The four-storey wings enclosing the East and West sides of Figure Court contain the In-Pensioners' living quarters, which are known as Long Wards. The original berths, as designed by Wren, measured six feet (1.8 metres) square. Each berth was provided with a bed, a straw mattress, a flock mattress, two pairs of sheets, three blankets and a coverlet. There was barely any space for furnishings which included a wooden chest, mounted on castors with a padlock and key, and a built-in table fitted with a drawer.
Originally washing facilities were provided in each Long Ward. All the toilets (‘privies') were located at the end of each outer courtyard where they could be easily emptied. For night use each Ward therefore had 8 brass pails, along with a pewter bedpan for the Sergeant. Lighting was provided by nine "lanthornes" in each ward, but due to the risk of fire the use of candlesticks was stopped in 1769. Gas lighting was installed in 1854, but it was not until the early 20th Century when electricity was substituted for gas, that there was any lighting in the berths.
The East and West Wings are symmetrically planned, with a pair of Long Wards arranged back-to-back on each of the four floors. Each Long Ward is 200 feet (61 metres) long with a line of wainscoted berths running down the inner side, now containing 18 berths.
The stairs at the northern ends were designed to be shallow and wide for the convenience of the older and infirm. The staircase in the East Wing is modern, having been damaged by bombing in 1940. The wood used to repair it was left over from the repair of the House of Commons and the repaired wall is picked out in lighter brick. Wren provided separate stairs at the south end of each Wing as a means of escape in case of fire.
Each Long Ward contains two fireplaces which, during the 19th century were fitted with ranges and were, until 1955, used for the cooking of rations. Central heating was installed from 1928 and lifts from 1926.
The berths were enlarged in 1954-55 and again in 1991 to their present size of 9 feet by 9 feet (2.7 by 2.7 metres). In addition the berths were roofed over and had better lighting and ventilation installed. Each berth is now furnished with a bed, a table, a chair, a wardrobe and a chest of drawers, together with a bedside light, radio and television point. Complete privacy can be secured by closing the berth door and shutter. A mock up of a berth is on show in the Museum.
The facilities are currently being upgraded to meet the needs of the 21st Century In-Pensioner. Improvements to bathing and WC facilities have already taken place and an IT suite has been opened. Work has begun on the refurbishment of the Long Wards. The first phase is now complete with the opening of Wards 23 and 24 and work will begin shortly on the remaining Long Wards.
To find out how to make a donation to the Chelsea Pensioners' Appeal and help with our refurbishment programme please click here.