Shortly before her death, Queen Mary II, who co-reigned with her husband King William III from 1689 until 1694, commissioned the construction of a new charitable institution for the care of retired men who had served in the Royal Navy.
Esteemed architect Sir Christopher Wren was appointed as surveyor in 1696. He offered his services free of charge. However, due to Wren’s extensive work commitments, rebuilding over 50 churches after the Great Fire of London, most of the work was carried out by his trusted assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor.
The scale and magnificence of Wren’s outstanding Baroque complex, that still stands today, was intended to reflect the wealth and power of Britain as the world’s dominant maritime power.
Who was Sir Christopher Wren?
In addition to his Greenwich buildings, Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) is best known for his work at Hampton Court Palace and his masterpiece, St Paul’s Cathedral.
As well as being one of England’s most acclaimed architects, he was something of a polymath, with professions including anatomist, astronomer, mathematician and physicist.
A retirement home for naval veterans
The Royal Hospital for Seamen was more akin to an almshouse or retirement home than a hospital.
Medical provision was limited and seamen suffering from serious ailments or requiring amputations were often sent to other London hospitals.Find out about the Greenwich Pensioners who lived at the Royal Hospital
The Painted Hall
The Painted Hall boasts one of the most spectacular Baroque interiors in Europe. The incredible ceiling and wall decorations were conceived and executed by British artist Sir James Thornhill.Find out more about the history of the Painted Hall
History of the Chapel
The Chapel was built in the mid 1700s for the Greenwich pensioners living on the site. The original chapel was destroyed by fire in 1779 and was rebuilt.Find out more about the history of the chapel
Dig deeper into our story
From 1498–1694, the site was home to Greenwich Palace, birthplace of Henry VIII and his daughters.Find out more
Royal Naval College
1873 the Naval College in Portsmouth acquired the buildings of the old Royal Hospital for Seamen and the Royal Naval College was born.Find out more