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Baroque masterpiece set for conservation
The west wall of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, one of the UK’s most important baroque masterpieces. Photo: James Brittain.

LONDON.- The Old Royal Naval College, in Greenwich, London has been awarded £335,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the costs of conservation work in the Painted Hall, one of the UK’s most important baroque masterpieces, it was announced today (6 November 2012). The grant will also support the delivery of conservation skills training and a programme of associated public, community and learning events.

Created in the early 18th century by painter Sir James Thornhill for Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital, for Seamen, the spectacular, Grade 1 Listed, Painted Hall is the jewel in the crown of the ORNC. Open to the public daily, and free of charge, it has contributed to the Old Royal Naval College’s popularity as a heritage visitor attraction (the ORNC was the country’s 11th most popular attraction in 2011 with over 1.7 million visitors), and is a highlight of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.

It is almost sixty years since the last major conservation work in the Painted Hall. The HLF grant will enable the ORNC to carry out work on the west wall, the first phase of a longer term conservation programme, which includes consolidation of plaster and paint layers, and repair of old water damage, paint flaking and varnish blanching.

Sue Bowers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for London said: “With so much of British and world history in one astonishing view and palatial buildings set in London’s oldest designed landscape, Greenwich is prodigious, inspiring and endlessly fascinating. The Heritage Lottery Fund has invested some £75 million in the royal borough, and now added to the list of projects is the Painted Hall Project which is considered to be one of the UK’s finest baroque interiors, situated as it is within the heart of the UNESCO Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. We’re delighted to support the restoration of the west wall with a confirmed grant and look forward to its original beauty being revealed for all to enjoy. “

“When the Greenwich Foundation took over management of the Old Royal Naval College it committed to look after Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece for the nation for generations to come,” says CEO Brendan McCarthy. “The support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, together with that of all those who have given to our continuing appeal, is enabling us to carry out long overdue work on this very important interior.”

The grant also means that we can run a programme of events and activities during the conservation work to enable visitors and our local community alike to enjoy what is going to be a fascinating project – including getting up close and high on our specially designed scaffolding. That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!

It will enable number of recent graduates to work closely with the conservators and we will also deliver a programme of formal education workshops.”

The programme of events includes behind the scenes tours on scaffolding; conservation and building skills taster workshops for secondary school pupils; a conference on painting conservation; taster activities with local residents' associations and ESOL students on Greenwich Community College courses; a west wall highlights handling table facilitated by volunteers for drop-in visitors; and development of a new character (Nicholas Hawksmoor) to add to the popular characters who bring the history of the Old Royal Naval College to life.

The cost of the west wall conservation programme will be £475,000 with the ORNC raising the balance from a variety of other sources. It is envisaged that the long-term conservation plan for the whole of the Painted will be delivered over a number of years with an estimated total cost in excess of £2 million. Subsequent work will focus on the large ceiling painting and window reveals in the lower hall, the smaller ceiling painting and remaining walls in the upper hall, and the main entrance vestibule and cupola.

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