The Old Royal Naval College.
In 1660, King Charles II commissioned the rebuilding of the dilapidated Tudor Palace of Placentia. By 1689 when William and Mary were crowned only one wing had been completed, the King Charles Block, and Christopher Wren was instructed to convert and complete the site to care for injured and retired seamen from the Royal Navy. From 1806 to 1933, the present site of the National Maritime Museum became a school for the orphans of Royal Navy officers and men. In 1873 the Royal Navy again converted some of the main.
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Buildings for a College for Royal Naval Officers that eventually merged into a Joint Services Defence College and relocated to Oxford. In 1999, after a public outcry against proposals to accept commercial offers for the use of the site, it was handed over to the University of Greenwich under strict conditions concerning the restoration and maintenance of these historic buildings.
The Painted Hall, also known as the Great Hall, was constructed by Nicholas Hawksmoor between 1694-1707 to the original design of Christopher Wren. The artist James Thornhill then worked for 19 years to decorate the interior, widely considered in Europe today to be second only to the sumptuous decoration of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. Many State Dinners and the annual Trafalgar Night Dinners are held here. Students of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance perform free lunch-time concerts in the Chapel on Tuesdays, and in St Alfege’s Church on Thursdays.
The Painted Hall is in the King William Court, one of four blocks which formerly comprised the Royal Hospital for Seamen. It and the Queen Mary Court are both domed.
Clockwise from top left: A detail of the rear wall painting in the Lower Hall, glorifying King George I; the altarpiece by Benjamin West in the Chapel of the Queen Mary Court (refitted by James Stuart after a fire in 1779); Thornhill’s magnificent painting on the west wall; a detail of one of the wall decorations in the Upper Hall; the dome (with a preliminary sketch of it shown below).