In the heart of historic Greenwich, the Old Royal Naval College's Painted Hall has been filled with scaffolding for some time - but next weekend, it triumphantly reopens, fully restored. And it looks just amazing!
The Hall was originally intended as the dining room for inhabitants of Greenwich Hospital - elderly or injured Navy sailors. However, once Sir James Thornhill had finished painting his Baroque masterpiece on its walls and ceilings, it was deemed too grand for the residents and kept for formal occasions. The most famous of these was the lying-in-state of Nelson's body once it returned to London from the Battle of Trafalgar.
Time, sunlight, and problems caused by earlier restorations meant that conservation was needed. This exacting process was accompanied by consideration of how best to protect the paintings for the future. Blinds moderating the amount of sunlight through the Hall's large windows are one important answer visitors might spot.
A sneak preview revealed far more than Thornhill's masterpiece. A new entrance has been created in the undercroft. Not only does this better protect the paintings, since temperature and humidity can be better controlled; it has also opened up space for a cafe and shop. There are also ticket desks since, inevitably and not unreasonably, admission is now for a set price rather than a suggested donation.
The restoration work had offered its own opportunities to get really close to the art, both on the west wall and the main ceiling. However, it's now time to appreciate the full scope of this incredible dining room once more.
You can get two-for-one tickets for the opening weekend (23-24 March 2019) using the code PAINTEDHALL241