NLA raised just over £8,000 for charities including the Temple Bar Trust and The Connection at St Martin’s when it held its first charity dinner at the newly restored Painted Hall in Greenwich earlier this month.
The event, which attracted around 230 guests in black tie, was addressed by TV historian Dan Cruickshank, who explored the Wren and Hawksmoor-designed building’s unique heritage, setting it within the Old Royal Naval College’s long history, and pointing out hidden elements in the depicted scenes.
‘This space holds such important political architecture’, he told the audience. ‘There are many messages within this space’…’Nothing is quite what it seems’.
Cruickshank was talking following a speech from Will Palin, architectural writer & conservation director at the Old Royal Naval College, which he called ‘the product of an inspired collaboration that has created one of the world’s most incredible buildings’. The architect responsible for the works, Hugh Broughton (working with the college’s surveyor of the fabric, Martin Ashley Architects), told how his designs had sought to optimise the environment for the long-term restoration of the paintings. ‘On the face of it, the project was deceptively simple; after all, we only had to deal with two rooms’, he quipped.
The building, whose renovation was part-funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, figures as one of the most spectacular and important baroque interiors in Europe, its ceiling and wall decorations conceived and executed by the British artist Sir James Thornhill between 1707 and 1726 at the pivotal moment when the United Kingdom was created and became a dominant power in Europe.
The Painted Hall is a sequence of three distinct but connected spaces; a domed vestibule, lower hall and then the show-stopping upper hall. The works stabilised the environment in the Painted Hall, including a new entrance off College Way leading into the vaulted King William Undercroft, fully revealed for the first time in 100 years. That space provides a new welcome area, shop and café, while some 3,700m2 of painted surfaces have been conserved – a fully accessible scaffold allowing 80,000 visitors to inspect the conservation work at close quarters during its two-year, £8.5m conservation works.