Soane's London

The Royal Hospital Chelsea

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The Royal Hospital Chelsea was established by Charles II, designed by Wren and built between 1682, when the first foundation stone was laid, and 1692 when the army pensioners were admitted. More than 100 years later, in May 1807, Sir John Soane accepted the post of Clerk of Works there.

Since the establishment of the Wren buildings circumstances had changed – the Napoleonic wars in particular had increased the numbers of pensioners at the Hospital to such an extent that many of the Wren buildings were completely inadequate.

Over the course of almost 30 years as Clerk of Works, Soane was required to design many new buildings, from a larger Infirmary to new offices for the Secretary and staff and some smaller buildings including a bakehouse, gardener's house and Artificers' Yard. Soane even had a house on the premises which he enlarged and where he spent increasing amounts of time after his wife's death in 1815.

East elevation of the new Stables

East elevation of the new Stables

Arthur Mee
19 March 1818
Pen and coloured washes on paper
67/1/8 (Chelsea drawing 133)

After the construction of the new Infirmary at Chelsea, it was evident that it was cramped by the position of the existing Wren stables. New Stables were therefore built on a different site.

This drawing shows the entrance front of the new Stables, which is articulated by giant blind arches, stepped one within the other. The two chimney stacks are typical of Soane, comprised of two sections, the top placed at an angle to the bottom.