To mark Halloween, we’ve been investigating a murky period in the history of the Royal Hospital’s Old Burial Ground. First consecrated in 1691, over 10,00 Chelsea Pensioners, staff and families were laid to rest here before burials ceased in 1854.

Thanks to a development grant of £135,726 awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund towards a £7.2 million project, the home of the Chelsea Pensioners will be creating a new Visitor Centre to welcome more of the public to its historic site.

The Royal Hospital dates back to the late 17th century, but the story of the land where it stands has been traced back still further. Research from the Museum of London Archaeology has thrown light on the site’s varied past.

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.

The last Sunday in June was a significant date for the Royal Hospital. Almost every Sunday, between April and November the Governor’s Parade – reviewed by the Governor, the Quartermaster or the Royal Hospital’s doctor - is conducted by the duty officer appointed for the week.  For the first time the duty officer responsible was a woman...

Today marks 80 years following the bombing of the Royal Hospital’s Infirmary during the Second World War. The magnificent Infirmary, which once stood on the current site of the National Army Museum, was hit by a parachute bomb on 16 April 1941 – destroying most of the building and tragically ending the lives of 13 people.

From its extravagant beginnings as part of the estate of the 1st Earl of Ranelagh, Richard Jones (1641-1712), to its fashionable pleasure gardens and impressive rotunda, Ranelagh Gardens at the Royal Hospital Chelsea have boasted a long and fascinating history. 

Whether you have been lucky enough to visit our Great Hall in person, or have experienced its grandeur by watching our virtual tours, it's difficult not to be impressed by the imposing mural that adorns the back wall where Pensioners take their meals.

From delivering post, to guiding visitors around our historic site, the Chelsea Pensioners can choose to take on a number of different jobs while living at the Royal Hospital. One of the more unusual roles previously adopted by Pensioners was as a member of the Chelsea Patrol; a London garrison stationed between the Royal Hospital and St James’ Palace to deter against criminal activity and protect the city against the growing threat posed by the Jacobite movement.

Colin was 20 years old when he was deployed –the youngest in the observation post Party he served in. He still suffers from the frostbite he got while cut off by the Chinese.

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Pensioners holding a Christmas wreath outside
Festive thoughts from the Chelsea Pensioners

Christmas is almost here and although life is still far from normal the Chelsea Pensioners are enjoying being part of our community at this special time. We are celebrating in many of the traditional ways at the Royal Hospital – while ensuring guidelines are followed and the Chelsea Pensioners stay as safe as possible. 

Stirring of the Christmas Pudding Ceremony 2021
Festive fun at the stirring of the Christmas Pudding ceremony

Chelsea Pensioners and staff gathered together in the Great Hall on the last day of November to usher in the start of Advent with the first of the Royal Hospital’s annual Christmas traditions. 

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