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Royal Navy Cemetery, The Devonport Mausoleum and Devonport House Grounds Greenwich


The former burial ground of the Royal Hospital for Seamen is a railed area within the grounds of Devonport House, with a number of monuments outside the boundary railings. The Hospital or almshouse for the relief and support of seamen was built from 1696 on the site of the royal palace at Greenwich at the wish of Queen Mary. The first pensioners arrived in 1705 and by 1755 there were 1,550 occupants. The Devonport Mausoleum was built in 1750 and has a plaque recording the first burial in 1749; by the time the Hospital was closed in 1869 some 24,000 men and some women were buried here, although many of the remains were later cleared. In 1873 the buildings were taken over by the Royal Naval College, which retained the Infirmary as a Free Hospital for Seamen of All Nations. From the 1870s much of the area was laid out as pleasure grounds for the Royal Hospital School. Devonport House was built in 1926-29 as a Nurses' Home.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Royal Hospital for Seamen Cemetery; Seamen's Hospital Burial Ground

Site location:
Maritime Greenwich Campus, off Romney Road

SE10 9NF ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Cemetery; Institutional Grounds

1749 (cemetery)


Listed structures:
LBII: Devonport Mausoleum, boundary fence to former Seamen's Hospital burial ground; monument south of Nurses Home, forecourt railings and gates to north of old burial ground and Nurses Home; Devonport House and building to south; Local list: 1898 Monument to former inmates of Royal Hospital; Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson memorial.


Site ownership:
Greenwich Foundation leased to the University of Greenwich

Site management:
The University of Greenwich

Open to public?

Opening times:
Grounds of Devonport House open 8am-5pm; Cemetery and Mausoleum open occasionally, including London Open House;

Special conditions:
No dogs, no cycling, no skateboarding, no radios


Devonport Mausoleum and Seamen's Cemetery has opened for London Open House

Public transport:
DLR: Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich. Rail: Maze Hill. Bus: 177, 180, 188, 199, 286, 386. River service to Greenwich Pier

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2009
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:

In Conservation Area:

Conservation Area name:
Greenwich Park

Tree Preservation Order:
Not known

Nature Conservation Area:

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Character of Metropolitan Importance?

Other LA designation:
World Heritage Site

Fuller information

The site was once the cemetery for the Royal Hospital for Seamen, now within the grounds of Devonport House, which was built in 1926-29 by Sir Edwin Cooper as a Nurses' Home. The Royal Hospital, now the Old Royal Naval College (q.v.), was built on the site of the royal palace at Greenwich, after William and Mary chose Hampton Court for their royal palace in 1688. It was the wish of Queen Mary that a naval hospital or almshouse for the relief and support of seamen and their dependants should be built to complete the King's House at Greenwich, to match that already established at Chelsea. Her ambition in this respect was the result of seeing wounded men returning from the naval battle of La Hogue in 1692, and after her death William set about the project. In 1694 Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to undertake the work, which was eventually completed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, John Vanbrugh and other distinguished architects over the next 50 years. The foundation stone was laid on 30 June 1696 by Wren and John Evelyn, who had been appointed Treasurer. Although the buildings were incomplete, the first pensioners came to the Greenwich Hospital in 1705 and by 1755 there were 1,550 occupants. By 1814 there were over 2,700 residents but after this the numbers declined and the Hospital closed in 1869 by Act of Parliament.

In 1873 the buildings were taken over by the Royal Naval College providing training for officers from the world over, the College retaining the Infirmary as a Free Hospital for Seamen of All Nations. The Royal Navy left Greenwich in December 1998 whereupon responsibility passed to the Greenwich Foundation, which in July 1998 signed a lease for 150 years. The Foundation was established as a registered charity to look after the buildings and their grounds for the benefit of the nation. In 1999 the University of Greenwich leased part of the site for its Maritime Greenwich Campus, including Devonport House and its grounds.

Within the grounds is a small railed area of the former cemetery that contains a number of monuments and the Devonport Mausoleum, which was refurbished by the University in 1999 at a cost of £90,000 funded by, among others, the Greenwich Development Agency. Until 1857 this was the graveyard of the Royal Hospital for Seamen, where funerals took place on Tuesdays and Fridays, bodies borne across Romney Road from the Hospital Infirmary, now the Dreadnought Library. From 1749 onwards, c.24,000 men and some women were buried here, although many of the remains were cleared in 1875 when the South West Wing of what is now the National Maritime Museum was built, and again in 1929 for Devonport House. From the 1870s much of the area was laid out as pleasure grounds for the Royal Hospital School, part of whose building now forms the rear of Devonport House. The Devonport Mausoleum was built in 1750, probably designed by Thomas Ripley, Royal Hospital Surveyor, and a plaque commemorates the first burial in the graveyard of Pensioner John Meriton on 5 July 1749. Inside the building is a monument of c1890 to Edward Riddle and his son John, bother former headmasters of the Royal Hospital School, which has a bust of Edward by William Theed that was presented to him in 1852 after his retirement. This was given to the school in 1891 by John's son. By 1842 the mausoleum contained over 80 coffins within the large vault below and a C20th plaque lists the names of those buried here. Among them are former Governors of the Hospital, including Sir Thomas Hardy (d.1839) who was with Nelson at Trafalgar, and Admiral Lord Hood (d.1816) who fought in the War of American Independence and whose wife, Lady Hood, is also buried here. Captain Nathaniel Portlock, who circumnavigated the globe and sailed with Captain Bligh on his voyage for Sir Joseph Banks to establish breadfruit, is buried here. The grave of the last Governor of the Hospital, Admiral Sir James Gordon (d.1869), is within the railed area of the cemetery, and just outside this is a Portland monument to Tom Allen (d.1838), who was servant to Nelson and allowed to be buried here although not a seaman. Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson (d.1828) is buried in the vault but also has a large pillar monument in the gardens near the railings to Romney Road.

Also in the gardens is a stone monument with a figure of Britannia, which was erected in 1898 to commemorate the 20,000 of so former residents of the Hospital who were buried in the cemetery between 1749-1869. There are a number of other monuments within the grounds of Devonport House, which are laid out with grass, mature trees and ornamental beds. Devonport House is used as a conference centre and provides student accommodation. The site is within Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site, designated in 1997.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Pieter Van Der Merwe, The Devonport Mausoleum, leaflet produced for London Open House, 2009

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