The Old Royal Naval College's Painted Hall

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Downriver from central London’s more eye-catching historic buildings, the Greenwich ensemble known collectively as Maritime Britain is one of Britain’s 33 cultural UNESCO World Heritage sites. It includes the Queen’s House (this site), the Royal Hospital for Seamen and the 1675 Royal Observatory. Inside Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital for Seamen is the Painted Hall, now all the more magnificent after the huge restoration completed in March 2019. (The photographs that follow were taken in June of that year.)

The memorable Baroque interior of the Painted Hall took 19 years to complete (in 1726). The whole site was one of Britain’s naval power-bases, and the Hall served successively as a dining space for naval pensioners, the place where Nelson lay in state in 1806, the National Gallery of Naval Art, and finally until 1997 the dining room for the Royal Naval College.

Somewhere around two hundred characters within the paintwork on the ceiling of the Hall are involved in a narrative on the birth of the United Kingdom, set at that time to become Europe’s dominant power. Protestant rulers William III and Mary II who acceded to the throne in 1688, followed by George I in 1714, are all depicted. Its complexity, beauty and pomp can be viewed from one of the mirrors available or by using the well-upholstered seating which is provided for the supine gaze of the suitably impressed. It knocks spots off most other tourist destinations in London.

1/10 Greenwich's Old Royal Naval College from the north bank of the Thames
Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College from the north bank of the Thames
2/10 The Lower Grand Square of Greenwich's Old Royal Naval College

yThe Lower Grand Square of Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval Collegeyy

3/10 The Queen Anne Court of Greenwich's Old Royal Naval College

The Queen Anne Court of Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College

4/10 The King William Court of Greenwich's Old Royal Naval College

The King William Court of Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College

5/10 The dome of the Old Royal Naval College's Painted Hall

The dome of the Old Royal Naval College’s Painted Hall

6/10 The vestibule ceiling of the Old Royal Naval College's Painted Hall

The vestibule ceiling of the Old Royal Naval College’s Painted Hall

7/10 The Painted Hall's Lower hall

The Painted Hall’s Lower hall

8/10 The ceiling of the Painted Hall's Lower hall

The ceiling of the Painted Hall’s Lower hall

9/10 The west wall of the Painted Hall's Upper hall

The west wall of the Painted Hall’s Upper hall

10/10 Detail of the vestibule ceiling of the Old Royal Naval College's Painted Hall

Detail of the vestibule ceiling of the Old Royal Naval College’s Painted Hall