The Painted Hall Ceiling Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime experience in every sense of the word. It’s not a marketing ploy to make you want to visit it but a fact as the next chance you’ll probably be able to do this is after a 100 years. So unless you’re planning to outlive everyone else and be a centenarian, you won’t have any other chance to do this but now.
The Painted Hall considered as London’s Sistine Chapel is undergoing a two-year restoration but instead of closing it to the public, they’re offering ceiling tours which gives you a chance to stand on a (very safe) scaffolding with the ceiling at your arm’s reach (don’t reach out to it though).
It was originally built as a dining hall for the retired or sickly naval officers in the 17th century. A British painter, James Thornhill, was commissioned to design the hall with murals and the result came into completion after 19 years. However, it was too grand for the pensioners and so they have opened it to the public and became a tourist attraction with the pensioners acting as the tour guides for a fee.
The last time it underwent a restoration was during the 1950’s and time has taken its toll to the grandiosity of the paintings – smoke and dirt has built up on the surfaces, and varnish layers have fractured under the effects of heat and humidity.
The restoration project will see the 40,000 square feet of paintings cleaned and restored along with creating a more stable environment so that it will be many decades before the Painted Hall needs conserving again.
You may not be able to see the grandiosity of the painting itself during the Painted Hall Ceiling tour as you’re so close to it but you’ll be able to see some details of the painting that you won’t be able to notice from the ground. In fact, some of these details were only discovered now.
From this tour, you’ll also know the painstaking and laborious process of how it will be restored. It’s fascinating to learn the lengths that they have to go through to make sure that the Painted Hall will be enjoyed by generations to come.
Painted Hall Ceiling Tours will be available until September 2018 and lasts for 50 minutes. The first tour is at 10am and the last tour is at 4pm. As you will be climbing up a scaffolding, high heels are not allowed and visitors must be fit enough to ascend and descend 70 steps. Ticket price is £10 per adult and £5 per child (6-17 years).
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