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The Royal Hospital for Seamen, Greenwich: 'A Refuge for All'

The Greenwich Hospital collection

Museum and art gallery

The Painted Hall of Greenwich Hospital.
View full size imageThe Painted Hall of Greenwich Hospital. © NMM

The Hospital's role as a museum and art gallery originated from the decision to paint the refectory. The dining room was moved elsewhere for the duration of Thornhill’s work. Then, because the room was too small for the number of residents, the move was made permanent. Thereafter, Thornhill's Hall was only used for grand occasions.

The Painted Hall was given up to the many visitors who soon paid to see Thornhill's painting, aided by his printed description of them. This launched Greenwich as a place of cultural tourism.

'A National Gallery of Marine Paintings'

Captain William Locker, 1731-1800.
View full size imageCaptain William Locker, 1731-1800. © NMM
In 1795 the newly arrived Lieutenant-Governor William Locker, Nelson's friend and former captain, suggested:

 'that it should be appropriated to the service of a National Gallery of Marine Paintings, to commemorate the eminent services of the Royal Navy of England'.

Locker was a veteran of the American war. He may have been inspired to open a gallery in the

Painted Hall because the Hospital was receiving bequests of paintings from Naval officers. He also wanted to keep up public interest in the Hospital's work at the start of the French Revolutionary War.

Sources of early paintings

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