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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David Hinds - Self Portrait
Community, creativity and connection - Chelsea Pensioners and the Soldiers’ Arts Academy

The Soldiers’ Arts Academy links serving and veteran Army personnel and their families with professionals from the creative arts. Through a range of workshops, projects and productions they give participants the opportunity to discover new interests, recover from difficult experiences, transition into civilian life and even find new careers. 

Burial Grounds Thumb
Researching our old Burial Ground gives Chelsea Pensioners a new lease of life

The monuments in the old Burial Ground record Chelsea Pensioners who took part in famous battles, former Governors and other members of staff and their families – and famous figures from the Royal Hospital’s history.

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