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A Connection with Coal – The Derwentwater Estates

Our stories

Wed 24 Jan 24

As we approach the final days of Coalescence in the Painted Hall, it may be good to explore another unlikely connection between coal and the history of our site.

In 1735 the House of Commons, at the request of King George II, granted all the funds derived from the Derwentwater Estates – located in the North of England – to the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich. The Estates had been forfeited to the Crown because of the 3rd Earl of Derwentwater’s participation in the Jacobite Rising of 1715. Income from the land, which included valuable coal and lead mines, put the Hospital’s income on a stable footing for the first time.

It is possible that King George II’s decision to grant the Estates to Greenwich Hospital was heavily influenced by the installation of John Michael Rysbrack’s statue of the monarch in the centre of the vista at the Hospital. Armed with the knowledge that the King regularly journeyed from Greenwich to his native Hanover, Sir John Jennings, the Governor of Greenwich Hospital, personally paid Rysbrack’s fee of £400 in an ultimately successful attempt to flatter the King with his likeness.

You can visit Rysbrack’s distinctive statue in the same location, now known as the Lower Grand Square. Here, the King is depicted in the fashionable garb of a Roman Emperor, holding a sceptre and orb. The 11-ton block of white marble, captured from the French by Admiral George Rooke, was originally purchased by the Hospital in 1714 and had been intended for a statue of King William III which was never made.

Coalescence ends on Sunday 4 February, 2024. Entry also includes access to our 600 Years of History Tour, where you can learn more about Rysbrack’s statue and much more.