The Painted Hall in the Old Royal Naval College is part of the great assembly of buildings designed for Greenwich Hospital by Sir Christopher Wren in 1696 with significant parts executed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and Sir John Vanbrugh. The Grade I Listed Painted Hall, decorated by Sir James Thornhill, comprises one of the most important Baroque painted interiors in Europe. Although the paintings were conserved in the 1950s, bright sunlight and fluctuations in temperature and humidity had caused damage.
The project, which is part-funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, delivers innovative measures to stabilise the environment in the Painted Hall, including a new entrance off College Way leading into the vaulted King William Undercroft, fully revealed for the first time in 100 years. This provides a new welcome area, shop and café supported by refurbished kitchens. The revitalised space is characterised by high-quality craftsmanship. It includes a stone floor, extended leather banquettes, bespoke joinery and a refined bronze, framed glazed screen, which provides a buffer to reduce environmental impact in the Painted Hall. The Sackler Gallery beyond provides an interpretation space and includes the exposed remains of the palace built by Henry VII, uncovered during the project and now displayed behind an oval glass and bronze balustrade.
Within the Painted Hall, 3700m2 of painted surfaces have been painstakingly conserved and the internal environment stabilised. Environmental measures, including draught proofing, solar shading and specially controlled conservation heating system, have been designed using cutting-edge monitoring and modelling processes to optimise the environment for protection of the paintings in perpetuity, whilst maximising visitor comfort and enjoyment of the remarkable sequence of paintings. Following an enabling phase, which improved means of escape and created inclusive access to the hall, the project has allowed the removal of clutter, concealment of visible services, and installation of discreet lighting and new seating.
A fully accessible scaffold constructed during the project allowed 80,000 visitors to witness the conservation work at close quarters. Hugh Broughton Architects has worked closely with the College’s Surveyor of the Fabric, Martin Ashley Architects.
Hugh Broughton, Hugh Broughton Architects, said:
“This has been a remarkable project to work on. Every day we have been reminded of the brilliance of Wren, Hawksmoor and Thornhill as we have striven to ensure that their masterpieces are shown off in the best possible light. Our work has been made all the more easier by the support of some brilliant specialists and craftspeople, all of whom have delivered work of an exemplary standard.”
Martin Ashley, Martin Ashley Architects, said:
“It has been a privilege to work with the talented and dedicated team behind the conservation of the Painted Hall. The highest conceivable conservation standards have been applied throughout every element of the project, immeasurably enhancing the journey for visitors, whilst protecting the paintings and ensuring the Painted Hall continues to serve its purpose in the 21st century. An imaginative new chapter has been added to the history of the Painted Hall within this architectural and artistic masterpiece in the setting of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.”