A Brief History of the Old Royal Naval College

Greenwich Park is one of the most unquestionably beautiful spots in all of South London. So beautiful that you guys actually voted it the best park in South London when we asked you a couple of months back. Every park needs an attraction and the Old Royal naval college is indisputably the architectural centrepiece of the Greenwich Park area. It has been described as the ‘finest and most dramatically sited architectural and landscape ensemble in the British Isles’.

Photo by @  deepsane  on Instagram

Photo by @deepsane on Instagram

The site was originally the location of the Greenwich Palace, or officially known as the Palace of Placentia, built in 1443. It was the birthplace of Tudor Queens such as Mary I and Elizabeth I (not the current one of course). A tree in Greenwich Park known as ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Oak’ is said to be where the former Queen played as a child. The Palace was destroyed in 1660, In order for a new palace to be constructed (the Greenwich Hospital) four decades later.

Palace of Placentia during Tudor times

Palace of Placentia during Tudor times

The buildings were constructed to serve as the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich, which was utilised as a permanent home for retired sailors of the Royal Navy from the late 17th century to 1869. In 1873 four years after the hospital closed, the buildings were acquired by the Naval College in Portsmouth and so the Royal Naval College was officially established. The college gained a reputation as one of the most highly rated naval officers’ training college in Europe whereby fresh rigorous courses were added continuously added. During the First World War the Naval College was employed as a barracks for scientific experiments with officer training only continuing in 1919. During the Second World War the college undertook and major task of training over 30,000 officers (men and women) for an expanded navy.

The Naval College left the site after two centuries in 1998 and the site is now managed by the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Naval College set up in July of that year.  The grounds and some of its buildings are now open for visitors with a mix of new uses and activities available for the public to enjoy.  The Old Royal Naval College and the "Maritime Greenwich" World Heritage site are becoming focal points for a number of community activities, and unsurprisingly has been a popular destination for filming television programmes and movies. Classic films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pirates of the Caribbean & The Kings Speech have all included scenes shot at the Royal Naval College.

A post shared by Dog Axis (@dogaxis) on

If you would like to visit this historic place, it is only a five minute walk from the Cutty Sark DLR station and slightly longer from Greenwich Overground station.  There are an abundance of options for you such as a free 45 minute guided walk, family events such as archaeology workshops, exhibitions and much more.



The South London Club is a local discount card to help support small independent businesses across South London whilst saving all who live, work & play in South London money! With over 500+ local discounts to choose from, you will discover & explore all the best hidden gems in South London. Join over 5,000 of us & celebrate all that's independent & South London!