A wow visit to a reopened Painted Hall

It’s been closed for two years for a major conservation project, and reopened last weeked. I was able to book tickets on the opening weekend through week, and it was truly wonderful. At one point I thought we might not make it down into Greenwich at all as MOH was working (again), but just after 3pm on Sunday he escaped his laptop and we headed on what is a daily walk for me.

It was a lovely day and Greenwich Park was full, which was quite strange to see. I’m so used to seeing it with workers hurrying through and the dog walking community meeting for their daily - or least morning - constitution, that it’s easy to forget the weekend leisure users of the space. And on a sunny day, how that multiplies.

We’ve been to the Painted Hall many times before, in fact we visited with family including a cousin’s American husband the day after our wedding whose reaction was “gee, this is old!” Which of course is correct, it is.

It’s part of the Old Royal Naval College and was designed as a ceremonial dining room by Sir Christopher Wren, and some dining room! It took 19 years to complete the vast decorative scheme, painted by Sir James Thornhill and that started in 1707. He was the first British artist to be knighted and painted himself into the picture, which was pointed out in the new audio accompaniment - so look out for him later.

Previously entry was free, and is now £12 which before we went I thought was hefty. Having visited, I think it’s pretty good value, especially as you can use your ticket to gain entry for a year. That won’t work for everyone but they’re not the only organisation to do that, and it doesn’t stop you visiting, does it.

The entrance is new too, and much more focused. You enter through the Undercroft, now renamed the Sackler Gallery and there’s the obligatory shop and a cafe too. The cafe is particularly welcome as it’s yet another space for food and drink on campus, although despite only going this weekend I’d already forgotten that in the everyday busy-ness of the working day. And this week too, I’ve been less good about taking lunch to work and reverted to popping to the garage for a sandwich rather than trying something a little more social.



Looking up in what used to be the entrance area was spectacular, and only partly prepared you for the wow when you first glimpse the main event. It is truly breathtaking.


A photo really can’t do it justice, but it does give you an idea of how spectacular it is.

Before the hall was filled with large wooden tables, which took up most of the space. These have now gone and have been replaced with cushioned benches down the centre of the space, these allow people to view the ceiling lying down, and if you weren’t aware of that, the following photo could be quite amusing!

Admiring the ceiling is tiring work

And it’s a vast improvement of a mirror that was there before.

I’m not usually much of a fan of audio guides, but I took one and it was impressive. You can dip into and out of the information in a way that works for you. It translates the latin inscription around the edge of the ceiling in an engaging way. It’s been many years since I studied Latin - amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant and all that.

the multimedia guide
The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich

Earlier I promised you Sir James Thornhill, well here he is with the tools of his trade behind him on the ledge - that’s just one of the useful facts on the multimedia guide.

Sir James Thornhill

It’s definitely worth a visit, and it’s definitely worth visiting Greenwich for. And if you visit give me a wave!

Is it too early to be thinking about Valentines day chocolate?

Yes, I know it was only yesterday that I said I was getting around to the healthy eating and fitness regime that most people are already two weeks into, but you know how it is, you can’t rush a good thing and I’m hardly known for being early for pretty much anything, and I’m easily sidetracked.

I start off with good intentions, make a plan and then often somewhere along the way get derailed. But this year I’m hoping that will happen less often as with the tenacious attitude I’ll be adopting, there’s a chance that this year I’ll be buying Valentines day chocolates earlier than my usual night before the big day.

Photo by  Jesse Goll  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jesse Goll on Unsplash

But even I know that if I spend the next month looking forward to and drooling over the Valentines day chocolates that I might buy, or even the ones that I’d leave large hints for MOH about, then January would be even a duller and longer month than usual.

So instead I’m going to be wondering about the history of the day and I’m sharing 5 facts that you might or might not already know:

  1. Valentines Day is linked back to not one, but two, early Roman saints, both named Valentine but the connection to romantic love came later.

  2. The first Valentines Day was in 496, so quite a while ago, and is thought to have originated from a Roman festival, called Lupercalia held in the middle of February, and the official start of their springtime.

  3. Its first link to a romance appeared in the ‘Parlement of Foules’ poem by Chaucer in 1382, which contains one of the earliest references as St Valentine’s Day as a special day for lovers.

  4. In Queen Victoria’s reign exchanging small tokens of affection or handwritten notes became common for friends and lovers of all social classes, as did the Cupid-themed gifts and cards.

  5. The first Valentines day heart-shaped box of chocolates was sold in England by Cadbury in 1868 and was known as the Fancy Box, which as you might have guessed was a huge success.

So know you now, fascinating hey? There’s so much more to our romantic box of chocolates than you first thought, I bet.

And in answer to my original question, is it too early to be thinking about this, I think not. I mean January is well known to be the longest month in the calendar, with at least 91 or so days, so we definitely need something to look forward to.

* This is a collaborative post, but all views and opinions are my own.