OLD ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE PAINTED HALL CEILING TOUR

Most of the time I feel quite young and then suddenly I realise how the years have passed. When I first came to London vast swathes of Greenwich were out of bounds to land lubbers as Wren’s magnificent building were the Royal Naval College and for those in uniform only. Rumour had it that the interiors of the buildings were as spectacular as the exteriors. Nowadays you no longer see sailors wandering around Greenwich and the site is known as the Old Royal Naval College, it turns out that the rumours were true. What’s more, anyone can visit the Painted Hall and the Chapel. At the moment the Painted Hall ceiling is being restored and whilst work is in progress tours enable you to climb the scaffolding to get up close and personal with the ceiling.

Painted Ceiling tour .

Your visit starts with you donning hi-vis vests and hard hats, each group is colour coded, ours was a tasteful blue. Once safely clothed, you sit in front of the restored wall painting for a bit of background about the building. Originally Queen Mary II had the bright idea of creating a hospital for retired sailors along the lines of the famous Chelsea Pensioners Hospital for retired soldiers. Christopher Wren was summoned to come up with the designs and work commenced. Unfortunately the Queen died but her distraught husband ensured the plan was completed. James Thornhill was commissioned to paint the dining hall of the hospital. He took his task seriously and took 19 years to cover all four walls and the ceiling with paintings. The whole room is a painterly work of propaganda showing the obvious and god-given connection between the Jacobean and Hanoverian Royal households.

Painted Hall tour

Climbing the scaffolding stairs up to the ceiling gives you a perspective on the hall that Thornhill must have had when he was creating it. When you arrive at the ceiling, you are in a place so slow low that those of us who are six foot and more could just reach up and touch it, not that you are allowed to. Once so close that you can see the brush strokes, you lose the sense of the overall picture, it makes you realise just how very clever James Thornhill was with his design and execution.

Painted Hall tour

Once your eyes have adjusted to the nearness of the painting and by bending down a little, details begin to swim into shape. I particularly liked this depiction of Isis and Father Thames snuggling up to each other.

Painted Hall tour

Painting is not the only thing you get to take a close look at. This royal Coat of Arms which looks so impressive from a distance looks a bit dusty, as well it might after nearly four hundred years.

Painted Hall tour

The Painted Hall is an amazing sight to see with or without scaffolding. When the restoration is complete, the opportunity of taking a close look at the brush work will be gone. Go and see this once in a lifetime sight whilst you can. Tickets can be bought on the door but it is probably wise to book before making a special journey to Greenwich, click here to book tickets.

PAINTED CEILING TOUR
King William Walk, Greenwich SE10
Open: Daily 10am – 4pm
Admission: Adult £10, Children and concession £5

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18 thoughts on “OLD ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE PAINTED HALL CEILING TOUR

  1. Tara May 3, 2017 / 9:03 am

    Wow, what a treat. Amazing to see it so close (although it makes me feel slightly claustrophobic. #teamblue

    • Catherine May 3, 2017 / 9:08 am

      It felt like you were in a secret cave

  2. Wherejogoes May 4, 2017 / 6:48 pm

    When we visited Greenwich this was closed for a wedding so we never got to go in. You got right up close though what a brilliant tour! The ceiling is beautiful and I love the giltwork. I have a reason to go back! #FarawayFiles

    • Catherine May 4, 2017 / 7:12 pm

      No risk of any weddings whilst the scaffolding is in place!

      • Wherejogoes May 4, 2017 / 7:25 pm

        That’s the time to go! I quite like a hard hat tour – you get to see a different side to a place.

    • Catherine May 5, 2017 / 5:47 pm

      Always lots to see and do in Greenwich!

  3. Mary {The World Is A Book} May 6, 2017 / 6:48 am

    What a great experience to see the paintings so close. We passed by this when we went to Greenwich a couple of years ago. Now, I wish we had gone inside to admire it. How neat it would be to see this when it’s fully restored.

    • Catherine May 6, 2017 / 7:53 am

      It is an incredible interior and well worth investigating with or without scaffolding

  4. Clare Thomson May 6, 2017 / 7:01 pm

    What a wonderful opportunity to see inside the Royal Naval College! I’ll be heading to Greenwich even sooner now, Catherine. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  5. debsrandomwritings May 7, 2017 / 7:55 pm

    Hi Catherine, it’s not often we get the chance to get up close to something so amazing. The detail in the paintings must have been interesting to see up close.

    Thank you for linking up with the #MMBC.

    xx

  6. daisythebus May 9, 2017 / 2:48 pm

    How wonderful, a truly unique opportunity indeed. The hard hats are a bit OTT though… 😉 What, exactly, could fall onto your head, and from where? (Please ignore me – I’m a bit sensitive concerning British “health and safety” regulations recently, ever since my son was not allowed to climb the tower of Lincoln Cathedral. The last time I looked, eleven-year olds were capable of safely using a staircase…)

    • Catherine May 9, 2017 / 3:05 pm

      More capable than a lot of adults!

  7. Trish @ Mum's Gone To May 9, 2017 / 3:12 pm

    What a fantastic opportunity! You appreciate how talented the painter was when you see the close-up work and then wonder did he keep going up and down the scaffolding at the time to see what his work looked like from a distance?
    I still haven’t been to Greenwich!
    #farawayfiles

    • Catherine May 9, 2017 / 3:18 pm

      Time for Mum to go to Greenwich!

  8. Jenny (The Little Adventurer) May 9, 2017 / 5:48 pm

    What a treat to get to see this so close up! I’m not entirely sure how much I would like climbing up there, but with these paintings to lure me, I’d definitely give it a go. #farawayfiles

    • Catherine May 9, 2017 / 6:16 pm

      The climb was OK no unlike climbing up those staircases by the side of swimming pool viewing areas

  9. oregongirlaroundtheworld May 11, 2017 / 12:10 am

    Oh how cool to be so close to the actual restoration work. Would love to see the process in person! Thanks for sharing wth #FarawayFiles, Erin

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