Chelsea Pensioners’ Stable Block to open doors to public for the first time, thanks to Heritage Fund grant

9th November 2022

Royal Hospital Chelsea, home to the Chelsea Pensioners, has been awarded a £3.2million grant thanks to National Lottery players. The project will give members of the public a chance to meet Chelsea Pensioners and will open parts of the Hospital to the public for the first time and will include essential repairs to the Grade II* listed stable building designed by Sir John Soane. There will be an ambitious activity programme, a permanent free exhibition and engagement with 300 years of stories and collections.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

We are delighted to support the Royal Hospital Chelsea with this fantastic project. The Chelsea Pensioners are already well-loved, but this project will bring their world to life, giving behind the scenes access to this beautiful building, but also will tell stories connected to the Chelsea Pensioners’ heritage and history and linking to the wider community.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is the largest funder of the UK’s heritage. Thanks to National Lottery players, this project will create a lasting and positive impact helping better understand the unique heritage and history of the Chelsea Pensioners.

Two Chelsea Pensioners in front of the doors of Soane Stable Block

Since the Royal Hospital Chelsea opened in 1692, there has never been a chance for the public to see behind the scenes of the Sir John Soane Stable Block – until now. A transformational project has been announced that will revolutionise this historic site, thanks to a £3.2 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Gary Lashko, CEO of Royal Hospital Chelsea said:

We are immensely grateful to the Heritage Fund for this grant, which will enable the Hospital to open up the Stable Block to visitors for the first time. The site has been in urgent need of restoration for some years, and we are now closer to realising its full potential as a hub for visitors; including other military veterans in the community and as a site for sharing our unique, centuries-old history. We hope this project will contribute to the development of the Chelsea Heritage Quarter, which we are developing with our partners at the National Army Museum and Chelsea Physic Garden.

Soane Stable Block entrance with famous arches by Sir John Soane

Stable doors inside Soane Stable Block courtyard

The three-year project will bring the remarkable story of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and the Chelsea Pensioners to life. It will restore Sir John Soane's Grade II* listed Stables, lauded by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as 'a miracle of abstract design'. It will also create a new, physically and intellectually inclusive Outreach, Heritage and Visitor Centre for the whole site - uniting visitor, volunteering and outreach services for the first time.

Conceptual drawing of the Stable Block from an overhead perspective

The Centre will be open daily and will include an outreach space for learning, wellbeing activities and new volunteering programmes, a permanent free exhibition, including audio-visuals and unseen artefacts from the Royal Hospital Chelsea’s collection, opportunities to meet Chelsea Pensioners and new public facilities including a shop, community post office and cafe with courtyard.

Drawing of Pensioners socialising with service personnel and other veterans in the new stable block

Ongoing activities throughout the project will give everyone a chance to learn about the amazing heritage of the Chelsea Pensioners and Royal Hospital Chelsea. The renewed Stable Block will enable the sharing of stories of the Royal Hospital; delivering a programme of intergenerational activities involving Chelsea Pensioners, cadets and serving members of the Army and oral histories. Through this project, the Hospital will also facilitate activities with local communities in neighbouring areas and host a programme of activities open to the public, which will run throughout the restoration works and beyond, including hard hat tours, family fun days and specialist events, led by Chelsea Pensioners.

Importantly, the project will also introduce a heritage, health and wellbeing programme for people living with dementia, carers and non-resident veterans, delivered in partnership and an outreach programme for the wider Army community.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is the UK’s largest funder of heritage projects, with almost £8.3billion awarded to over 49,000 projects since 1994. They support a wide range of projects including historic buildings and monuments; community and cultural heritage; and landscape and nature.

Stable Block conceptual drawing showing cafe area

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