The architectural design of the Royal Hospital is one of the most
interesting and also one of the most successful works of Sir Christopher
Wren. The opportunity was a great one; the site lent itself to a noble
and generous extent of building, and in John Evelyn and Sir Stephen Fox
the gifted architect possessed ideal collaborators and advisers. The result
is a national monument of the highest architectural beauty and one admirably
suited to the purpose for which it was intended.
Mention has already been made of the "hospitals" among which
wounded and disabled soldiers were distributed before the Royal Hospital
was built. The ancient hospital or "guest house" for the needy traveller,
the poor and the infirm, had been a prominent institution throughout
Europe from the early Middle Ages. Based in general upon the plan of
the monastic infirmary—a roomy aisled hall with a chapel at the east end,
the beds being ranged along the aisles—it was built on the scale of a great
parish church, and formed a striking monument to both the generosity and
the practical sense of medieval society. In a hundred varieties of plan
and constitution from the centralised hospital run by an efficient trained
staff, to the separate dwellings of the quadrangular almshouse grouped
round the common hall and chapel, these beneficent buildings were spread
over the entire country and seldom lacked the ample endowment necessary
to carry on their good work. The identity of purpose, reflected in the
continuity of the essential features of the plan, relates all these buildings
to one another, and it is of special interest to note how Wren realised the
historical significance of this common quality. In the 17th century the
conditions of life had changed from those of the 15th; the old communal
idea had weakened, and the staff which ministered to the needs of the
infirm had lost the old religious tie that made of its members brethren and
sisters of a quasi-monastic community. Moreover, the size of the Royal
Hospital and the number for which it must provide precluded the possibility
of reviving in any literal sense the old infirmary hall and chapel. Yet the
departure from the old plan was very slight. Parallel with the river and
with the old road from Westminster to Chelsea, Wren planned a great
common hall (fn. 1) and a chapel of similar proportions, separated from one another
by nothing more than a vestibule, over which he set his central cupola.
From the extremities of this main building he carried two great wings
towards the south, of four floors and an attic storey, all but the ground floor
being occupied by twin dormitories backing on to one another and running
from the main building on the north to two terminating blocks on the
south. These southern blocks were designed for the Governor and the
Lieutenant-Governor respectively. Thus were formed the three sides of a
great open quadrangle, with the grounds and the river to the south, opposite
which, along the north wall, was planned a broad covered cloister walk,
which joined the dormitories to the hall and chapel, gave access to the side
courts, and trapped the sunshine for the benefit of the veteran soldiers.
This simple plan, developed on a great scale, handled with reserve but with
a skilful emphasis on the salient points of the design, could not be improved
upon. The Royal Hospital at Chelsea does not indeed possess the lofty
dome of the Hôpital des Invalides at Paris, nor the twin domes of Greenwich Hospital, but it gains a rare quality of peaceful domestic architecture
by the absence of these ambitious features. This particular character of
quiet unostentatious homeliness is further helped by charming two-storey
buildings set parallel with the river and forming extensions of the main
group on its flanks both north and south. Additional side courts were thus
formed originally open to the east and west, but since closed by similarly
designed buildings providing quarters for officers and the official staff of
the Hospital. In the centre of each side court is a well with a beautifully
designed wrought-iron cage and lamp standard, and lateral roads to the river
traverse the further sides of these quadrangles, entering at lodge gates from
Royal Hospital Road, and passing through similar gates on the south side.
Exterior of North Block.
The external elevation to the north of the main block is mainly of
dark brick with red brick window dressings, and is divided into five parts:
the centre, a composition of Portland stone covering the octagonal vestibule;
on either side the hall and chapel with seven tall semi-circular-headed
windows to each; and at the ends, projecting wings. The central feature,
in form a portico, is composed of four three-quarter stone columns of the
Roman Doric order, carrying entablature and pediment of painted wood,
the cornice of which is taken round the whole building at the level of the
eaves. A moulded architrave divides the space between the columns into
two storeys, the side divisions having shallow niches and the centre being
occupied by the doorway and a square sunk panel above. The pediment
is now furnished with a clock, and over the door is a lantern. Above and
below the windows of the hall and chapel are brick panels, the lower ones
ranging with the ground-floor windows in the wings, the walls of which
are of three storeys with dormer windows to an attic. The wings are identical
in treatment with the Governor's and Lieutenant-Governor's houses at the
end of the dormitories, and have stone quoins to the external angles. One
window on each floor is inserted in the return walls looking towards the
centre. The brick reveals and arches to the windows have a small roll
moulding on the external angle.
