For the first time in its 330-year history, the Royal Hospital Chelsea will have a permanent heritage centre that will be open to the public to visit.

The three-year project will restore Sir John Soane’s Grade II* listed Stables, lauded by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘a miracle of abstract design’. It will also create a new Heritage and Visitor Centre for the whole site that will be open to the public.

(c) Royal Hospital Chelsea

The Centre will be open daily and will include an outreach space for learning, wellbeing activities and new volunteering programmes, a permanent free exhibition, including audio-visuals and unseen artefacts from the Royal Hospital Chelsea’s collection, opportunities to meet Chelsea Pensioners and new public facilities including a shop, community post office and cafe with courtyard.

Through this project, the Hospital will also facilitate activities with local communities in neighbouring areas and host a programme of activities open to the public, which will run throughout the restoration works and beyond, including hard hat tours, family fun days and specialist events, led by Chelsea Pensioners.

The project has been funded by a £3.2 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which will cover about a quarter of the total cost.

The stables block is at the western end of the hospital grounds, and sits right next to the National Army Museum, putting two visitor venues side by side. The current stable block was built on the site of an older Christopher Wren designed stable yard and evidence of this older building was found in reused brickwork and footings during work by Peregrine Bryant Architects. The plans are to remove the later additions and restore the buildings as closely as possible to their original state.

Although the Hospital grounds are not generally open to the public, yet, they do run regular tours every Thursday at 2pm – and you need to book by sending an email to [email protected] or by telephone on 020 7881 5237. Tours are 90 minutes in duration, followed by time to explore the Museum and Gift Shop.

Entrance to the stables block (c) Royal Hospital Chelsea

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