November 2012

The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) has been awarded £335,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards the costs of conservation work in the Painted Hall, one of the UK’s most important architectural interiors. The grant will also support the delivery of conservation skills training and a programme of associated public, community and learning events.

Created in the early 18th century by Sir James Thornhill for Sir Christopher Wren’s Greenwich Hospital, the spectacular Painted Hall is one of the jewels in the crown of the ORNC. Open to the public daily, free of charge, it has contributed to the ORNC’s popularity as a heritage visitor attraction (the ORNC was the country’s 11th most popular attraction in 2011 with over 1.7 million visitors) and is a highlight of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.

It is almost sixty years since the last conservation was undertaken on this baroque masterpiece. The HLF grant will enable the ORNC to carry out work on the West Wall, which includes consolidation of plaster and paint layers, and repair of old water damage, paint flaking and varnish blanching.

“When the Greenwich Foundation took over management of the Old Royal Naval College it undertook to conserve and preserve Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece for the nation,” says CEO Brendan McCarthy. “The support of the Heritage Lottery Fund is enabling us to carry out long needed work on the jewel in our crown, the Painted Hall. Equally importantly the grant means that we can run a programme of events and activities during the conservation work which will mean that visitors and our local community can enjoy a deeper understanding both of Sir James Thornhill’s masterpiece and the conservation process.”

“We are particularly pleased that the HLF grant will also enable us to support a recent graduate to become a fully qualified conservation specialist and to deliver a programme of formal education workshops,” he adds.

The programme of events includes behind the scenes tours on scaffolding for the public to experience the conservation work up close; conservation and building skills taster workshops for secondary school and further education college students; a one-day conference on painting conservation for academics, conservation professionals, students and people with a special interest in the conservation of wall paintings; taster activities with local residents associations and adult students on Greenwich Community College courses; west wall highlights handling table facilitated by volunteers for drop-in visitors and development of a new character (Nicholas Hawksmoor) to add to the popular characters including Grace O’Malley, Samuel Pepys, John Deman  and Sir James Thornhill who bring the history of the ORNC to life.

The cost of the West Wall conservation programe will be £475,000 with the ORNC raising the balance from a variety of other sources. It is envisaged that the long-term conservation plan for the whole of the Painted Hall will be delivered over a number of years with an estimated total cost of in excess of £2 million. Subsequent work will focus on the large ceiling painting and window reveals in the lower hall, the smaller ceiling painting and remaining walls in the upper hall, and the main entrance vestibule and cupola.

The conservation of the West Wall of the Painted Hall was completed and re-opened for the public in 2013.  

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