The Old Royal Naval College is the architectural centrepiece of Maritime Greenwich, a World Heritage Site in Greenwich, London, described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as being of "outstanding universal value" and reckoned to be the "finest and most dramatically sited architectural and landscape ensemble in the British Isles".
The site is managed by the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College (Foundation), set up in July 1998 as a Registered Charity to "look after these magnificent buildings and their grounds for the benefit of the nation". The grounds and some of its buildings are open to visitors. The buildings were originally constructed to serve as the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich, now generally known as Greenwich Hospital, which was designed by Christopher Wren, and built between 1696 and 1712. The hospital closed in 1869. Between 1873 and 1998 it was the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
Origins of the Site:
This was originally the site of the Palace of Placentia, more commonly known as Greenwich Palace, the birthplace of Tudor queens Mary I and Elizabeth I and reputedly the favourite palace of Henry VII, who built it. The palace 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.
In 1692 the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich was created on the site on the instructions of Mary II, who had been inspired by the sight of wounded sailors returning from the Battle of La Hogue. Architectural highlights included the Chapel and the Painted Hall. The hospital closed in 1869 and the remains of thousands of sailors and officers were removed from the hospital site in 1875 and reinterred in East Greenwich Pleasaunce or "Pleasaunce Park".
Royal Naval College, Greenwich:
In 1873, four years after the hospital closed, the buildings was converted to a training establishment for the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy finally left the College in 1998 when the site passed into the hands of the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College.