Greenwich’s spectacular Painted Hall will reopen to visitors on Saturday 23 March – but bosses at the Old Royal Naval College have not yet decided whether or not the historic site will be changing its name.
The Painted Hall has recently undergone a two-year, £8.5 million restoration project to preserve and maintain Sir James Thornhill’s spectacular ceiling artwork. It will reopen with a cafe, shop and gallery space in the King William Undercroft, with a £12 admission charge being introduced.
In November, 853 revealed unhappiness about plans to rename the Old Royal Naval College as Greenwich Palace or Greenwich Royal Hospital as part of a wide-ranging review of how the complex is run by the The Greenwich Foundation For The Old Royal Naval College. Greenwich Council’s Labour leadership recently rejected a motion from the Conservatives criticising the plans.
However, executives at the charity say they are not rushing into a decision, but that they are concerned that the ORNC does not have a strong enough identity in its own right, with some visitors enquiring about joining the Royal Navy.
A spokesperson told 853: “Our focus in the first part of the year is on our Painted Hall launch in March, whilst we continue to undertake further listening and engagement with our communities to ensure that we have involved all those people and groups who want to help shape our plans including our naming and visual identity.”
The charity hopes the new-look Painted Hall will encourage visitors to stay longer, putting it on the same level as other Greenwich attractions such as the National Maritime Museum, Cutty Sark and Old Royal Observatory. The £12 charge will cover unlimited entries for a year, and will include access to guided tours of the whole site, multimedia guides as well as objects such as masks and costumes designed to tell the stories behind the artwork on the ceiling.
Under-16s will not be charged, while there will also be a monthly “pay as you wish” day where the £12 charge will not apply.
A new cafe and shop in the King William Undercroft – a former dining space for the naval pensioners who lived in the buildings before it became the Royal Naval College in 1869 – will also be open to all.
The ONRC’s chief executive, Angela McConville, said: “We are hugely excited to be able to reveal the beautifully conserved Painted Hall to the public in March. We care for the greatest ensemble of baroque buildings and landscape in the UK and we welcome over one million visitors and students to this special place every year.
“We passionately believe that the story of Greenwich starts here, on this magnificent site, and so it is a great delight that through this epic project, below and above the ground, we are revealing 500 years of history. Our new visitor experience will, we believe, bring delight and stimulate curiosity for many more visitors and be a place for locals to enjoy again and again.”
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