The hipped roofs are covered with slate, (fn. 2) and over the vestibule
rises a tall stone lantern or cupola. Its plan is an unequal-sided octagon,
the shorter sides of which are masked by free Corinthian columns with a
section of entablature, standing on buttress pedestals. On each of the
larger faces is a window with pedimental head, the same height as the
columns, and beneath these another range of windows in the plinth. The
cornice of the entablature breaks round the columns and the slightly projecting faces of the panels above the windows, and from it rises an octagonal
attic, pierced on four sides, supporting an eight-sided lead-covered dome
with gilt ball and wind-vane. Above the cornice and directly over the
columns are four stone balls.
The south elevation is similar to the north, but beneath the windows
is a colonnaded cloister walk, with a wooden entablature carried on twin
stone columns and forming the fascia to a flat roof. In the frieze is painted
the following inscription:—
IN SUBSIDIUM ET LEVAMEN EMERITORUM
SENIO BELLOQUE FRACTORUM, CONDIDIT
CAROLUS SECUNDUS, AUXIT JACOBUS SE-
CUNDUS, PERFECERE GULIELMUS ET MARIA
REX ET REGINA ANNO DOMINI MDCXCII.
The colonnade is interrupted by the bold projection of the central portico,
which, of the same proportions as that on the north front, is here brought
forward with free columns to the front line of the cloister, while flat pilasters
are placed against the wall. There is a window over the vestibule door on
this side, and two small doors beneath the niches lead to the basement.
The cloister is paved with stone flags, set two steps above the courtyard. The flat plaster ceiling is divided into panels formed by the moulded
cornice which runs along the wall and by the beams that join the columns to
one another, and also transversely join them to the wall. The end beams
of each half of the cloister ceiling are supported by single moulded corbels
with grotesque masks beneath them. Along the wall is a continuous wood
bench, with turned supporting legs, and a panelled back which forms a dado
some six feet high. Above this are fixed a number of memorial tablets
dating from the 19th century. The ceiling of the central portion under
the portico is twice the height of the cloister. A lamp supported on wrought
iron scroll brackets is fixed over the door to the vestibule.
Interior of North Block.
The vestibule or entrance hall between the chapel and the great
hall is octagonal in plan, the stone floor between the north and south doors
being at ground level. The entrances to the chapel and the hall in the east
and west walls respectively are approached by a flight of ten stone steps
that fill the whole space between the canted sides. An entablature of the
Doric order surrounds the octagon at a considerable height, supported by
pilasters at the angles, each having two vertical faces parallel with the walls.
Between the triglyphs of the frieze are carvings representing military
emblems alternating with I.R. surmounted by a crown and surrounded by
foliage. The ceiling is an eight-sided dome with its centre open to the
cupola above, and its curved angles are marked by bands formed of a series
of recessed panels in the form of ribs. The vestibule is lighted by a large
south window over the doorway in addition to the upper lantern. The
oak doors to the chapel and hall are of two leaves, each of five panels, fielded
and moulded. The doorways have wide moulded architraves and a plain
pedimental doorhead carried on carved consoles. In the canted sides of
the octagon are smaller doors of two panels set within a square plastered
framework, and leading to stairs or cupboards in the angles. The walls
are hung with flags (described on pp. 32–33), and over the hall door is a fine
achievement of the royal (Stuart) arms, brought from the sister hospital of
Kilmainham. A slight iron handrail leads up to the steps to the doors, and
on either side are modern busts on pedestals of oak. Over the smaller
doorways are fixed four iron cressets.
