Chelsea Pensioners and Dairy UK celebrate the annual Ceremony of the Christmas Cheeses

7th December 2023

On Wednesday 6 December, the Royal Hospital Chelsea celebrated its annual Ceremony of the Christmas Cheeses – a unique tradition that stretches back more than three centuries. 

The Chelsea Pensioners, staff and guests including the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea gathered in the Great Hall for this spectacularly unique tradition, welcomed by music from the Countess of Wessex's String Orchestra. 

Originating from the Hospital's establishment in 1692, a local cheesemonger donated some of his produce to the Chelsea Pensioners at the Royal Hospital for Christmas. Since then, the occasion has been marked annually in the lead up to Christmas with Dairy UK kindly donating the cheese since 1959. It is a cherished occasion at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and the cheese donated is used during mealtimes throughout the festive season. 

Chelsea Pensioner cuts the ceremonial cheese with a sword
This year, over 330kg of the finest cheeses from around the UK were donated to the Chelsea Pensioners along with a generous donation of Vintage Ale from Fullers Brewery. As part of the event, a ceremonial cheese is cut by one of the Pensioners with a sword. Chelsea Pensioner, Norman Bareham, was the selected cheese cutter of this year’s ceremonial cheese - a 24kg Montgomery Cheddar! He said it was a proud moment for him... 

I never expected to cut the cheese at the ceremony and the fact that its happened in my first year as a Chelsea Pensioner is amazing! It's a great honour and a memory I will cherish. 

The Governor introduced the ceremony, reflecting on the year and the much-loved traditions at the Royal Hospital Chelsea before the Chaplain blessed the cheeses. Dairy UK Chariman, Paul Vernon, then spoke about the ceremony and the delighftul cheeses donated to the Hospital in honour of our wonderful service men and women.  

Following the cheese cutting, guests were treated to a spectacular performance by vocal harmony group, The Ovetones, and joined them in singing a rendition of Sweet Caroline. 

The ceremony ended with conversation, Christmas crackers and checking out all the cheeses on display.  


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