Soane's London

The Royal Hospital Chelsea

Collections | Soane's London | The Royal Hospital Chelsea

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.

Composite drawing

Composite drawing

Joseph Michael Gandy
Pen and coloured washes on paper, framed
P387 (Chelsea drawing 142)

This drawing is a composite work, showing different parts of the Royal Hospital Chelsea as built by Soane. The drawing was displayed at the Royal Academy in 1818 and shows most of the Soane buildings at Chelsea – (from bottom left clockwise) the Stables, Bakehouse, Gardener's house, Secretary's offices, the south front of the new Infirmary, the north front of the new Infirmary and the Clerk of Works' House. The two Infirmary fronts are obviously fictitious in arrangement, as is the position of the Secretary's offices.