The chapel, which is 113 feet by 38 feet 6 inches, is ceiled with a
semicircular barrel vault of plaster, and is terminated at its eastern end by an
apse with a half dome. It is one of the most effective of Wren's designs for
an interior, and unlike much of his work, it happily remains unaltered from his
time. On each side the lofty semi-circular-headed windows pierce the walls,
which are panelled to the height of the cills. Between each pair of windows
is a panelled pilaster with a large moulded capital at the level of the springing
of the window arches and the ceiling. These capitals are formed with a
deep hollow below the moulding, enriched with foliage around a cherub's
head. From the capitals spring lateral arches in the vaulted ceiling, thus
enclosing the window heads, and from them also spring the transverse bands
that cross the ceiling and divide it, with similar longitudinal bands, into
twenty-one large compartments or panels. There are also a series of long
narrow panels over each of the lateral arches, and these and the spandrels are
filled with elaborate designs in ornamental plaster, the latter having cartouches of varying designs. The bands themselves are moulded and
enriched with foliage, and floral bosses mark their intersection. An enriched
plaster cornice at the level of the springing of the ceiling is carried round
the apse and along the west wall, the tympanum of the latter being divided
into three panels to match the roof. The whole of the half dome over the
apse is painted with a composition of the Resurrection executed by Sebastian
Ricci. The bosses in the ceiling, from which the candelabra hang, are
The oak panelling to the side walls is of large fielded panels, over
a dado, with smaller panels above forming a frieze. Each pair of panels is
divided from the next pair by pilasters, the caps of which are shaped like
consoles with a cherub's head on the face. The whole is finished with a
cornice carved with acanthus foliage.
At the eastern end the panelling is carried much higher and lines
the apse on each side of the central reredos. A plain moulded entablature
with a panelled attic above is supported on twin fluted pilasters with flnely
carved Corinthian capitals. Two of these pilasters stand at the beginning
of the apse, one forming the angle with its two faces, and another pair
divide the space between these and the reredos. The pilasters stand upon a
panelled dado and have no separate pedestals. The necking of the capitals
is continued along the intervening spaces and forms a secondary frieze
beneath the entablature, filled with richly carved festoons. Below this,
each compartment is occupied by a large fielded panel, the outer one having
in addition a two-panelled door with plain pedimental doorhead. Over the
attic and directly above each pilaster is an elaborate vase filled with fruit
The reredos is an imposing structure of oak designed on very simple
lines. Two pairs of fluted columns of the composite order, standing on
panelled pedestals, support a horizontal entablature with segmental pediment
above. The cornice is enriched with carving and modillions, the pulvinated
frieze is also carved with foliage, and the architrave has carved members.
Under the entablature is a panelled soffit between the columns, and behind
the latter are fluted pilasters which flank a large central panel with carved
bolection moulding and a narrow panel below, just over the altar. The
large panel is inlaid with a star-shaped pattern with the sacred monogram
IHS in the centre. The pediment is filled with a number of winged cherubs'
heads and foliage. The altar, which is a table with legs, stands between
the pedestals of the columns to the reredos. In front are the altar rails,
formed of spiral balusters, the tops of which are treated like miniature
capitals with acanthus leaves. Carved foliage enriches both top and
bottom rails. The line of the rails stands free from the walls, which are
met by curved returns. At the angles are panelled pilasters, and in the
centre three similar pilasters enclose a pair of gates which are filled with
fine panels of pierced carving in place of balusters.
At the west end is an organ gallery with oak panelled front, the central
portion of which projects forward with curved angles. The gallery is
supported by a row of eight fluted columns, with capitals of the composite
order—four on each side of the wide opening of the entrance—carrying an
entablature from which carved brackets project towards the gallery front.
The centre portion is borne on two additional columns in advance of the
two middle ones, connected by returns of the entablature running east and
west. The underside of the gallery and the west wall below and some height
above the gallery are panelled in oak. The base of the organ case, enclosing
the manuals, is ornamented with Corinthian pilasters, and above these is a
deep moulded and carved entablature, formed into three semi-circular
projections, carried on corbels carved with cherubs' heads, making the
bases for the three towers for the pipes. The sides are panelled and the
manuals enclosed with panelled doors in two leaves. Above the pipes is an
elaborate overpiece, with moulded and carved cornice, the central part of
which, over the middle tower, is carved higher than the rest. The gallery
is approached by a spiral oak stair within one of the angles of the vestibule.
The organ was originally presented by Major Ingram, Major and Lieutenant-Governor of the Hospital 1691–94.
The walls of the chapel are hung with standards (described on
p. 35), and the floor is paved with squares of black and white marble laid
diagonally. The remaining fittings are as follows:—
The seating is now ranged collegiate-fashion, from east to west. An
original line of box pews is still attached to the north and south walls, with
panelled oak sides and doors. These have been repaired, and have modern
fittings. The rest of the seating has been recently rearranged, and the choir
stalls are modern. There is a record of the backs being added to the
The pulpit, which has been altered and repaired, is now a square
structure of panelled oak, supported by two free oak columns and a stair
with modern balusters. The reading desk has been formed of old oak
panelling. There are two old chairs with cane seats and backs, the latter
oval-shaped and set in a carved frame with spiral balusters. The arms and
front legs are carved, and the back legs and stretchers are spiral-shape and
moulded. There is a Prayer-book dated 1687 presented by James II, bound
in black, yellow and red leather, with gilt monogram J.R. and crown.
