Greenwich, Part 5: Old Royal Naval College

Designed by Christopher Wren (the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral) and constructed between 1696 and 1712, the buildings of the Old Royal Naval College (1872-1998) were were originally used to serve as Greenwich Hospital (officially the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich), which closed in 1869. The original site, known as Bella Court, was subsequently renamed the Palace of Placentia by Margaret of Anjou upon its confiscation. Later rebuilt by Henry VII, it was commonly known as Greenwich Palace and became the birthplace of the Tudor monarchs Henry VIII, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. During the English Civil War, the palace fell into disrepair and was finally demolished in 1694.

In 1998, after the Royal Navy finally left the College, the site finally passed to the Greenwich Foundation, and in 2002, the Foundation opening up the entire site to visitors. The grounds of the entire site, along with the Painted Hall, the Chapel, and a new Visitor Center opened to the public daily, free of charge, and with guided tours available. In 2005, the room where Admiral Nelson’s coffin was held prior to his being laid-in-state was opened as the Nelson Room and contains various paintings and memorabilia, along with a statue of Nelson which replicates the one in Trafalgar Square.

Today, the site is regularly used for filming movies, TV programs, and TV advertisements. Popular film productions to have used the site, either in whole or in part, have included: Patriot GamesShanghai KnightsFour Weddings and a FuneralThe Madness of King GeorgeThe Mummy ReturnsThe AvengersLara Croft: Tomb RaiderPirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger TidesThe Dark Knight Rises, Thor: The Dark World, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Guy Ritchie’s Revolver, the film adaption of the musical Les Misérables, and The King’s Speech (where it doubled for Buckingham Palace).

  • Visited: 2017
  • UNESCO: 1997 (as part of Maritime Greenwich)

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