Greenwich Royal Naval College
In 1694 a hospital for seamen and their dependants was established by Royal Charter in Greenwich, London. It was designed by Christopher Wren, who laid the foundation stone on 30th June 1696. Over the next fifty years architects such as Vanbrugh, Hawksmoor, Campbell, Ripley and James "Athenian" Stuart worked to complete Wren's design.
Towards the end of the 19th century pensioner numbers declined, leading to the closure of the Hospital in 1869. In 1873 the Royal Naval College moved in. During the Second World War the College's major task was the training of 'hostilities-only' officers - nearly 27,000 of them passed through Greenwich. The Navy's Department of Nuclear Science and Technology opened in 1959, and JASON, the department's research and training reactor was commissioned in the King William building in 1962.
The Royal Navy finally left the site in 1998, and formally handed over management to the new custodians, the Greenwich Foundation, which signed a 150-year lease in July of that year. The Foundation and its two principal on-site partners, the University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music, sponsor a wide range of events and activities, and have done much to increase public access.
The old college site is huge with many striking buildings, and the fact that the site can be closed to the public means that it's an ideal location to shoot movies; in fact, it's one of the most popular shooting locations in the UK.
Occasionally, the College does actually stand in for a naval college on screen [Annapolis (2006)], or at least a naval building [The Bounty (1984)], or a college of a non-naval nature [Starter For Ten (2006)]. Quite often the imposing architecture is used to stand in for official buildings, such as the Pentagon [Shining Through (1992)], The Russian National Fine Art Repository [Octopussy (1983)], or the fictional Magisterium's palace [The Golden Compass (2007)]
Frequently, the roads through the college are used to portray London streets - especially for scenes involving stunt work, or period films. These movies include Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides (2011), Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), Murder By Decree (1979), Muppets Most Wanted (2014), Patriot Games (1992), Shanghai Knights (2003), The Wolfman (2010), Stage Beauty (2004), What a Girl Wants (2003), National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007), The King's Speech (2010), and The Mummy Returns (2001).
The East Gate
The east gate of the college bears a striking similarity to the front gates of Buckingham Palace. Since it is not possible to film in front of The Palace, movies which need to show people passing through the gates are often filmed here instead. Such films include Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006), King Ralph (1991), National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007), and Patriot Games (1992). The gates also play the entrance to the regimental barracks in The Four Feathers (2002).
Painted Hall and Chapel
The Painted Hall, part of King William Court, was painted over a period of 19 years by Sir James Thornhill, and is 'one of the finest dining halls in Europe'. On film it often appears when an opulent, and possibly slightly over-the-top, room is needed. It was the World Council meeting room in The Avengers (1998), the meeting room for the Venice secret society in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), the regimental dining room in The Four Feathers (2002), King Charles's dining room and throne room in Stage Beauty (2004), a royal fashion show in What a Girl Wants (2003), the dining room of Jordan College in The Golden Compass (2007), the Palace of Versailles in Quills (2000), Saint James's Palace in Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides (2011), and surprisingly as itself in Indiscreet (1958). It also appears in The Madness Of King George (1994), and The Good Night (2007), among others.
The Chapel, in Queen Mary Court, was rebuilt to a design by James Stuart after a devastating fire in the late 18th century. On film, it appeared as the venue of the second wedding (the one with Rowan Atkinson as the vicar) in Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994), and also the venue for Colin Firth's pivotal speech in What a Girl Wants (2003).
Other movies to use the Royal Naval College include Dorian Gray (2009), The Duchess (2008), Eastern Promises (2007), Charlotte Gray (2001), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Les Misérables (2012), and Skyfall (2012).
The movie which gets the best use out of the college must surely be What a Girl Wants (2003) in which, if you include the road immediately outside the gates, it stands in for five different places!
The college is open to the public almost all year round, and free to visit, although you can pay for a guided tour. Go here for more details.
- Royal Naval College Website
- Royal Naval College on Wikipedia
- Google Maps
- Flickr Photos