The Great Hall (115 feet by 38 feet) is similar in size to the Chapel,
and, like it, is lighted by seven windows on each side. The walls are lined
to a height level with the window-cills with panelling, having an unbroken
cornice, and a long bench running the entire length of each side. In the
centre of the west wall is a square panel with a frame carved with oak leaves.
The upper portion of this wall, between the panelling and the plaster ceiling,
is filled by a painting, executed by Antonio Verrio (but completed by Henry
Cooke) of Charles II on horseback surrounded by allegorical figures. The
picture is indistinct, but can be seen in Pugin's drawing reproduced on
Plate 7. On a cartouche in the lower part of the drawing is the following
"CAROLO SECUNDO REGI OPTIMO HUJUS HOSPITII FUNDATORI DOMINOQUE SUO CLEMENTISSIMO RICARDUS JONES COMES DE RANELAGH
HANC TABULAM POSUIT."
The picture has wings on the return of the side walls each painted with
trophies of arms. (fn. 3)
The panelling at the east end is carried higher than on the side walls,
and is surmounted by a gallery carried on long brackets carved with acanthus
foliage. The gallery front is of solid framing, with bold raised panels
separated by panelled pilasters and an enriched cornice and base that break
round the pilasters. In the centre is a finely modelled cartouche of the
royal arms of Charles II surmounted by a crown. At the back of the gallery
are two doors, one at either end, the one communicating by a spiral stair with
The entrance doors to the Hall beneath the gallery are similar to
those leading to the Chapel. A modern screen has been erected in front of
them, and fixed to this is a clock (referred to later), with a dark painted dial,
shaped above and below, but with vertical sides, enclosed in a deep moulded
The plaster ceiling is flat, with a deep coved cornice. The Hall is
hung with standards (see pp. 32, 33), and in addition to the pictures described
on page 30, there are portraits of Sir Christopher Wren (after Kneller), the
Duke of Wellington and Queen Victoria.
The old furniture includes:—
Twenty-one oak tables supported on shaped standards, three to each
table, and forty-two oak benches each with three pairs of turned legs
similar in character to those in the Chapel, but without backs.
Among the objects of interest preserved in the Hall are:—
The original instructions to the Chaplains, signed "Ranelagh, Stephen
Fox and Chr. Wren."
Original Warrant dated 16th July, 1683. Signed at top "Charles R."
A case of pewter vessels used when the pensioners dined in the Hall,
1 coffee pot, 1 meat dish, 2 drinking cups, 2 salt dishes, 2 soap dishes,
2 wash bowls, 4 plates, 2 small bowls (? mustard).
The clock is by Jacob Odell of St. Albans. No date appears on it,
but it is probably late 18th century. The first man of this name in the
books of the Clock makers' Company is Thomas Odell. 1744. It was
presented in 1912 by the Agricultural Society.
The kitchen, which extends across the full width of the block at the
west end of the Hall, presents no feature of special interest. Beneath the
Chapel and Hall are basements roofed with plain groined brick vaults,
supported on square piers with moulded capping and square bases. They are
lit by small segmental-headed windows that appear on the external elevation
above the level of the plinth around the main buildings. Modern partitions
conceal a large part of the original work internally.
