Early Years

Sir Christopher Wren's design for the Royal Hospital is based on the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.

The original building was intended to house 412 veteran soldiers and their officers and comprised a single quadrangle, known as Figure Court. However, before work had begun it was realised that the buildings would be insufficient and Wren added two further quadrangles to his design. In 1686, construction was approved and building commenced.

In 1692, the Royal Hospital was able to open its doors for the first time. On February 4th, the first group of 99 Chelsea Pensioners were installed and on March 28th the full complement of 476 was made up when they were joined by a further 377 residents. 

The early funding of the Royal Hospital was made from deductions from army pay, with occasional funding from other sources. This continued to be the Royal Hospital's main source of revenue until 1847. Since then the Royal Hospital has been supported by 'Grant-in-Aid' from the Ministry of Defence and a small income from the Army Prize Money and Legacy Fund.

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Chelsea Pensioner pictured Dairy UK Chair Paul Vernon, the Governor of the Royal Hospital and the ceremonial cheese
Chelsea Pensioners and Dairy UK take part in the annual Ceremony of the Christmas Cheeses

A festive tradition dating back to the opening of the Royal Hospital in 1692 – today Dairy UK donated over 270kg of British cheeses to the Chelsea Pensioners to tide them over the festive period.

Christmas Pudding
Festivities begin with the stirring of the Christmas Pudding

The Christmas period officially got underway today at the Royal Hospital, as the Chelsea Pensioners took part in the tradition of stirring in the ingredients for the Christmas pudding.

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