Old Royal Naval College

The Old Royal Naval College is Sir Christopher Wren’s riverside masterpiece, built in the 17th Century as the Royal Hospital for Seamen on the site of the Tudor Palace of Placentia. The Old Royal Naval College boasts beautiful surroundings & some of the most magnificent interiors in London. The Painted Hall in King William Court is home to the largest painted ceiling in Europe, a Baroque masterpiece by Sir James Thornhill depicting over 30 years of English aristocracy & British Naval Power. The Chapel of St Peter & St Paul in Queen Mary Court has a beautiful interior designed by James ‘Athenian’ Stewart. Visitors to the Old Royal Naval College can enjoy tours of the Painted Hall & the grounds & visit the cafe & gift shop located in King William Court.

Royal Hospital for Seamen

Construction of the The Royal Hospital for Seamen began in 1694 on the site of the old Tudor Palace of Plancentia. The Palace of Placentia had been the birthplace of Henry VIII, Mary I & Elizabeth I & due to its location on the River Thames it gradually overtook nearby Eltham Palace as the preferred Royal Palace in Greenwich.

In 1615 the architect Inigo Jones designed the Queens House for the wife of King James I, Queen Anne of Denmark. Construction of the Queens House stopped when Queen Anne became ill, she died one year later at Hampton Court Palace in 1619. Construction of the Queens House started again in 1929 when King Charles I gave the house to his Queen Consort, Henrietta Maria of France. The Queens house was the first consciously Classical building to be constructed in England however it was not completed until 1635, 13 years after the completion of Inigo Jones Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace.

The Palace of Placentia remained the principal home of the monarch until the English Civil War, after Oliver Cromwell had taken control of the country the palace became a biscuit factory & later a prisoner of war camp.

After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 King Charles II tasked the architect John Webb with demolishing the ruins of the Palace of Placentia & building a grand new palace in Greenwich. Due to financial constraints only one wing was constructed (now the eastern area of King Charles Court). The Glorious Revolution in 1668 saw the replacement of King James II by his daughter & her husband, William of Orange & Mary. The couple were crowned on the 11th April 1989 as King William III & Mary II of England, Ireland & Scotland.

In 1692 Queen Mary instructed for a Royal Hospital for Seamen to be constructed at Greenwich. It is said that Mary had been inspired to build a naval counterpart to the Royal Hospital Chelsea after seeing injured sailors returning from the Battle of La Hogue. Sir Christopher Wren was tasked to design the new Naval Hospital & he draw grand designs for a large structure topped by an enormous dome. Mary requested that the view from the Queens House to the River Thames be maintained & Wren altered his designs & started construction of four quadrants. King Charles Court & Queen Anne Court sit closest to the River whereas King William Court & Queen Mary Court sit further back & are topped by two large domes. Queen Mary Court housed the hospitals Chapel & King William Court was home to the sailors dining area, The Painted Hall.

King Charles Court, designed by John Webb.
King Charles Court, designed by John Webb.

King Charles Court, designed by John Webb.

The Royal Hospital for Seamen, designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
The Royal Hospital for Seamen, designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

The Royal Hospital for Seamen, designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

Royal Naval College

The Royal Hospital for Seamen closed in 1869 & in 1873 the buildings were turned into the Royal Naval College. For 124 years naval officers from around the globe studied at the Royal Naval College. In 1997 the Royal Navy left & the Old Royal Naval College is now home to the University of Greenwich & Trinity Laban Conservotoire of Music & Dance. The Grounds of the Old Royal Naval College are open to the public free of charge. The Chapel is also free to the public & there is a small charge for entry to the Painted Hall.

Click the link below to visit the Old Royal Naval College website & learn more about the sites rich history.

