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21 September 2009

Visit the Painted Hall

The Old Royal Naval College, in Greenwich, is a fantastic site, and one of its most celebrated features is the Painted Hall. Planned as the hospital's dining hall, the hall was designed by Wren in 1698, and the roof and the dome above were completed by 1703. The hall was decorated by Sir James Thornhill with the theme of the triumph of Peace and Liberty over Tyrany.

Whilst Wren's building was completed relatively swiftly, Thornhill's paintings took a lot longer, and he ended up spending nineteen years completing the work.

Legend has it that he was so confident of his abilities that he said he should only be paid what his paymasters thought his work was worth, and they consequently held back from any form of payment for a considerable amount of time. Eventually, however, Thornhill secured a payment of £1 a yard, and he went on to become George I's court painter, a fellow of the Royal Society, and eventually was elected to Parliament and knighted. Clearly, therefore, it was worth the risk!

It was in the Painted Hall that the body of Admiral Lord Nelson was brought in January 1806, following his death in the Battle of Trafalgar, after which it became an art gallery, and eventually returned to use as a dining hall, remaining in daily use until the Royal Navy's departure in 1998.

The Painted Hall is open daily and is free. For more information, visit http://www.oldroyalnavalcollege.org/the-painted-hall/

1 comment:

  1. My Dad was an old boy of the Royal Hospital School at Holbrook, which is where the school moved to after it left Greenwich.

    As part of a RHS anniversary celebration many years ago (I think it was the 250th, in 1972) I was lucky enough to take part in a full banquet in The Painted Hall.

    We had a very posh dinner and I sat next to an Admiral who attended the school. He told me that the boys at the RHS Greenwich used to spend time counting nipples on the ceiling during dinnertime. I've never had the chance to do a full count - I wonder how many there are?