Old Royal Naval College

DESTINATIONS england london greenwich old-royal-naval-college

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Old Royal Naval College

Begun by Sir Christopher Wren in 1694 as a rest home for ancient mariners, the college became a school in 1873. It's still used for classes by the University of Greenwich and the Trinity College of Music, although you're more likely to recognize it as a film location—recent blockbusters to have made use of its elegant interiors include Skyfall, Les Misérables, and The King's Speech. Architecturally, you'll notice how the structures part to reveal the Queen's House across the central lawns. Behind the college are two more buildings you can visit. The Painted Hall, the college's dining hall, which derives its name from the baroque murals of William and Mary (reigned jointly 1689–95; William alone 1695–1702) and assorted allegorical figures. James Thornhill's frescoes, depicting scenes of naval grandeur with a suitably pro-British note, were painstakingly completed 1708–12 and 1718–26, and were good enough to earn him a knighthood. In the opposite building stands the College Chapel, which was rebuilt after a fire in 1779 in an altogether more restrained, neo-Grecian style. Free guided tours are held at 1:30 and 3 on weekdays, and at 11, 12:30, 1:30, and 3 on weekends; they depart from the Discover Greenwich Visitor Center. Check the website for an outstanding program of special events, including talks, tours, and concerts—many of them free.

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