King William and Queen Mary Buildings, Old Royal Naval College

The King William and Queen Mary buildings at the Old Royal Naval College form a centrepiece of the most impressive arrangement of Baroque buildings in Britain. They form an essential part of the world-famous view from Greenwich Park, and stand at the heart of the Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site.

Under the stewardship of the Greenwich Foundation, a programme of stone cleaning and repair has re-presented this formerly traffic-polluted great frontage, allowing visitors once again to appreciate one of Wren’s finest achievements. The palette of stone tones has been reinstated to interpret and re-enhance the powerful architecture of both elevations within their designed landscape.

The King William building was built by Hawksmoor, when a shortage of Portland Stone forced the use of magnesium limestone and Northamptonshire Clipsham. This soon decayed, and ill-advised attempts by the Royal Navy to re-homogenise the elevation by slurry-coating it with cement made matters worse: catching traffic pollution and obscuring the crispness of bold carved architectural details. The Queen Mary building was built slightly later by Thomas Ripley, and constructed more uniformly in Portland stone. As a consequence, many of the problems arising from the use of inferior stone on the King William building were not experienced here. Nevertheless, a similar but more limited programme of repointing, mortar replacement, stonework repair took place.

The programme has vastly improved the presentation of the Old Royal Naval College, doing justice to what UNESCO describes as ‘the finest and most dramatically sited architectural and landscape ensemble in the British Isles.”