Old Royal Naval College


King William Walk, Greenwich, London SE10 9NN


020-8269 4747



Opening times:

(grounds) daily 8:00–18:00; (main attractions) daily 10:00–17:00

How to get there:

DLR Cutty Sark

Entry fee:


Additional information:

Café and restaurant

Established by Royal Charter in 1694, the Royal Hospital for Seamen was the wish of Queen Mary II, who desired a charitable institution for injured Royal Navy seamen, their widows and children. She gave over royal land at Greenwich for the purpose, John Webb’s vast new palace for Charles II having been abandoned in 1669 with the completion of only one block. Mary died in 1694 but her husband, William III, respected her wishes. Sir Christopher Wren was appointed the Hospital’s Surveyor, with Nicholas Hawksmoor as Clerk of the Works. The Queen’s House, however, remained in royal ownership and its vista to the river was to be preserved. Wren’s plan, therefore, was to use it as a distant visual centrepiece, with in front of it four symmetrical blocks, the two furthest from the river (the King William and Queen Mary blocks) with matching domes and colonnades. On the river, the King Charles block (Webb’s earlier building) was mirrored by the Queen Anne block. Building was a piecemeal exercise which spanned 55 years and which witnessed successive Surveyorships (Vanbrugh 1716, Colen Campbell 1726, Thomas Ripley 1729), but the resulting ensemble is one of the grandest Baroque sites in England. Greenwich Hospital’s magnificence reflected the charitable munificence of the Crown and the importance of the Navy. The King Charles block, enlarged and with Webb’s architecture altered internally and externally, was the first to be completed; in 1705 the pensioners moved in.

In 1869 Greenwich Hospital closed and in 1873 the site became home to the Royal Naval College, which occupied the buildings until the mid-1990s. In 1997 the buildings were transferred to the Greenwich Foundation, established to administer the site and to oversee its conversion for the University of Greenwich (which now occupies the King William, Mary and Anne blocks) and Trinity College of Music (King Charles block). Visitors can see the grounds as well as the Painted Hall and Chapel.

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Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

Please do share your comments and updates with us via the form below the entry for each museum.


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The Courtauld Institute of Art (Somerset House)
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St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum
Saatchi Gallery
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The Faraday Museum
Royal Hospital Chelsea
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Royal Academy of Music Museum
Royal Academy of Arts
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London Fire Brigade Museum
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London Museum of Water & Steam
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Eltham Palace (English Heritage)
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