From the ends of the Hall and Chapel the two great wings that extend
southwards comprise the dormitories or wards and are alike in design. They
consist of three storeys and an attic, and are 325 feet long, including the
square buildings of the Governor's and Lieutenant-Governor's houses, which
form the southern terminations. The external design is a remarkable instance of Wren's skill in contriving a beautiful and dignified composition,
with a plain wall space pierced by regular openings. In the centre of each
block is a projecting building, constructed wholly of Portland stone and
plastered brick, of slight projection on the sides facing the great court, but
deeper towards the side courts. This central feature is crowned by a pediment, the horizontal cornice of which follows the line of the general eaves
cornice, and forms part of an entablature carried by four Doric pilasters
extending to the ground. The entablature is broken between the two inner
pilasters, and each portion of the frieze bears three triglyphs, the peculiarity
in the design being emphasised by panelled spandrels on each side of the
pediment. The wall space between the side pairs of pilasters is pierced
with windows at each storey which are repeated on the returns where the
projection is greater in the side courts. The central space has a circular
panel in the pediment, a large window with eared architrave on the second
floor, and a similar window, but with plain architrave and cornice on the
first floor. Between this and the ground are double doors, with glazed
fanlight above, framed between pilasters, and an entablature carrying a stone
On either side of the stone centre-piece the façade of the wards is
of warm-coloured brick, with stone only in the plinth, and a plain band
between the ground and first storeys, level with the cloister cornice. Eleven
windows on each floor (save the ground floor, where one is replaced by an
entrance) stretch in regular lines north and south, each window having
double-hung sashes of four panes of glass within broad frames, the openings
having rubbed brick dressings and flat arch above, cut with a roll moulding
on the external angle. The eaves cornice is heavily moulded in wood with
a dentil or modillion course. The roof is of slate, and over each window
in the wall is a dormer window of slightly smaller size with pedimental head.
The dormers on the side of the central projections (in the side courts) have
semi-circular heads, and the lights are complete circles.
The sloping roof is taken to a height only sufficient to allow of the
ceiling of the upper range of wards, the remainder being flat. This fact is
not betrayed from the outside, but, by this means, a just relationship is observed between the building and the roof. Above the roof the brick panelled
chimney stacks with stone capping rise to a considerable height. These stacks
have all been rebuilt and most of the window frames are modern.
At each end of the wings are entrances, the one beneath the cloister
being a square opening with moulded architrave, and that next the Governor's (or Lieutenant-Governor's) house having a stone casing, complete with
balustrade, similar to the central doorway. The pilasters in the latter are,
however, replaced here by three-quarter columns, and the doorway opens
on to a passage-way which contains the entrance to the house.
At intervals along the front are lead down-pipes for carrying the
water from the roofs, and these are protected for part of their length by
wooden casings which may be original. The pipes deliver into large stone
receptacles with moulded capping. The cills of the ground floor windows
are of slate, those of the upper storeys being covered with lead.
The houses of the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor, which adjoin
the southern ends of the wings, follow the latter in all their detail (except the
stone quoins, which have chamfered edges), and have five windows to a storey
on each of the three external walls. They stand on a lower level, south of
the terrace wall, thus permitting of basement lights which pierce the plinth.
The roofs are hipped, and there are three dormers to each face. These houses
are wonderfully effective parts of the design, and give stability and breadth
to the ends of the long wings, the whole composition being linked by the
terrace balustrade, and further breadth afforded by the side pavilions to be
Internally the dormitory wings are divided longitudinally on each
floor into two wards by a brick wall, with an opening connecting each pair
of wards in the centre. A staircase both at the north and south end is
cleverly contrived to communicate with the entrance doorways. Each ward
contains twenty-four single-berth cabins, or cubicles, placed against the
internal wall, thus allowing a long walk between them and the windows of
the external walls. There are two larger compartments, one at each end,
for the non-commissioned officers in charge. Two large central chimneystacks, each having a fireplace facing both ways, provide for the warming
of the wards. The openings are surrounded by a bold bolection moulding
over a foot in width, with a large panel in the wall above. Opposite the
communicating spaces between the parallel wards is a projection in the outer
wall which contains the sanitary conveniences, and gives the occasion for the
central feature in the external elevation. The side compartments of these
projections are ceiled with a plain groined vault. The berths themselves
are formed in a wood-framed partition with complete entablature, each pair
of cubicles being separated by a pilaster with cap and pedestal, about
which the mouldings of the entablature break forward. The space between
the pilasters is filled with four fielded and moulded panels, two of which
form the door, while the other two screen the bed, the upper one being hung
to open like a shutter, and give the inmate of the berth a view outside at
will. The outside walls and the reveals of the windows are panelled to match
The panelling in the attic wards is arranged to meet the slope of
the roofs, the cornice appearing only in the central space behind the external
pediment. There is a slight variation in the detail of the cubicles, the
pilasters being panelled and the entablature replaced by a plain cornice.
