Wednesday, 27 February 2013

100 Years of the Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital

The sun has decided to pop its head out today and has got everyone at the Royal Hospital Chelsea thinking of warmer days... So I thought for this weeks blog we would do a bit of reminiscing about past Chelsea Flower Shows.

The Royal Horticultural Society will hold the 100th Centenary Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea this May and, as is tradition, the Chelsea Pensioners will attend the shows in their beautiful scarlet coats, admiring the hard work and craftsmanship that goes into this amazing show every year.

A Chelsea Pensioner enjoying the 'Saturday Sell Off'
at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1986

A Chelsea Pensioner with an amazing moustache,
posing with Elaine Paige at the Chelsea Flower Show in  1986

A Chelsea Pensioner admiring one of the gardens
at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1989

Chelsea Pensioners in their scarlet's taking tea with Stephanie Powers

A Chelsea Pensioner in his blues admiring some of the flowers
at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1995

Two Chelsea Pensioners enjoying the award winning
'Chelsea Pensioners Garden - A Soldiers Dream of Blighty'
at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2005

A Chelsea Pensioner speaking to one of the exhibitors
at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2010

One of our female Chelsea Pensioners enjoying the sunshine
and helping out on the Royal Hospital Chelsea stall in 2011

70 Chelsea Pensioners on
Diarmuid Gavin's Pyramid Garden in 2012

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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Royal Hospital Chelsea Rules 1692

The Royal Hospital has been around for over 320 years and, understandably, some things have evolved over time. That is certainly the case with some of the rules that were established to govern the Royal Hospital in 1692.

Drawn in 1690, before the Chelsea Pensioners took up residence in 1692

Amongst the rules set out in the Instruction Book of 1692 are the following:

1. That the Serjeants daily attend the Hall at Dinner and Supper Time.

2. That they constantly and gravely say Grace at the head of their Table.

3. That they make the men at their Tables behave with Order, Silence and Decency.

4. The Hospital Sweepers are to admonish the soldiers from time to time not to throw any pieces of Tobacco, Pipes, foul Papers or Raggs into the Quadrangle Court nor into either of the Side Courts.

5. The Chaplains are during their respective Wayetings to say prayers twice a day in the Chappell, visit Morning Prayer to begin constantly att Halfe an Houre after Tenn att Furthest; and Evening Prayer att Halfe an Houre after five from Lady Day to Michaelmas. And from Michaelmas to Lady Day att Halfe an Houre after Three.

6. They are to preach a sermon every Sunday morning... and are to administer the holy sacrament of the Lords Supper att least Thrice a year...

7. The Phisitan to frequently visit the sick and wounded and prescribe for their cure and Dyett, directing orders for their cure to the Chirurgeon or Apothecary and for their Dyett to the Housekeeper.

8. The Housekeeper to notify their days of attendance at the said Hospital.

9. The Sexton not to suffer any Person whatsoever so sit upon the sixteen forms appointed for the soldiers, not to let any Doggs come into the Chappell nor women with pattens.

10. Good and wholesome provisions to be bought and provided by the Stewart for the Officers Table in the Great Hall, taking care that the whole Expence of the said Table do not exceed Tenn Shillings a day for sixteen persons. He should also have a strict eye to the Cookes... that no Embezzlement of Wast be committed by any of them.

11. The Usher of the Hall to let no body into the Hall when the Soldiers are at Dinner or Supper except the officers and servants of the Hospitall. But you may admit any Body into the Gallery who desires to see them eat.

12. The Wardrobe Keeper to wait upon all Persons of Quality who wish to see the Hospital and show them the Halls, Wards, Chappel and Walks.

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Thursday, 14 February 2013

What is a Chelsea Pensioner?

We have decided to start a blog to give you lovely people a bit more insight into what happens behind our gates (and also to remind you that they do open - so come in and look around!).

I thought a suitable subject for our first blog would be to explain 'What is a Chelsea Pensioner?'

A lot of people see the Chelsea Pensioners around London (and other parts of the world) looking resplendent in their scarlet coats. But they don't understand who or what they are. Hopefully we can help with that.

The main misconception about Chelsea Pensioners is that they all served in World War I and II. Not true. We are currently home to veterans who served in Korea, the Falklands, Cyprus and Ireland and, through an extensive modernisation programme, we are preparing ourselves to receive soldiers from the current campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq when they retire.

A Chelsea Pensioner is:

  • Over 65 years of age
  • A former soldier or non-commissioned officer of the British Army or a former officer of the British Army who served in the ranks for at least 12 years or was awarded a disablement pension while serving in the ranks
  • Able to live independently on the Long Wards (which is sheltered accommodation) on arrival to the Royal Hospital Chelsea
  • Free of any financial obligation to support a spouse or family   

If the individual fits this criteria, they visit the Royal Hospital Chelsea [RHC] for a four day stay, where they get a taste of what life is like for a Chelsea Pensioner. If they like it here and it is felt that they will fit in with the ethos of the RHC, they are invited to become a Chelsea Pensioner. They are allocated their own berth and are measured up for their Blues (more casual uniform) and Scarlets (the famous uniform that they wear on parade).

These men and women (since 2009) come to the RHC for a number of reasons, but often because they have lost a partner and crave the comradeship that many experienced whilst serving in the Army.

As well as living with like minded people at the RHC, a Chelsea Pensioner is invited to lots of interesting activities on and off-site, is supported by full medical care and catering services and are free of financial worries. They also have their own Club with a bar, lounges and restaurant and there are allotments for the green fingered.

If a Chelsea Pensioner becomes unwell, they move into the Infirmary, which is a state of the art care home with nursing and a GP medical centre. As well as receiving excellent care here there are also a wide range of activities for those who wish to participate.

Hopefully this helps you to understand a bit more about what Chelsea Pensioners are - but if you have any further questions please do email us at, comment on the blog, tweet us @RHChelsea or have a look at our website here:

You can support the Chelsea Pensioners in a variety of ways including making a donation on our justgiving page here:

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