Photos: behind the scenes at Wren’s Long Wards

    Two Chelsea Pensioners share a joke. Christopher Wren Long Wards, Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Tony Murray Photography
    Two Chelsea Pensioners share a joke. Credit: Tony Murray Photography

    BRITAIN was among the last people to visit the original Christopher Wren Wards at Royal Chelsea Hospital before they closed for renovation earlier this year. View our exclusive photos…

    Christopher Wren Long Wards, Royal Chelsea Hospital
    Christopher Wren Long Wards, Royal Chelsea Hospital

    Many people wrongly assume that the home of the Chelsea Pensioners is out of bounds to visitors. To the contrary, anyone can stroll among the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital, an elegant retirement village for veterans of the British Army.

    Set up by King Charles II in 1681 to care for those ‘broken by war’, the original building and so called Long Wards, where residents live, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and later added to by Sir John Soane.

    The modernisation of the Long Wards is part of a wider project at the Royal Chelsea Hospital to introduce more 21st century comfort, while not losing the unique and authentic appeal that the stunning Grade I listed buildings provide.

    The Long Wards will keep their lengthy corridors (to ensure that the social purpose of the design remains) and Wren oak finishing once they are refurbished, however the berths will be bigger and include an individual study and shower for the Pensioners (they previously had shared showers at the end of the corridors).

    Although the Long Wards are generally out of bounds to visitors, you can visit Royal Hospital Chelsea on weekdays for a tour of other areas, such as the Great Hall (although you do need to book at least four weeks in advance) or to sit in the pretty grounds that overlook the Thames.

    The best time to visit, however, is on a Sunday when you can attend a service held in the chapel, which has an ornate painting of Queen Anne and her 17 perished children on the ceiling, and also watch the weekly procession with the pensioners dressed in their ‘scarletts’.

    View our exclusive Royal Chelsea Hospital photos

    Christopher Wren Long Wards, Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    Christopher Wren Long Wards, Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    Chelsea scarletts hanging outside berth. Christopher Wren long Wards, Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    Chelsea scarletts hanging outside a berth. Credit: Stephen Bennett

     

    Door of resident's room. Christopher Wren Long Wards, Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    Door of a resident’s room. Credit: Stephen Bennett

     

    Two Chelsea Pensioners share a joke. Christopher Wren Long Wards, Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    Two Chelsea Pensioners talk to BRITAIN. Credit: Stephen Bennett

     

    Chelsea Pensioner in his 'scarlett'. Christopher Wren Long Wards, Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    Chelsea Pensioner dressed in his ‘scarlett’. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    A Chelsea Pensioner gives a tour of the chapel. Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    A Chelsea Pensioner gives a tour of the chapel. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    The chapel at Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    The chapel at Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    The Great Hall, Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett
    The Great Hall, Royal Chelsea Hospital. Credit: Stephen Bennett

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