The staircases at each end of the wards (Plates 84 85 86) are similar
in character, but that to the north is constructed with an easier rise to make
the ascent easy for the old men. The height of each step is five inches only,
and the depth of the tread is fifteen inches. By a system of balustraded
landings communication is afforded with the front and back wards. The
materials of the stairs are of great size, the newels being of square oak casing.
The strings are moulded, and support a balustrade of stout turned balusters
and heavy moulded handrail which forms a capping to the newels. Where
the stair turns at the landing the newel is doubled in size, the half on the
descending stair being finished with a well-carved console. This treatment
will be found repeated in the Governor's house (fn. 4) (Plate 95). The treads of
the stairs are of oak boards of various widths (repaired), and the walls are
lined with panelled dados and are plastered above, the ceilings at the half
landings having moulded cornices. In the west wing the northern stair
departs from the general symmetry of the plan and leads from west to east.
Adjoining the door of the Lieutenant-Governor's house is a watchman's seat
with curved sides and scrolled ends.
The entrance doors to the wards (Plates 82 83) are of two leaves,
each four panels high, fielded and bolection-moulded. The door case has
wide architraves, and a shaped frieze and cornice to the over-door, the bed
moulding breaking round a moulded panel in the centre of the frieze, which
bears the number of the ward. The linings to the doorway openings are
two panels in height with one panel to the soffit. The doors on the attic
floor are shaped to allow of the sloping roof.
The Governor's House.
The Governor's house at the south end of the east wing has already
been described externally. On the ground floor it contains a long passage
(running east and west), half of which is occupied by the staircase. To the
south are two large rooms, the Governor's parlour (west) and dining-room
The entrance lobby is panelled, with moulded cornice, but without
dado. The doors and windows agree with those in the wards; the window
shutters appear to date from the 18th century. The staircase hall is panelled
in two heights with dado and cornice, and the stair follows the detail of the
ward stairs. An 18th-century fanlight has been inserted above the entrance
door. The dining-room, which is entered by a door with original bolectionmoulded architrave, was re-panelled in the 18th century with the exception
of the window-casing. This room contains a portrait of James II by Kneller
(see p. 30). The fireplace, which is furnished with a beautiful grate of
"Adam" pattern, is set in a mantelpiece of the same period with dentilled
cornice, frieze with patteræ and swags, and carved side pilasters supporting
The Governor's parlour or state room (Plates 87 88 89 90 91 92 93) is a magnificent
apartment which occupies the height of two floors. It is panelled throughout
in oak, and the arrangement is a beautiful example of Wren's design. In
order to avoid the disadvantage of too lofty a proportion the ceiling is coved
with a deep cornice, thus cutting off a part of the upper range of windows,
but this is skilfully masked, and the exposed portion of the windows forms
an effective lighting to the "attic" treatment. The walls are divided by
an elaborate cornice, with carved modillions and enriched mouldings, at a
height of 15 feet, into two parts. The lower portion has large central panels
corresponding with the windows, a range of upper panels which extend round
the room and above the windows beneath the cornice, and a lower range
forming a dado, separated from the large panels by a dado rail. The panels
are fielded and surrounded by bolection mouldings. The attic is formed
of one range of large square panels, and a beautiful enriched cornice completes
the design at ceiling level.
There are three doors to this room, the principal entrance being by
double doors, each four panels high, within a large bolection-moulded
architrave. An over-door is formed by a shaped frieze carved with military
weapons and trophies, and an enriched cornice. At the east end of the same
wall, and to the south of the fireplace, are two smaller doors of six panels
with architraves following that of the main entrance. Above these doors the
wall is occupied by a large panel in each instance, and over the principal
door by a smaller panel, all three having enriched mouldings. The linings of
the windows have raised panels with mouldings on the sides and soffit, and
date from the 18th century.
The original fireplace has been replaced by Robert Adam (who was
clerk of works to the Hospital) with a stone chimney-piece of simple classical
design. The frieze is carved, and breaks forward over panelled pilasters,
the upper portions of which have brackets with ram's heads at the angles.
Over the fireplace is a large panel with bolection moulding, now filled with
a mirror, and surrounding this, above and on both sides, is an elaborate
piece of carving in lime wood, of bold projection and deeply under-cut.
Formed of an assembly of military armour and weapons, it is a fine example
of the work of the school associated with the name of Grinling Gibbons,
but the carving was actually performed by William Emmett, who worked
both at Windsor and Hampton Court and became master carver to the King
(see p. 29). The royal initials J.R. appear in the carving.
