March 2013

Visitors from across the world came to the ORNC during the Olympics whilst locals celebrated British success watching the games on the Big Screen.

The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) in Greenwich saw another increase in attendance in 2012 making it to most successful year to date for the leading UK heritage attraction. Attendance figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) saw the ORNC close to 1.8 million for the first time, and this does not include the thousands of people who enjoyed the Jubilee and summer events programme or who came to watch the London Olympics on a big screen in the ORNC grounds. The growth in attendance from just under 1.7 million in 2011 means that the ORNC retains its place in the top twenty UK visitor attractions.

Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, which is celebrated internationally for its beautiful Chapel, stunning Painted Hall and state of the art visitor centre, Discover Greenwich, also received further profile through its appearance in blockbuster movies such as the latest Bond film, Skyfall, and the multi-award winning Les Misérables, both of which were shot on location at the Greenwich attraction in 2012.

'We were delighted to welcome nearly 1.8million visitors to the Old Royal Naval College last year,' says Brendan McCarthy CEO of the Greenwich Foundation, the charity set up in 1997 to run the Old Royal Naval College.  'Among the many highlights of what was a very special year were the UNESCO Youth Summit, which saw young heritage ambassadors from across the UK gather in Greenwich, filming of blockbuster movies including Skyfall and Les Misérables and of course the unforgettable experience of the Jubilee and London Olympics, which saw thousands of people flock to the ORNC.'

The Old Royal Naval College is known internationally through the many movies, TV dramas and documentaries that have been filmed on the site including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Golden Compass, Young Victoria, The Duchess, Little Dorrit, Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Skyfall and Les Misérables. From Spring 2013 visitors will be able to visit the various locations used by film companies in special Lights, Camera, Action tours. This is just one of a number of initiatives being introduced to deepen the experience of a visit to Sir Christopher Wren’s twin domed riverside masterpiece. The ORNC is also pioneering public access to conservation through specially arranged scaffolding tours as the first conservation work is undertaken on the Painted Hall in over 50 years.

'The Old Royal Naval College has a rich and diverse history,' adds McCarthy, 'in the coming months we will be introducing a number of new ways for the public to experience this amazing site. We hope that people from across the world who to date have only seen the ORNC through the London Olympics or in a movie will now come and experience all we have to offer in person.'

The ORNC is currently a free visitor attraction, something which the Greenwich Foundation is working hard to sustain, but the costs of maintaining a site of such historic and national importance are significant. The Foundation was one of a number of attractions to be awarded access to Catalyst funding in 2012 and is currently looking to raise £1m to match fund the catalyst money along with around £2.5m to complete the conservation of the Painted Hall.

'As a charity we are working hard to conserve the fabric of Sir Christopher Wren’s buildings and to ensure the public are able to enjoy a range of opportunities to visit and experience the site,' says McCarthy. 'Attractions need to be creative in their approach to raising the funds required to ensure that the nation continues to have access to its built heritage. We are exploring a number of ways to ensure that the ORNC continues to be available for the public to enjoy for generations to come.'

Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, commented: 'We are delighted with the visitor figures and although the Olympics deterred visitors from Central London the recovery was almost immediate after the Games left town.'

He continued: 'This year, 2013 looks like it is going to be a promising year for ALVA members - The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich is hoping to see increase in visitors because of its role as a backdrop in the hugely popular and award- winning film Les Misérables.'

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