Maritime Greenwich is a World UNESCO Heritage Site – since 1997 –
The ensemble of buildings at Greenwich, an outlying district of London, and the park in which they are set, symbolize English artistic and scientific endeavour in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Queen’s House (by Inigo Jones) was the first Palladian building in England, while the complex that was until recently the Royal Naval College was designed by Christopher Wren. The park, laid out on the basis of an original design by André Le Nôtre, contains the Old Royal Observatory, the work of Wren and the scientist Robert Hooke.
My Cousin lives in the London Borough of Greenwich and I have been fortunate to visit a several times over the years.
Two highlights from my visit were the Painted Hall and Chapel at the old Royal Naval College.
old ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE
Located on the banks of the river Thames, with 500 years of history, the original site of Greenwich Palace and birthplace to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, the original Royal Park designed by landscape architect Andre Le Notre in the 1660s and home to the Royal Observatory (Greenwich Mean TIME baseline for world time zone system and longitude measurement around the world). The Old Royal Naval Colleges designed by Architect Christopher Wren (1632-1723) in Baroque style. Queen Mary request the view be maintained from Queens House (in centre of photo) which lead to the two symmetrical halves and two domes, rather than one single dome. Inspired by Chelsea Royal Hospital and Hotel des Invalids Paris. (see video at bottom)
The Painted Hall is 300 year old masterpiece that took 19 years to complete. Intended as a ceremonial dining hall and a celebration of the Royal Navy’s power and prosperity at the time, as well as the power, patronage and influence of the Crown.
A major restoration project completed in March 2019, two year conservation restoration, which had an observation deck allowing visitors to view the work being completed. The project won awards in architecture conservation.
Originally completed in 1727 by artist Sir James Thornhill, the first British artist to be knighted. The art includes figures telling the story of scientific achievements, naval endeavours, commercial enterprise, political change, maritime and trading successes.
Inside the dome. The Royal Hospital for Seaman was established by Queen Mary in 1694 for men who invalided out of the Navy to house elderly and injured seamen. The original hall was intended as a grand dining space for the pensioners but soon became a ceremonial space and the painting began. Home to up to 2000 veterans of the Royal Navy, the last naval pensioners left the site in 186. It became home the the Royal Naval College, an officers training academy from 1937 to 1997, it was a dining hall for trainee officers in the Royal Navy.
The Painted Hall interior is referred to as “Britains’s Sistine Chapel” and my cousin pointed out it is in almost any period film or tv series in England.
This lower level was also restored, later 20th century renovations removed and a new Painted Hall Cafe and Painted Hall Shop are located here.
The chapel of St Peter and St Paul was the last part of the Royal Hospital for Seamen to be completed. Designec by Christopher Wren and built by Thomas Ripley. Sadly a fire in 1779 destroyed the origninal and was redecorated by James Stuart in Greek Revival style.
17th century altarpiece and black and white marble floors, with naval inspired motifs include rope running beside the pews in exact diameter of the day, and anchors in centre circle.
Incredible plasterwork and excellent example of neoclassical interior. Intricate details in central medallions carved rather than cast plaster – inspired by the colours of Wedgwood. No filters used in any of my photos.
Organ from 1798.
The light catching the the beautiful detail of plasterwork.
The Nelson Pediment – a tribute to Lord Admiral Nelson who died victorious at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Lord Nelson Lying in State at the Painted Hall was an important occasion, and is marked by a plaque in the floor as well as a room is dedicated to Lord Nelson.
Covered walkway behind the columns
Architecture and Pediment detail
National Maritime Museum
Old Brewery Pub – unique and historic place to eat
Old Brewery patio
Old Brewery interior. Great selection of London brewed beer and London distilled spirits.
View to Royal Observatory – a Royal Museum Greenwich I did not make this visit
We arrived in Greenwich by the Thames ferry and seeing the Cutty Sark as you arrive is pretty impressive.
Gate Piers from the 1750s referred to the Ansom Globes showing terrestrial and celestial globes commemorating an epic circumnavigation of the world by Lord Ansom.
Italian artist Canaletto painting of Greenwich Hospital from the North Bank of Thames 1750-52
The map view gives a great sense of Le Notre’s original park layout and the massive size of the old Royal Naval College property on the River Thames. The town of Greenwich is a lovely for walking and many good places to eat. We enjoyed a meal at The Grind.
Here are but a few films/series you will notice the Painted Hall and Old Royal Naval College as locations – The Crown
Pirates of the Caribbean.
For more information on a visit….
Royal Museums Greenwich which includes Royal Maritime Museum, Queens House, Cutty Sark, Royal Observatory
My name is Sue Womersley and I am an Interior Designer in White Rock, BC Canada sharing my love of design, Architecture, photography, travel near and far, periodically writing for the past 10 years.