West of Greenwich Park sits a Georgian-styled red brick building known as the Ranger’s House. It contains nearly 1,000 objects that were collected by Sir Julius Werner, a 19th-century businessman who made his fortunes dealing with gold and diamonds mined from South Africa. There are many works of art to ponder over, from paintings to furnishings to jewelry to pottery, but there is one item that may make the modern viewer’s blood run cold.
In a room on the second floor, a display case holds a piece of ivory that has some unusual features. On one side is a carved depiction of a rather beautiful woman holding a dog. On the opposite is a skeletal figure, complete with decaying flesh and an array of nasty creatures. On the forehead of each representational feature are words written in Latin, which translate to, “Alas I must die,” and “Here is the end.” This item would have been attached to a rosary or a chain and worn as a necklace.
This pendant was meant to represent a physical manifestation of what awaits those who put physical attributes and riches above a life led in piety and virtue. It was supposed to act as a constant reminder to live a good life and avoid the sins of pride and vanity. Some individuals may find the collection controversial or contentious as they were acquired with wealth made by dubious methods.
Know Before You Go
Ranger's House is operated by English Heritage. There is an entry fee, check website for discounts and hours of operation. Though hours are most likely daily 11 AM - 4 PM. The house is closed between the beginning of November to to the beginning of April.
There are signs and maps posted throughout Greenwich Park with directions leading to the house.
Though the pendant and other objects are located behind glass cabinets, there are accessible models contained in drawers in each room.
Some individuals may find the collection controversial or contentious as they were acquired with monies made by dubious methods.
Photography inside the gallery is not permitted.