Discovering the story behind the Baltic Exchange Gallery

Just a short post from me today, and another one that I've been meaning to share for a week or two. A couple of weeks ago I told you of my bonkers week and of my lunchtime visit to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. My plan for that lunchtime was to scout out inside places to spend my lunch hours, and to check out the cafe there too.

I decided to take in one of the galleries while I was there, but soon found myself diverted towards the Baltic Exchange Gallery. It's not something I'd seen before, either in person or on the signposts so I was intrigued to see what I'd find there. I never expected it to be this.

Stained glass from the Baltic Exchange at the NMM in Greenwich


I was mesmerised. So much so that I spent my lunch hour in this relatively small space taking in each of the windows, and the story of how they'd painstakingly been restored after they were damaged by a terrorist bomb in the early nineties. I think partly the fascination was I remembered that bomb as I was working in the City at the time. I remember the devastation and the shock of the event, but had no idea these windows existed, their story, how much they were damaged and how much work went into piecing them back together.

That all changed in that hour though.

The information boards alongside these windows were excellent and told their story in a compelling way. I can sometimes flit through a museum and its exhibits, but these held my interest.  So much so that I had no time to fit in a visit to the cafe, so I think that tells you all you need to know.

The windows were commissioned shortly after the First World War and formed part of a memorial to the sixty members of Baltic Exchange staff who lost their lives during the war. They were unveiled in 1922 and consisted of a half-dome with five large windows below it. 

The information board told me "the subject is heroic and likens the British Empire to the Roman Empire." 

A section of the restored Baltic Exchange stained glass window

Above and below are excerpts of the two outer panels of the dome which names the major battles of the First World War.

Part of the restored Baltic Exchange stained glass windows

The half-dome is over three metres in height and is just fabulous. Standing in the middle you get the most wonderful sense of history and my photo below hardly does it justice. If you're in Greenwich, then you really should make time to see this as however I describe this, I know I won't be able to do it justice.

The half-dome stained glass window from the Baltic Exchange London

While I stood learning about the restoration work I was completely oblivious to The Virtue Windows behind me. Originally these would have been under the panels of the half-dome. And you may have already worked it out but they're named for the Virtues of Hope, Fortitude, Justice, Truth and Faith, which the Romans established as qualities that all humans should aspire to.

What a way to spend a lunchtime.  

the Pigeon Pair and Me