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The Painted Hall reopens on March 23rd following its two year ceiling restoration. Once it reopens, adult admission will cost £12 (with unlimited re-entry for a year) and will include a tour of the site. The tables that were in the Painted Hall have been replaced by furniture for sitting or laying, including benches removed 100 years ago.
Photo of the restored Painted Hall by Nikhilesh Haval
Full press release from ORNC below:
The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich will reopen on 23 March 2019 after a two year National Lottery Funded conservation project which has brought its magnificent painted interior vividly back to life.
The Painted Hall has been referred to as the ‘Sistine Chapel of the UK’ – its vast decorated interior, extending to 4,000 square metres, is the masterpiece of English baroque art. The £8.5million conservation project, supported by a £3.1-million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), has reversed years of decay and conserved the Painted Hall for generations to come. Between 2017 and 2018 an accessible observation deck gave over 80,000 visitors the opportunity to observe the conservators at work.
Its reopening is part of a major transformation project by Hugh Broughton Architects – with conservation advice from the College’s Surveyor of the Fabric, Martin Ashley Architects – that will also see the reopening and restoration of the King William Undercroft beneath the Painted Hall, which will now house a new café, shop and interpretation gallery, The Sackler Gallery.
The reopening of the Painted Hall sees the introduction of a new visitor experience at the Old Royal Naval College. It will allow visitors to enjoy a guided or self-guided tour of the extensive site, setting off from the newly refreshed Visitor Centre and access into the Painted Hall. The tour will take in all aspects of Wren’s riverside masterpiece including the famous Water Gate, Grand Square and the Chapel, and includes access into the Skittle Alley (a normally ‘limited access’ area of the site).
The Painted Hall experience will include a new multimedia guide providing an informative and playful introduction to the paintings, with 60 minutes of content available. Live talks led by an expert team of staff and volunteers throughout the day will also help to bring the paintings to life, alongside a collection of exquisite touch objects inspired by characters and items depicted on the ceiling which visitors will be able to get up close to and try on. These include a replica of King William’s crown and cloak, Athena’s shield with Medusa, and the red cap of liberty, symbolic of freedom in William’s Hand.
For younger visitors, a family trail has been developed alongside a range of sensory backpacks. An audio-described tour will also be available for partially sighted and blind visitors and tablets will be available loaded up with a virtual tour of the hall, allowing visitors to zoom into detail on the ceiling.
Adult tickets will cost £12 with unlimited re-entry up to a year after purchase; children under 16 go free and there will be many other ticket concessions available. Local school groups will continue to visit for free as part of the schools and education programme. The extensive grounds, the refreshed Visitor Centre, Chapel and the King William Undercroft will be accessible to all visitors for free.
From April, the site will introduce a brand-new initiative to ensure the Painted Hall remains as accessible to as many people as possible with its ‘Pay as you wish’ every first Wednesday of each month.
Angela McConville, Chief Executive of the Old Royal Naval College, has said:
"We are hugely excited to be able to reveal the beautifully conserved Painted Hall to the public in March. We care for the greatest ensemble of baroque buildings and landscape in the UK and we welcome over one million visitors and students to this special place every year. We passionately believe that the story of Greenwich starts here, on this magnificent site, and so it is a great delight that through this epic project, below and above the ground, we are revealing 500 years of history. Our new visitor experience will, we believe, bring delight and stimulate curiosity for many more visitors and be a place for locals to enjoy again and again."
The ground-breaking project to clean and conserve the paintings started in 2016. It was one of the largest open access conservation projects in Europe. As the painted surfaces were cleaned, new details were uncovered that revealed how Thornhill planned and executed his vast work. Shadows of corrected details appeared behind later paint layers and large areas of beautifully detailed history painting emerged from behind dirt and decay. As many as 30 signatures from previous ‘restorers’ were studied at close quarters, including one indelicately placed on the bosom of Mary II, revealing 300 years of almost continuous cleaning.
William Palin, Painted Hall Project Director and Conservation Director at the Old Royal Naval College, has said:
‘This project has been an epic undertaking and represents a huge collaborative effort. The sheer scale and complexity of the project meant that we were constantly seeking innovative solutions – from the carefully developed conservation techniques to the design of the vast internal scaffolding, which had to be fully accessible for the visiting public.
The transformation of the Undercroft space below has brought one of Britain’s great historic spaces back into use, providing a beautiful prelude to the wonder of the Painted Hall above.’
A series of finely carved oak benches, made when the Hall served as an art gallery in the 19th century and removed 100 years ago, will return as part of a new collection of elegant furniture which will allow visitors to sit (or lie down) in comfort and experience the beauty and wonder of Thornhill’s masterpiece.
The King William Undercroft, a grandly proportioned vaulted space – mirroring the plan of the Painted Hall above and designed by Christopher Wren and his Clerk of Works, Nicholas Hawksmoor – has been lovingly restored to its original form. 20th-century additions, including part of a large modern kitchen, have been removed to reveal the majesty of the space and the beauty of the baroque architectural details. This space, originally used as a day-to-day dining room for the naval pensioners, will now house a shop, café and The Sackler Gallery where visitors can learn about the history and meaning of Thornhill’s masterpiece, prior to ascending into the Painted Hall itself.
In the course of works to the Undercroft, two rooms from Henry VIII’s long-lost Greenwich Palace were unearthed beneath a concrete floor, including a cellar containing a series of unusual niches, which archaeologists believe may be ‘bee boles’ for the keeping of skeps (hive baskets) during the winter months when bee colonies hibernate. These remarkable finds have been incorporated into the interpretation area and will be on permanent display to visitors when the Painted Hall reopens.
Greenwich Palace was the favoured royal palace of Henry VIII, who was born at Greenwich along with his daughters Mary I and Elizabeth I. The conservation of the Painted Hall and the restoration of the Undercroft have been made possible thanks to generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), The Gosling Foundation Ltd, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, The Sackler Trust, Tony Hales CBE, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, Old Royal Naval College Chapel Fund, Celia and Edward Atkin CBE, City Bridge Trust, The Charles Skey Charitable Trust, Waring and Carmen Partridge Foundation and Natalie and Malcolm Pray, as well as a number of other generous individuals.
Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), has said:
‘We are delighted that National Lottery funding has enabled the Painted Hall, with its extraordinary ceiling – the ‘Sistine Chapel of the UK’ – to be conserved for future generations to enjoy. Our investment has supported this complex and extensive project by the Old Royal Naval College to successfully restore one of the lesser-known treasures of the Greenwich World Heritage Site’ ... See MoreSee Less
Can't wait to see it, it's a beautiful place & we like the idea of being able to lay on a bench and look up at it. Many years ago my Great Uncle, Ephraim Daniels, was part of the decorating and re-furbishing team at the college/hall & his little girl (my cousin, now 87!) remembers the man on gate-duty allowing her in on her own so that she could run up to her dad when he clocked off work. My Grandfather, Jim Holder, was foreman of the painting & decorating team at the hospital next door too, I remember seeing the hospital beds wheeled out on to the balcony so the patients could get some fresh air (less polution then!). Back then,it was free entrance to the PH. I live in Brighton now and local residents here are given half price entrance discount to the Royal Pavilion and the Museum. Couldn't something like that be done for the Greenwich locals?3 days ago · 1
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