Greenwich - Old RoyalNaval College

Stepping through the gates to the Old Royal Naval College in London is like stepping back through history, originally in the 1420s it was built as a manor house by the Duke of Gloucester. In the late 1490s, Henry VII rebuilt it as Greenwich Palace and it developed into a favourite royal residence of the Tudors and was the birthplace Mary I and Elizabeth I.

However, during the English Civil War, the palace became run down and in bad condition thus from these original buildings only the foundations are left hidden underneath the Grand Square.

When Charles II came back to the throne in 1660 he drew up plans for another palace that were pretty ambitious but money problems and his interest in the project soon faded and in the end only one new wing was actually built which was known as the eastern range of the King Charles Court. In 1694 this wing along with the grounds were granted by William III by Royal Warrant as the site for the Royal Hospital for Seamen. These were the wishes of his late wife, Queen Mary II.

In 1696 work started on Sir Christopher Wrens designs for four major buildings which were to accommodate over 2,000 veterans of the Royal Navy. Sir Christopher Wren is also the man behind rebuilding St Paul’s Cathedral and the city of London churches, as well as extending Hampton Court Palace.

The Naval Pensioners continued for over a century until the numbers were so low it finally forced the hospital to close in 1869. The buildings were given a new lease of life and re-opened in 1873 as the Royal Naval College for the education of officers.

The Navy left in 1997 and now the buildings are run by an independent charity. It is free for you to go and have a look around the buildings or if you want to spend some money have a beer at The Old Brewery. Things to go see include the Painted Hall where Admiral Lord Nelson lay in state after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar and the grand neo-classical Chapel.

TravelLouise Robertson