From 1692 until 1955, all Army pensions were administered and paid from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is why all Army pensioners tended to be known as Chelsea Pensioners.
Historically, there were two categories of Chelsea Pensioner:
In-Pensioners: those who surrendered their Army Pension and were admitted as residents of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Out-Pensioners: those who lived 'Out', in the UK or abroad and received their pension in cash from agents around the country. All records for Out-Pensioners are held by the National Archives at Kew. If you find details of an ancestor in a census return other than the institutional one for the Royal Hospital Chelsea, it is a clear indication that they were an Out-Pensioner.
Presently, we use the term 'Chelsea Pensioner' for those Army veterans who live at the Royal Hospital. As Army pensions are paid by the Ministry of Defence, it is no longer helpful to use the term 'Out-Pensioner' to denote Army veterans living in the wider community.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea has an archive that includes some, but not all, records of residents from 1871 to the present date. Records that are pre-1871 are held at the National Archives at Kew.
Earlier records are limited to: name, number, rank, regiment, date admitted to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, date of death and, in most cases, place of burial. From 1984 onwards more comprehensive records may be available.
For a charge we may be able to provide copies of those records held that are pertinent to relatives of In-Pensioners, but be advised that requests for photographs of Pensioners pre-1990 usually go unfulfilled due to a lack of identifiable images. Included with these records will also be A Guide to Tracing Chelsea Pensioner Ancestors to assist you with further research.
To submit an archive request please complete an RHC Archive Enquiry Form along with a stamped, addressed envelope with a cheque for £20 made payable to:
Chelsea Pensioner (RH) Ltd.
Royal Hospital Chelsea
Royal Hospital Road
For advice on using the Royal Hospital Chelsea Museum Archive services and for detailed information on what materials we hold, please download our advice sheet here.
For further enquiries, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.