Greenwich Hospital (London)

Greenwich Hospital (London)

The Greenwich Hospital in London was founded in 1694 as the Royal Naval Hospital for sailors.

The charity still exists; though no longer based at the site which is now the Old Royal Naval College. It is a Royal Charity for the benefit of seafarers and their dependents, with the Secretary of State for Defence acting as the Crown's sole Trustee.

The hospital at Greenwich was established as a residential home for injured sailors, on the model of Les Invalides and the Chelsea Hospital. It occupied its riverside site on the south bank of the river Thames in Greenwich, London for over 170 years, closing to pensioners in 1869.

The remains of thousands of sailors and officers, including those who fought in the Battle of Trafalgar were removed from the Hospital site in 1875 and reinterred in East Greenwich Pleasaunce or "Pleasaunce Park" (named after the former Royal Palace of Placentia on the site of the Hospital). [ [ Park Explorer- East Greenwich Pleasaunce] , [ Greenwich Council - East Greenwich Pleasaunce] ]

The Hospital's buildings were subsequently taken over by the Royal Naval College until 1998 when the site was opened to the public.

The Greenwich Hospital charity now funds sheltered housing for former Royal Navy personnel and the Royal Hospital School at Holbrook in Suffolk. The charity remains the ground landlord of the area between Romney Road and the river, and receives annual rent for the site from the Greenwich Foundation. However, under the terms of the National Maritime Museum Acts 1934 and 1989, the former buildings of the Royal Hospital School and the Queen's House are vested in the National Maritime Museum for as long as they are required for museum purposes.

History of the Buildings

Greenwich Hospital was built on the site of the Palace of Placentia, more commonly known as Greenwich Palace, which had fallen into disrepair during the English Civil War. With the exception of the incomplete John Webb building, the palace was finally demolished in 1694.

The hospital was created on the instructions of Mary II, who had been inspired by the sight of wounded sailors returning from the Battle of La Hogue in 1692. She ordered the King Charles wing of the Palace - originally designed by architect John Webb for King Charles II in 1664 - to be remodelled as a naval hospital to provide a counterpart for the Chelsea Hospital for soldiers. Sir Christopher Wren and his assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor gave their services free of charge as architects of the new Royal Hospital. Sir John Vanbrugh succeeded Wren as architect, completing the complex to Wren's original plans.

An early controversy arose when it emerged that the original plans for the hospital would have blocked the riverside view from the Queen's House. Queen Mary therefore ordered that the buildings be split, providing an avenue leading from the river through the hospital grounds up to the Queen's House and Greenwich Hill beyond. This gave the hospital its distinctive look, with its buildings arranged in a number of quadrants. Its four main buildings (the 'Courts') are bisected east-west by a square or processional route, and north-south by an internal road.

The principal buildings are King Charles Court (the oldest part dating back to the restoration), completed in 1705, Queen Mary Court, completed in 1742, Queen Anne Court (architects: Wren and Hawksmoor) and King William Court. With the King Charles building to the west, the symmetry of the riverside frontage is maintained by the Queen Anne to the east. They were designed to hold 1,500 seamen.

The grand square in between maintained access to, and a river view from, the nearby Queen's House and Greenwich Park beyond. Parallel to the river, the Hospital's buildings are bisected by a road leading eastwards from a gate-house by Greenwich town centre. To the south of this road, two further palatial buildings complete the Hospital.

Behind King Charles Court is King William Court (designed by Wren, but completed by Hawksmoor and Sir John Vanbrugh), famous for its Baroque Painted Hall, which was painted by Sir James Thornhill in honour of King William and Queen Mary. Behind Queen Anne Court is Queen Mary Court (planned by Wren and Hawksmoor, but not built until after Wren's death, by Thomas Ripley). Queen Mary Court houses the Chapel, designed by Wren but not completed until 1742. Its present appearance dates from 1779, having been rebuilt to a design by James Stuart after a devastating fire.

The Greenwich Hospital buildings did include an actual hospital, or infirmary: the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital (which took its name from a hospital ship moored off Greenwich in 1870). The treatment for tropical diseases moved in 1919 to the Seamen's Hospital Society hospital near Euston Square, in central London, to form the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. The Dreadnought Seaman's Hospital closed in 1986 with special services for seamen and their families then provided by the 'Dreadnought Unit' at St Thomas's Hospital in Lambeth.

The buildings were taken over by the Royal Naval College in 1873, and they remained a military education establishment until 1998 when they passed into the hands of the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College. The new Foundation opens the Painted Hall, Chapel and grounds to the public daily, free of charge and runs guided tours from the Visitor Centre. They let parts of the remainder of the King William and Queen Mary buildings and the whole of the Queen Anne Building to the University of Greenwich and the majority of the King Charles building to Trinity College of Music.

The Painted Hall and Chapel of the Hospital remain open to members of the public, and a service is held in the Chapel every Sunday at 11am which is open to all. The buildings have appeared in several films, including "Four Weddings and a Funeral", "The Madness of King George", "The Mummy Returns" and "" (2001).

On the riverside in front of the north-east corner of King Charles' Court is an obelisk (designed by Philip Hardwick and unveiled in 1855) erected in memory of Arctic explorer Joseph René Bellot.

wide image|RNCpano.jpg|1000px|The Old Royal Naval College, viewed from the north side of the Thames river. The Queen's House in the middle of the picture. The Royal Observatory is visible in the background..


ee also

*Greenwich Visitor Centre
* There is also a Greenwich Hospital located in Greenwich, Connecticut.
* List of hospitals in the UK
* Chatham Chest

External links

* [ Old Royal Naval College - the official Greenwich Foundation website]
* [ Greenwich Hospital charity]
* [ Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site]

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