May 2013


The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) has 72 historic lanterns around the grounds, dating back from the 19th century. A recent condition survey has revealed that the lanterns are in slightly different states of disrepair and need individual treatment to reverse any damage that has occurred over the years. The first phase of the lantern conservation programme began in April 2013 and is likely to take several months.

Decorative lanterns © thedpc.com
Decorative lanterns © thedpc.com

Some of the lanterns were originally put up for decorative purposes, including the three decorative lanterns illuminating the dolphin fountains which were installed in 1850. These lanterns were part of Philip Hardwick’s landscaping scheme to enhance the grounds of the Royal Hospital for Seamen, as the ORNC was then known, and make them more pleasant for the naval veterans who lived there.

Over time some of the glass panels had been replaced with Perspex and others had broken panes that now need to be replaced. The conservation specialists that we work with at the ORNC will be re-fitting these lanterns with bespoke glass, repairing any damage to the metal frames and painting the ironwork deep bronze green to match the ORNC’s railings and gates.

A detail from the lanterns is gilded
A detail from the lanterns is gilded

The conservators will also be gilding about 30 of the lanterns to restore the gold leaf decorating them. Previously many of the details on the lanterns had been painted with gold paint which does not last as long as gilding and weathers to a dull finish. The details on the lanterns feature many royal and maritime symbols, including crowns, mermen and anchors.

The new gilding being applied by our conservators will replace previous historic gilding, which at present is only partly visible and partly hidden beneath layers of paint.

To prepare the lanterns before they are gilded they will be painted in controlled conditions in a workshop and the conservators will then apply two layers of 24 carat gold leaf with a brush, covering any joints between the leaves.

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