Thursday, July 14, 2011
Old Royal Naval College
After visiting the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, our group went on a tour of the Old Royal Naval College. Before becoming a Royal College, the land and buildings were part of a royal palace which served as the home to many royals. Built in Greenwich, it was the perfect spot to watch for invasions both by land and by sea. In 1705 William and Mary used the land to build homes for former sailors. The plans were drawn up by Sir Christopher Wren. In 1869 the home closed and in 1873 the Royal Navy signed a lease for use of the buildings for 150 years. During that time period, students used the former buildings for classrooms.
Prior to the school moving in, the 4 buildings on the property served as homes for sailors. The property contained living quarters, a church, a bowling alley, and the largest painted ceiling in Europe which was built as a dining hall for the men. The sailors prefered not to eat in such a large and fancy environment, so after a short period of time, the Great Hall was transformed into a museum. Also known as the Navy Museum, this room housed exhibits, artwork, and even had Lord Nelson lie in state after his death. Once the Royal Navy signed their lease, the Navy Museum continued to stay inside of the Great Hall. All the paintings inside, including those on the ceiling and the wall, celebrate the British Navy and Britian in some way.
The current chapel that is on the property is not the orignial chapel which was designed by Wren. In 1779, a fire destroyed the chapel and a new one had to be built. A resident of the property, James Stewart, was responsible for designing and rebuilding the new chruch. Stewart changed some of Wren's orignial ideas; he created a curved ceiling and took out a large space behind the altar. The church today was beautiful; it had lovely artwork inside along with a beautiful organ and marble work.
Our tour guide for this was fantastic. She was so knowledgeable, not just about the history of the college and the homes before, but also of British history. I learned a ton of new information on this tour and I am so glad I was able to be apart of it. Although we did not visit an archive or a library, this was one of my favorite visits so far.