The Old Royal Naval College is to keep its name after the charity which runs the focal point of Greenwich’s World Heritage Site scrapped plans to rebrand the world-famous buildings.
853 revealed the plans last November, which could have seen the college, which is home to the recently-revamped Painted Hall, the University of Greenwich and Trinity Laban college’s music faculty, as Greenwich Palace or Greenwich Royal Hospital.
But the news emerged on Friday evening via a letter to “stakeholders” sent by the charity which runs the site, The Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College, published to social media by Greenwich.co.uk.
The ORNC’s possible rebrand is off and the name will remain as it is, it has announced in a letter to stakeholders today. pic.twitter.com/yS6P69vS8O
— Greenwich.co.uk (@greenwichcouk) August 2, 2019
The foundation’s proposals angered local historians and amenity societies, who branded the change of name “historically and factually misleading”. Greenwich Palace would have recalled the birthplace of Tudor monarchs Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, which stood on the college’s current site. It fell into disrepair during the English Civil War and was demolished in 1660. Part of the palace was accidentally uncovered during renovation work on the Painted Hall and King William Undercroft, and can now be seen by the public.
The current buildings, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, opened as Greenwich Hospital in the early 18th century, and were built as a naval counterpart for the army’s Chelsea Hospital. This closed in 1869, although the foundation that ran the hospital still exists and owns the freehold to Greenwich Market.
The Royal Naval College opened in the old hospital buildings in 1874. It moved to Dartmouth, south Devon in 1998, and since then the Greenwich Foundation has opened up the previously off-limits grounds of the college to the public.
“We are grateful to the hundreds who wrote to us, participated in focus groups and filled in our survey as part of our consultation,” the letter from the foundation’s chief executive, Angela McConville, and chairman Tony Hales said.
“It was a very positive process. The conversations were not simply about our name but our shared passion and ambition for the Old Royal Naval College. You have helped us shape our plans, make connections and involve diverse groups of people, some of whom have not engaged before.
“We intend to progress work on our identity to better communicate our commitment to our core charitable purposes of conservation and public engagement.”
The Painted Hall reopened in March after an £8.5m refurbishment, the first restoration work on Sir James Thornhill’s spectacular ceiling artwork since the 1950s. The foundation hopes the work on the hall and undercroft – which now carry a £12 admission charge for adults – will bring the college a higher public profile so that it becomes the equal of the National Maritime Museum and Cutty Sark.
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