The Painted Hall, dubbed ‘ the Sistine Chapel of the UK’ for its beautiful interior featuring vast baroque murals by Sir James Thornhill, has amazed and delighted visitors to Greenwich for 300 years. During this long history the fragile painted surfaces have suffered - smoke and dirt has built up on the surfaces, and varnish layers have fractured under the effects of heat and humidity. A trial clean of the west wall in 2012 (Phase I of the Painted Hall Project) showed the transformational effects conservation work could achieve.

As the dirt was carefully removed, the colour and vibrancy of Thornhill’s work was restored. Spurred on by this success, the Old Royal Naval College then set its sights on conserving the remaining 40,000sq ft of painted surface.

The Upper Hall of the Painted Hall

The west wall, shortly after it was conserved in 2013.

Now, after years of meticulous planning and energetic fundraising (given a major boost by the award of a £3.2m from the Heritage Lottery Fund), the Painted Hall is ready for the most comprehensive makeover in its history. Over a period of about two years, under the direction of expert conservators Stephen Paine and Sophie Stewart, every inch of decorated surface will be lovingly cleaned and conserved.

a visualation of the conserved Painted Hall and new Visitor Centre

visualization of the conserved Painted Hall and new visitor centre. Created by Hugh Broughton Architects.

Hand in hand with the work of the conservators will be a programme of new environmental interventions and controls aimed at drastically slowing any future deterioration of the paintings. Lastly, when the project is complete in 2019, visitors will start their journey in a new visitor centre within the restored King William Undercroft, where the baroque architecture of Wren and Hawksmoor will be revealed for the first time in over a century.


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