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Greenwich Hospital

The Greenwich Hospital was founded in 1694 as the Royal Naval Hospital for Seamen and occupied its prime riverside site (formerly the royal Palace of Placentia) on the south bank of the river Thames in Greenwich, London for over 170 years, closing in 1869.

(It was not a hospital in the modern sense, but really served as an almshouse or charitable refuge for veteran sailors - pensioners - who could no longer look after themselves. In this respect, it is similar to the Royal Chelsea Hospital, home of the 'Chelsea Pensioners', further upstream in west London, and the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, France.)

It comprises several grand buildings, the four main ones (the 'Courts') being arranged rather like the quarters of a square, bisected east-west by a square or processional route, and north-south by an internal road.

The oldest of the buildings, King Charles Court, incorporates the first wing of a royal palace designed by architect John Webb for King Charles II in 1664, but remodelled 30 years later by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor.

With the King Charles building to the west, the symmetry of the riverside frontage is maintained by Queen Anne Court (architects: Wren and Hawksmoor) to the east.

The grand square in between maintained access to, and a river view from, the nearby Queen's House and Greenwich Park beyond. Parallel to the river, the Hospital's buildings are bisected by a road leading eastwards from a gate-house by Greenwich town centre. To the south of this road, two further palatial buildings complete the Hospital.

Behind King Charles Court is King William Court (designed by Wren, but completed by Hawksmoor and Sir John Vanbrugh), famous for its Painted Hall. Behind Queen Anne Court is Queen Mary Court (planned by Wren and Hawksmoor, but not built until after Wren's death, by Thomas Ripley).

The Greenwich Hospital buildings did include an actual hospital, or infirmary: the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital (it took its name from a hospital ship moored off Greenwich in 1870).

The buildings were taken over by the Royal Naval College in 1873, and they remained a military education establishment until 1998 when they passed into the hands of the University of Greenwich and Trinity School of Music.

There is also a Greenwich Hospital located in Greenwich, Connecticut. It is not as large as its British counterpart, but it is the largest and most significant hospital in Greenwich.