• Old Royal Naval College seeks £21,500 to raise towards conservation of magnificent proscenium arch
  • Conservation to carry out vital cleaning work and repairs to gilded mouldings
  • Range of exclusive rewards announced to award generosity of donors
  • For further information or images please contact TRyley@ornc.org or call +44 (0)208269 4762.

This August, the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC), Greenwich is to spearhead a campaign to restore the proscenium arch in its famed Painted Hall, which has been called the “Sistine Chapel of the UK”. The crowdfunding initiative, which launches today, aims to raise £21,500 by 9th September to fund vital conservation works on the gilded arch, returning it to its original shimmering splendour.

The ORNC’s campaign is hosted by the Art Fund’s crowdfunding website Art Happens, a new platform dedicated to helping British heritage sites raise money for conservation and curatorial projects. The money raised will fund the conservation of the proscenium arch, which, after half a century without cleaning or re-gilding, has become faded and dirty beneath layers of grime. This work will take place during the larger conservation project of the Painted Hall, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), in which the Painted Hall will be cleaned and restored to its original splendour.

The proscenium arch stands in the Painted Hall, the masterpiece of Sir James Thornhill, who painted it from 1708 - 1727. Over 4,200 square metres of painting glorify Britain’s maritime Golden Age, making the Painted Hall easily the largest painting in Europe. The arch itself is central to this spectacular interior: beautifully embellished with gilded mouldings of the royal arms and zodiac signs, it frames the far wall of the upper hall, entitled “The Golden Age Returned”, in which George I triumphantly lands at Greenwich before his coronation. The arch also has historical significance, as Lord Nelson’s remains were ceremoniously laid beneath it following his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, in a spectacle attended by thousands.

Much of the original lustre of this magnificent arch has been lost beneath fifty years of dirt. By giving to this campaign, the public will allow the ORNC to carry out the painstaking conservation work needed to make this unique treasure shine once more. Specialist conservators will clean the mouldings, and experts in traditional gilding techniques will repair and re-gild the original decoration that has been lost.

Those who support the campaign will receive a special thank you for their generosity. An exciting range of rewards has been created, with donations of £15 earning sets of postcards depicting details from the arch, £25 earning specially-designed tote bags, and £45 earing prints of Thornhill’s original sketches for the Painted Hall. Larger donations of £450 will unlock workshop allowing donors to try out the practice of gilding for themselves, and the highest tier of reward, for donations above £995, will unlock an exclusive tour of the Painted Hall’s scaffolding as it undergoes conservation work, led by the chief conservators of the project, following an entry to the grounds of the ORNC by boat. As well as these rewards, donors will have the satisfaction of having contributed to the longevity of one of the UK’s most spectacular artistic monuments.

The project can be supported at:  http://www.artfund.org/get-involved/art-happens

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Notes to editors:

For more information or images contact:

Tom Ryley TRyley@ornc.org

+44 (0)208269 4762

About the Old Royal Naval College:

The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) in Greenwich was established as the Royal Hospital for Seamen by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1694.

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it is one of the most important ensembles in European baroque architecture. From 1705, the Royal Hospital provided modest, wood-lined cabins as accommodation for retired sailors, housing as many as 2,700 residents at its peak in 1814. The last naval pensioners left in 1869, when the site became home to the Royal Naval College, an officers’ training academy, until 1997. When the Navy left, an independent charity was established to conserve the site for present and future generations, and create enjoyment, learning and unique cultural experiences for everyone.

Today this historic landmark is open to the public and is the home of three unique and free to visit attractions; the Painted Hall, the Chapel, and the Discover Greenwich visitor centre.

The Painted Hall is the greatest piece of decorative painting in England and has been described as ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK’. The walls and ceilings were painted by Sir James Thornhill between 1708 and 1727.

The Chapel of St Peter and St Paul is a neo-classical masterpiece by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart and William Newton. Featuring a Samuel Green organ and an altarpiece painted by Benjamin West, it is one of the finest eighteenth century interiors in existence.

The ORNC is free to all visitors and is open daily from 10.00-17.00.


About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery @HLFLondon