Lottery gives green light to Painted Hall restoration in Greenwich

An appeal to restore a historic artwork in the Painted Hall in Greenwich has won Lottery backing.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given a �29,000 development grant to the iconic Old Royal Naval College for the first phase of conservation of the Painted Hall, which is one of the most important architectural interiors in the UK.

The wall paintings in the Painted Hall were created by Sir James Thornhill in the early eighteenth century and took 20 years to complete.

The cash means that plans to apply for a grant of �364,000 for the scheme to restore the West Wall can now go ahead.

In the long term there are plans for a four phase restoration project in the hall, costing �2 million.

Sir Robert Crawford, who is chairman of the trustees of the Greenwich Foundation which cares for the building said: “It is almost sixty years since the last conservation work was undertaken on this baroque masterpiece. When the Greenwich Foundation was established to manage the Old Royal Naval College, one of its key responsibilities was to conserve and preserve for the nation all the buildings on this internationally important heritage site.

“The paintings of the Painted Hall are among the largest and finest allegorical wall paintings in Britain, an artist who merits wide appreciation. This project will secure the future of his greatest work for generations to come.”

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The wall paintings took nearly 20 years to complete in the hall at Sir Christopher Wren’s Greenwich Hospital.

When he was commissioned Thornhill was asked to create a homage to Britain’s maritime power and royal family.

The West Wall features the new royal family of the time - the Hanoverians. King George I is shown surrounded by his children and grandchildren. The future King George II stands beside a figure personifying naval victory.

Thornhill appeared in the bottom right hand corner of the picture, which was probably completed in 1727.

Shortly afterwards tourists were admitted in and the hall became a popular visitor destination as it still is today.

It later served as the home of the National Gallery of Naval Art and was not used as a dining room until 1936.

Visitors can now enter for free and the Old Naval College is part of the world Heritage site.

It has been a popular film location, featuring in Pirates of the Caribbean, starring Johnny Depp and was used in Iron Lady, the movie about Margaret Thatcher.

Next year Greenwich becomes a Royal borough and is preparing for a visit from the Queen.

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