Explore the Old Royal Naval College

The Painted Hall

Viscount Cruises King William Court

About the Painted Hall

The young artist James Thornhill was commissioned to decorate the lower hall, the agreed price for the work was £1.00 per yard for the walls & £3.00 per yard for the ceiling. After the completion of the lower hall he successfully applied to paint the upper hall & vestibule. After 20 years Thornhill had finished one of the largest painted ceilings in Northern Europe at 40,000 square foot. The masterpiece earned him a fortune & a Knighthood from King George I.

Between 2016 – 2019 the Painted Hall underwent an £8.5 Million conservation project. Entry to the hall is now through the King William Undercroft where visitors can find a gift shop, café & a Sackler Gallery interpretation space which helps to tell the story of the Painted Hall.

Painted Hall Highlights

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Top: The Painted Hall | Middle: Handling Objects at the Painted Hall | Bottom: The Triump of Peace & Liberty over Tyranny by Sir James Thornhill

Top: The Painted Hall | Middle: Handling Objects at the Painted Hall | Bottom: The Triump of Peace & Liberty over Tyranny by Sir James Thornhill

The Chapel of St Peter & St Paul

Viscount Cruises Queen Mary Court

About the Chapel

The Chapel Of St Peter & St Paul was designed by Sir Christopher Wren & constructed by Thomas Ripley in 1751. After a fire in 1779 the chapel was rebuilt by James “Athenian” Stuart in the Greek Revival Style.

Chapel Highlights

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The Chapel of St Peter & St Paul

The Chapel of St Peter & St Paul

Skittle Alley

Viscount Cruises King William Court

About the Skittle Alley

Skittle Alley Highlights

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The Victorian Skittle Alley

The Victorian Skittle Alley

Old Royal Naval College Location

Travel to or From the Old Royal Naval College by Boat

Thames River Sightseeing

Thames River Sightseeing (formerly Thames River Services) have been operating cruises on the River Thames for over 50 years. All of our sightseeing vessels are operated by experienced crew & feature indoor seating, outdoor seating & open decks.

Thames River Sightseeing Routes

Westminster to Greenwich (Blue Route)

Travel between the City of Westminster, City of London & the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Between April & October you can extend your cruise and travel through the Thames Flood Barrier.

Westminster PierSt. Katharine Pier (Tower of London)Greenwich Pier (Cutty Sark)

Hop-On-Hop-Off (Pink Route)

Book at 2 Day Riverpass & enjoy unlimited travel between 6 piers on both Thames River Sightseeing Routes.

Westminster PierEmbankment PierFestival PierBankside PierSt. Katharine Pier (Tower of London)

  • Westminster to Greenwich

    £8.50£17.50
  • Westminster to Greenwich (via Thames Barrier)

    £9.00£18.50
  • Greenwich to Westminster

    £8.50£17.50
  • Greenwich to Westminster (via Thames Barrier)

    £9.00£18.50
  • St. Katharine Pier to Greenwich

    £7.00£16.00
  • St. Katharine Pier to Greenwich (via Thames Barrier)

    £7.00£17.00
  • Greenwich to St. Katharine Pier

    £7.00£16.00
  • Greenwich to St. Katharine Pier (via Thames Barrier)

    £7.00£17.00
  • Greenwich to Thames Barrier (Round Trip)

    £6.25£12.50
  • 2 Day Riverpass (Hop-On Hop-Off)

    £12.75£19.50

* Cruises to the Thames Flood Barrier will only operate between 30th March 2020 – 1st November 2020.

The last boat to the Thames Barrier departs Westminster Pier at 14:30, St. Katharine Pier at 14:50 & Greenwich Pier at 15:30.

The Thames Barrier Cruise is a 1-Hour round trip with no stops. Pre-booked groups can arrange to be dropped off or collected from Barrier Gardens Pier near the Thames Barrier Information Centre.

The Old Royal Naval College is the centrepiece of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Greenwich. The Greenwich Foundation was formed in 1997 to manage & conserve the Old Royal Naval College’s grounds & historic buildings.

The Greenwich Foundation organise daily tours & vast programme of events throughout the year which hep to bring the buildings to life & tell the story of the historic figures who have called the area home over the last 500 years.