would a museum piece or a playground attraction. As a child you could have your very own larger than life boat to play with. I guess that is London for you: historic monuments dotted in amongst a mix of social housing.
What’s in a Name?
I had been to Greenwich previously and seen for the first time that which I had only previously heard about. And the phrase “Cutty Sark”, sounding like a foreign dialect, is a name that sticks… What was that, “Cutty’s Ark”? Cutty Shark? And that strange phrase floated there for a while rather like a bottle, bobbing up and down on the sea, waiting to be grounded on some foreign shore.
When I saw the vessel for the first time, “phrase” and “ship” finally became one, rather like sticking the label on a bare bottle of Cutty Sark whisky.
The name “Cutty Sark” refers to a witch, in the poem Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns, who ran like the wind to catch Tam’s horse, which may partly explain the name for the clipper since she was built for speed.
She is also represented by the figurehead, at the bow of the ship. Here she wears a “short undergarment” which is the original meaning of the phrase “Cutty Sark”.
Who or What Really Caused the Fire?
The outbreak of fire which caused so much damage in 2007 was thought to be caused by an electrical fault in a vacuum cleaner. Machines seem to get more than their fair share of blame.
As far as I know nobody has pointed the finger at the witch, Nannie Dee for the fire of May 2007.The figurehead which represents her is, as far as I am aware undamaged, and she has history, as pointed out by Robert Burns: “For many a beast to dead she shot, And perished many a boat”. Perhaps she resented the intrusion in the same way she objected to Tam O’Shanter all those years ago. Boozed-up Tam (whilst his long suffering wife waits for him) gets carried away by the sight of “a winsome jolly wench”, dancing with the other witches and calls out: “Weel done, Cutty-sark!” And this serves as the basis for a moral tale of the time. Is there a moral tale for the present?
Importance of Tea
The Clipper Cutty Sark was involved in the glorious tea races of the 19th Century to be the first back to England from china with the season’s crop. The winner received prestige and extra money whilst the tea drinkers’ wait time was down to 3 months. The modern tea drinker, has to have a tea bag because he can’t be bothered to wait for loose leaves to brew.
Greenwich wedding photography and the Cutty Sark
I don’t know if this shot is possible at the moment with the renovations going on but it is a shot that I did whilst covering a wedding at the Trafalgar Tavern.
The Cutty Sark is located near the centre of Greenwich in south-east London close to the National Maritime Museum, the Greenwich University and is on the route of the London Marathon. Cutty Sark station on the Docklands Light Railway is about a minutes walk away.
Greenwich Pier is close to the ship and there is a ferry service from many of London piers.
Wedding photography by the river near the Trafalgar tavern in Greenwich. The most romantic way to arrive is by riverboat which are available to Greenwich from Westminster, Embankment, London Bridge, Bankside and Tower Piers.
The Trafalgar Tavern was built in 1837 and became famous for its whitebait dinners where distinguished people such as Charlies Dickens would partake. There is a wedding breakfast scene set there from Our Mutual Friend which sets an interesting precedent. Now of course many a wedding breakfast takes place there. In Our Mutual Friend and Little Dorrit parents try to force their children into arranged marriages which may have been suitable materially but not necessarilly spiritually or emotionally.
Now as you wend your way along the river walk from Greenwich pier or the Cutty Sark past the Old Royal Naval College, towards the reception, it’s a grand thing to have that rich culture as a backdrop but maybe not necessarily as a template for modern day marriage. In any case you have a photographer to keep you distracted or amused so that the walk becomes that much more enjoyable. There may be poses to do but they would pretty much fit the flow of the walk. Like a guided tour without the formality.
The Cutty Sark can make an impressive backdrop for pictures as you might imagine and I’ve got a picture that maybe shows that (that will be another blog). I’ve always found it an interesting name but only found out recently that it is from a Robby Burns poem and means “short chemise” or “undergarment”, which is apparently what the witch on the figurehead is wearing – I’ll have to take a look next time I’m there.
Once you get through all that history, the vista of the river will take you gradually to your destination. And as you turn the final bend on the path you come across a rather camp looking Lord Nelson, who, if you ever so kind and polite, may magically see you to your seats.
Devonport House which is situated between the Maritime Museum and Greenwich Park turns out to be an interesting spot to take wedding photos.
There are lots of corridors that a kid ( or a wedding photographer like me) might like to get lost in. However, there is a quadrant which is open to natural light in which a variety of shots can be taken.
Charlie’s antics cross the span of time. Recently, there were sightings of him at play in Gaol Park, Horsemongers Lane, in the backstreets of Southwark, which was once the scene of public execution. Reports dismissed as gallows humour by our editor, I hasten to add, and filed away with UFO spottings.
Memo to London brides: Charlie awaits your instructions regarding wilful grooms. Please despatch posthaste and upon return your groom will be shot( photography wise) shaved and obediently yours.
London and Surrey wedding photographers Charlie’s Pictures took this photograph on the Isle of Wight, Hampshire.