BRIEF HISTORY DURING THE SNOW ERA (1813-58)
Founded by King Charles II (1630-85) in 1682, Chelsea Hospital (also known as Royal Hospital Chelsea) was to serve military veterans who were disabled by war. The property had been partially owned by Chelsea College, but was purchased by the Crown for the proposed Royal Hospital. The foundation stone was laid in 1682 and the building was finished in 1692, with Sir Christopher Wren being the architect. The central building was constructed around three courtyards, and remains unchanged to the present, other than some minor alterations in 1765-82. Also included were large, formal gardens. Wren's plan for the facility was to care and house about 500 disabled soldiers. Some of the enrolled military were blind, others had lost arms or legs, and still others were severely wounded.
In the early 1800s, several more substantive changes were made to the Hospital by the noted architect, Sir John Soane (1753-1837, see picture). Among his many additions was an infirmary which he completed in 1814. With this new building, Chelsea Hospital was able to service 539 patients in various capacities. Soane also built new stables in 1814-17 and greatly modified the adjacent Clerk of Works' House, which was demolished in 1858. Finally, Soane completed several other Hospital buildings before ending his efforts in 1824.
In November 1852, Chelsea Hospital was again in the news. The Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) had died and was lying in state at Chelsea Hospital, with a queue of five hours waiting. The highly popular Duke of Wellington had been Commander of British troops that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo (1815). Later, he was Prime Minister (1828-30).
Dean CGT. The Royal Chelsea Hospital, 1950.
Weinreb B, Hibbert C (eds). The London Encyclopaedia, 1993.