A room in which Admiral Lord Nelson’s body lay in state following his death has reopened to the public.
The Nelson Room at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich was unveiled in late March following a year-long conservation project.
It follows the restoration of the neighbouring Baroque Painted Hall, decorated by Sir James Thornhill and referred to as ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’, which reopened in 2019.
After being killed during the Battle of Trafalgar of 21 October 1805, Nelson’s body was returned to Britain on his flagship, HMS Victory.
Once the ship had docked at Greenwich, Nelson’s body – preserved in a casket of spirits on the long trip – was transferred to the nearby Royal Hospital for Seaman, now known as the Old Royal Naval College.
The area became the centre of the nation’s outpouring of grief for the fallen admiral, with thousands visiting to see his body lie in state in the Upper Hall of the Painted Hall.
Before this, it had briefly lain in a small room off the Painted Hall. This space, created by Nicholas Hawksmoor to the original masterplan by Sir Christopher Wren, was renamed the Nelson Room in 1846.
It includes some unique architecture, such as an imposing roof lantern and Swedish marble flooring called Oland Stone.
The conservation of the room has included the installation of a new sculpture by Antony Dufort. According to curators, Trafalgar Day at Greenwich: Victory Breaks the Line pays tribute to the British sailors.
Additionally, a new audio-visual experience has been installed exploring the reaction to Nelson’s death. There is also improved disability access benches for visitors.
‘I’d like people, once they see this room, to realise the connection with Nelson and Greenwich, and our part in the story,’ Claire Kirk, head of collections at the attraction, said.
‘It was a records room at the time for Greenwich Hospital and they made space, putting his body here for eleven days while they were setting up the Painted Hall next door for the lying in state,’ Kirk explained.
‘The country was distraught,’ she added. ‘There was a huge outpouring of grief.’
The Old Royal Navy College was originally the site of Greenwich Palace, the favoured residence of Henry VIII.
Today, the college is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, with 1.2 million visitors annually.