Town mouse revisits the Old Royal Naval College

Better than imagined.

The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, is a building that never fails to amaze and delight. Last week, I had an opportunity to revisit the interiors opened up more than 10 years ago by the foundation that now runs the site. For once, I found that my memories simply didn’t live up to the reality: the exquisitely detailed chapel, the vast Painted Hall—surely one of the most extraordinary and extravagant creations of the English Baroque— and the grand colonnades that connect the buildings all far exceeded my already high expectations.

With cars firmly restricted from the buildings, it was wonderful also to enjoy the peaceful succession of immensely grand courtyards opening out from each other in unexpected succession. Peaceful, that is, apart from the sounds created by rehearsing students from the Trinity College of Music. Their exuberant cacophony of jazz and Mozart floated through open windows on an unexpectedly warm afternoon. At the close of this magical visit, I was able to commute back to town by boat as the evening drew in. Looking into the brightly lit life of the great office towers of Canary Wharf and the City, it was hard not be exhilarated by the sheer vibrancy of London’s life.