I recently took a delightful couple on a tour of the Glories of Greenwich.
Alongside the Cutty Sark and the Queen’s House, the real highlight of the tour was the Painted Hall which has recently re-opened after a two year £8.5m conservation project.
It has been referred to as the ‘Sistine Chapel of the UK’ and is a masterpiece of Baroque Art. I had visited it previously whilst it was undergoing its renovation and was able to get up close and personal with the wonderous paintings of Sir James Thornhill (the first painter to be knighted) so I knew this was somewhere that future clients would love;
It was originally designed by Thornhill as the centrepiece of the dining room of the Old Royal Naval College which was built by Sir Christopher Wren for retired seamen.
As you ascend the stairs you can’t help but catch your breath as you look up to admire the vast decorated interior spanning some 4,000 square meters. The four winds, Eurus, Auster, Zephyrus and Boreas greet you first, so important to seafarers of the 18th century. As you go further into the main body of the building all of British pomp and glory is on display; naval prowess, the monarchy both Stuart and Georgian glorified, mercantile prosperity as well as a cast of hundreds of figures both classical, allegorical, mythological and contemporary.
Thornhill started the paintings in 1707 and it took 19 years to complete. So complex was the decorative scheme that he produced a handy guide, now available in the shop to buy for only £4!
After a full discussion of all the diverse and fascinating figures we had a well earned cup of tea in the newly opened under-croft café where you can still see parts of the original Tudor Palace where Henry VIII and his two daughters were born and which originally stood on the site.
Last on the list of things to enjoy at the Painted Hall was the Bowling Alley – a joyous activity designed in the 19th century to stop the seamen from getting too bored or drinking too much…we certainly enjoyed ourselves having a go.
The reaction was overwhelming from my delightful clients with a follow up email which said;
Thank you for a lovely day yesterday-terrific tour and terrific guide!’
It wasn’t really me who was as terrific as the Painted Hall itself – make sure you include Greenwich as a destination whilst visiting London. It’s within easy reach of central London by taxi, tube or even more exciting by River Boat. I promise you won’t be disappointed!