As noticed by the Greenwich Phantom, whose spectral representative stands next to the Greenwich Observatory, the Observatory will start charging a fee to go inside the museum complex from the beginning of March.

A full £10 no less.

While many people will indeed visit the place for the museum and the observatory, it is fairly well accepted that the vast majority turn up so that they can visit the site which gave its name to the Prime Meridian, and stand in the courtyard where a line is marked in the ground to indicate the division between East and West.

£10 to stand on a bit of tarmac and have a photo taken?

Obviously, what the museum is counting on is that people will forget that the Meridian isn’t a short line that only exists within the gated confines of the Observatory, but runs all the way down the planet from the North to the South poles. There is a thousand miles of land that you can pick from on which to stand and get that classic photo of straddling the Meridian. All free of charge.

OK, not quite as iconic as being at the site, but £10 for a photo?

If you want to stand over the Meridian elsewhere and have something to signify the fact, then there are also the Meridian Markers that were dropped along the line eleven years ago as part of the over-hyped and underwhelming celebrations of the 2000th birthday of some foreign chap. Such as this one that sits on the desolate pathway behind the Dome.

As it happens with quite a lot of London museum that charge an entrance fee, the £10 includes unlimited return visits, so great for us locals, but a steep cost for the one-off visitor who never plans to return. I will expect hotels to buy a batch of tickets each year and “lend” them to their guests for visits.

The new charge comes into effect on 8th March 2011, so we have about 6 weeks to make a last free visit before the paywall comes down at the Gates to Time.

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9 Comments

  1. IanVisits

    Hmm, I have a certificate somewhere marking the first time I flew over the equator as part of a British Airways’ junior frequent flyer programme.

    (Back in the days when flying long distance was rather more special than it is today)

  2. “Unlimited return trips” started out as a cunning wheeze to exploit a tax loophole over Gift Aid, so I doubt tickets would be transferable.

    As for alternative locations, I know it’s outside London, but I recommend the desolate sand dunes just south of Cleethorpes, on the banks of the Humber. Or, alternatively, the village of Tunstall, East Yorks, the most northerly point on the globe where the meridian touches land.

  3. Tom

    I like it when places do “unlimited return trips”, though obviously it’s not as good as being free. Having said that, the whole place is just a queue of foreign tourist nowadays so why shouldn’t we rinse them for all we can? I can’t even tell whether I’m joking about this…

    And Ian, I was thrown out of the British Airways’ junior frequent flyer programme, which they claimed was valid until my 18th birthday, when I didn’t fly often enough. It was a difficult time in my life. I don’t want to talk about it.

  4. Nicholas Aleksander

    My understanding is that you only need to pay the tenner to visit the Flamsteed building and the courtyard – the rest of the Royal Observatory remains free. There is another brass line marking the meridien just below the courtyard which should remain free – (go through the wicket gate below the camera obscura) (see http://www.terragalleria.com/europe/london/maritime-greenwich/picture.uken35887.html)

  5. Ian, we love your blog and follow you avidly on Twitter, but you did make a small error in the article above. Your photo of the ‘meridian marker post’ is actually one of 1000 cast iron signposts commissioned by Sustrans for the National Cycle Network.

    The signpost in your photo is related to National Route 1 (Dover to John O’Groats) and is nothing to do with the Greenwich Meridian (it’s near but not actually on zero degrees). These signs are dotted all over the UK and more London examples can be found underneath Deptford Bridge DLR station and on the bike path near Lower
    Sydenham station.

    Best wishes
    Spoke ‘n Motion Team

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