On a crisp autumn morning I pull into the carpark of The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London. The journey has been pleasantly clear and the anticipation of our shoot fills me with excitement. It is a busy day at the college with students and members of the public bustling about. In addition to our team, there are several large vehicles which belong to a Hollywood film crew, we have a very strict schedule to ensure our editorial shoot and the filming of the movie are seamlessly co-ordinated to be in the right place at the right time, the ORNC team are on hand to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Our location could not be more perfectly suited to the designer whose gowns we are featuring in this shoot. Royal couturier Stewart Parvin’s, impeccably tailored, beautifully fitted and exquisitely made bridalwear. Parvin creates chic, understated elegance for HM Queen Elizabeth II and as we are shooting at the location where the main royal palace stood throughout the Tudor period, we could think of no better designer to choose. It is as though figures from the ornate paintings have come to life, each model is adorned with beautiful gowns in rich colours complemented by luxurious, intricate details.
The grandeur of the buildings which sit symmetrically on the banks of the Thames lend themselves to many period films and dramas, they have been locations for films such as Les Miserables, Pirates of the Caribbean and Cinderella, in addition to the tv series The Crown. From its important beginnings as Henry VIII’s Greenwich Palace, to becoming a hospital for retired sailors and then a training facility for Naval Officers, Sir Christopher Wren’s iconic twin domes of the Old Royal Naval College are full of fascinating history. The centrepiece is the magnificent Painted Hall, designed by Wren as a dining room and finished in 1705. Its vast decorative scheme by artist Sir James Thornhill took 19 years to complete and tells the story of Britain’s triumphant naval power, making the Painted Hall one of the finest Baroque interiors in the UK.
We set up in the historic Admiral’s House, a perfect location for a more intimate wedding, being able to accommodate up to 60 guests. It has the most majestic staircase which would be ideal for photographs. Each room has a grandeur of its own, the entrance hall with wood panelling and marble fireplace being a perfect location for mingling guests, it would create a real talking point with its geometric black and white tiled floor. It has a masculine feel but with huge windows flooding in light and so many architectural opportunities for adding your own decorative touches it would be a beautiful setting for any wedding.
Onwards to the Painted Hall, from the outside the building mirrors its neighbour in grandeur with elegant domed roof, but inside it is quite a different matter. You enter the building into a small gift shop and café area and ahead of you are huge glass and steel doors reaching to the ceiling. Once through these doors and up a slightly curving staircase you are met with the most breath-taking entrance hall. Its beauty takes the wind from your sails. Some visitors carried on up the steps to the main part of the hall but for me, I had to take a moment and appreciate the beauty on every surface. This part of the hall is housed in the dome and the painting goes all the way up to the very top. It is somehow unfathomable to think this artistic creation was painted by a gentleman who was quite new to his craft. The illusion of depth created in each brush stroke is really quite phenomenal and it takes some self-control not to stroke the walls to dispel the illusion. Carrying on into the hall itself and you are greeted by the most glorious ceiling, the UK’s version of the Sistine Chapel if you will. Just imagine walking into the incredible space in a beautiful gown on your wedding day, accompanied by your husband. How utterly magical, if there were ever a venue to make you feel like royalty, this is it. The fabulous thing about the Painted Hall is that the walls are so decorative you need not add complicated table decorations. Sparkling table ware, gold chargers and cutlery to mimic the ornate gold architecture and an abundance of candles, LED flickering ones to avoid any potential damage to the paintwork.
All Image Credits: James Clarke