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


Greenwich Hospital from the North Bank of the Thames.
View full size imageGreenwich Hospital from the North Bank of the Thames. © NMM

The Royal Hospital for Seamen was the great project of Queen Mary II. She started it soon after becoming Queen in 1689 but, by the end of 1694, she had died of smallpox, aged just 32.

Mary's husband, William III, had so far showed little interest in the Hospital, but immediately back-dated the founding charter to 25 October 1694 - in both their names - and ordered work to proceed in her memory.

No-one who founded the project lived to see its completion, for the great twin-domed complex that still dominates the Thames at Greenwich took nearly 60 years to build.

Few who visit the spectacular buildings, which are now the Old Royal Naval College and are used as a modern university campus, realize they were originally a place of charity. Even fewer know that Greenwich Hospital still exists as a welfare foundation that supports seamen and their families, to the extent of some £3.5 million a year.

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