Greenwich Hospital

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Greenwich Hospital from the bank of the Thames
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Statue of George II in the Grand Square of the Greenwich Hospital, with the dome above the Chapel entrance to the left. The Queen's House and Royal Greenwich Observatory are visible in the background
Greenwich Hospital viewed from the . The collonaded  (with the central ) is located in front of the Greenwich Hospital
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Greenwich Hospital viewed from the Royal Greenwich Observatory. The collonaded National Maritime Museum (with the central Queen's House) is located in front of the Greenwich Hospital
The Chapel, Greenwich Hospital
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The Chapel, Greenwich Hospital

The Greenwich Hospital was founded in 1694 as the Royal Naval Hospital for Seamen and occupied its prime riverside site on the south bank of the river Thames in Greenwich, London for over 170 years, closing in 1869. It was subsequently occupied by the Royal Naval College until it became one of the campuses of the University of Greenwich in 1998.

History

Greenwich Hospital was built on the site of the Palace of Placentia, which had fallen into disrepair during the English Civil War and 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 two principal buildings are King Charles' Court (the only surviving part of the old royal palace), completed in 1705, and Queen Mary's Court, completed in 1742. With the King Charles building to the west, the symmetry of the riverside frontage is maintained by Queen Anne Court (architects: Wren and Hawksmoor) to the east.

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.

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Painted Hall of Greenwich Hospital

Behind King Charles Court is King William Court (designed by Wren, but completed by Hawksmoor and Sir John Vanbrugh), famous for its Painted Hall. 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 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 University of Greenwich and 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 Hospital buildings have appeared in several films, including Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Madness of King George, The Mummy Returns and Tomb Raider.

See also: List of hospitals in the UK


There is also a Greenwich Hospital located in Greenwich, Connecticut. It is not as large as its British counterpart, but it is the largest and most significant hospital in Greenwich.

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