853 exclusive: Visitors to the Painted Hall at Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College could soon be charged to look at the attraction under plans being discussed by the charity that runs the scheme.
Last month, 853 revealed unhappiness about plans to rename the complex Greenwich Palace or Greenwich Royal Hospital as part of a wide-ranging scheme to revamp how the site is run by The Greenwich Foundation For The Old Royal Naval College.
Now the charity has admitted it is looking at introducing a charge to visit the Painted Hall, which has recently undergone a two-year restoration project to preserve and maintain Sir James Thornhill’s spectacular ceiling artwork. It will reopen in March with a cafe, shop and gallery space in the King William Undercroft.
853 understands that the charge could be £12 for a tour, with free admission for a year after that. People would enter the hall via a visitor centre rather than just walking in as they could do before the restoration project began.
A spokesperson for the Greenwich Foundation did not confirm a level of charges but said a fee was under discussion.
She said: “We have been looking at introducing a new site wide visitor offer which would include a ticketed admission charge which would cover entry into the Painted Hall, tours of the site and drop-in talks.
“Tickets would grant admission for a year and we are also planning a number of concessions.
“Access for local schools will remain free as part of our learning programme. We are still in the process of finalising all the details and will be announcing the new visitor offer early next year.”
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, the buildings 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 site was the birthplace of Tudor monarchs Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, which fell into disrepair during the English Civil War and was demolished in 1660.
Unhappiness about the possible name change for the Old Royal Naval College, which is also home to the University of Greenwich and the music college of Trinity Laban, has also been expressed in letters to The Times.
A joint letter from the Greenwich Society, Westcombe Society and Blackheath Society called it “misleading and innacurate” while former trustee Nick Wilkinson accused the foundation of “airbrushing British maritime history”.
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