The plaster ceiling is arranged with a deep cove round the walls.
The greater part of it is raised further by a central elliptical panel, surrounded
by a bold cornice with enriched mouldings and modillions. The spandrels
between the circumference of the ellipse and the cove round the walls are
formed with shaped panels at each angle with a wreath of fruit and flower
between groups of military emblems. Between the panels are shields bearing
the royal arms within the garter, with crown and standards, etc., and also
wreaths containing the initial J.R. (James II) and crown. In the centre of
the ceiling are wreaths of oak (inserted in the 18th century) enclosing the
cyphers G.R. and C.R. for one of the Georges and either Queen Caroline
or Queen Charlotte. A bronze chandelier of 18th-century date hangs from
The paintings that adorn the walls of this room are enumerated on
page 30. The principal one, the fine portrait of Charles I and his family,
by Van Dyck, was placed here when it was presented to the Royal Hospital
about the year 1700.
On the first floor, the room known as the oak room (Plate 94), is
panelled for its whole height. It has one large double door and two smaller
ones. The architraves have the original bolection mouldings. The fireplace
is surrounded by a similar moulding in marble, and has a plain panel above
its well-moulded capping. The south-west room is also panelled, and has
two large doorways following the detail of those to the wards. The remaining
rooms are similarly treated (see section, Plate 16).
The Lieut. Governor's House.
The Lieutenant-Governor's house is a replica of the Governor's
externally, but its plan is altogether different. A passage running north
and south divides two suites of rooms. The passage and the dining-room
(south-west angle) are panelled, but in several other rooms the panelling has
been masked by canvas and wall paper. The staircase here is modern. In
the servants' quarters is a cupboard with good carved decoration of the Adam
period (Plate 101), and the servants' hall, adjoining the yard, is panelled
throughout. There are two good lead cisterns in the house, one dated 1694
with the royal arms and the monogram W.M.R. for William and Mary
(Plate 102), and another with the same monogram and date 1695. Several
of the rooms on the upper floors are of interest and have good fireplaces.
Sir Christopher Wren's lay-out of the Hospital buildings is completed
by four low houses or "pavilions," two of which extend east and two west,
forming with the main wings a spacious court on each side of the Hospital.
They are all practically alike externally, and comprise a single storey to the
eaves, and an attic floor lighted by dormer windows. Between each of
these pavilions and the main building, and also beyond them as far as the
side roads, were yards enclosed by walls architecturally treated. To the
north and south the pavilions and these walls were aligned with the
extremity of each of the main wings, but facing the courtyards the walls of
the enclosed yards were considerably in advance of the pavilions (which had
not so much depth), and this projection was utilised, by means of a quadrant
sweep, to add to the effect of the composition of which each pavilion was the
centre. These yards have since been occupied by outbuildings, but by
keeping the roofs flat the original appearance has been maintained. The
north-east pavilion, adjoining the chapel building and the burial ground,
was almost entirely demolished by a hostile aeroplane in the late war and
has been carefully rebuilt on the old lines.
The north-west pavilion (Plates 33 34 35 36) is typical of the original
buildings. It is composed of a central block two storeys in height, flanked
by one-storey wings. On the south elevation the central portion projects
forward clear of the eaves-cornice of the wings, and has a plain stone plinth,
stone quoins to the walls, and a pediment above, the mouldings of which
follow that of the eaves. There is a central doorway of stone with moulded
architrave, pilaster strips, frieze and cornice. On each side of this is a sash
window with square head, while on the first floor are three similar windows
but with semi-circular heads, and in the pediment is a circular light. The
wings have each a central door, similar to that just described, flanked by two
windows on each side, and above the windows are plain brick panels. The
eaves cornice (Plate 38) is furnished with square modillions, soffit patteræ;
the angles of the building have stone quoins, and each wing has four dormer
windows with pedimental heads, placed exactly over the windows and doors
below, excepting, in each case, the last window, where the hipped roof prevents.
In place of this there are two dormer windows at each end. The north elevation repeats the south, only the doors are omitted and windows are inserted
instead. The roofs of slate are hipped back at the angles, and finish with a
narrow lead flat at the top, on which stand four lofty chimney stacks. The
rain-water pipes of lead may be original and are protected in a similar
manner to those on the main buildings.
The north wall (Plate 39) of the enclosed yard east of the pavilion is
in its original state. It is divided into five bays by stone pilasters; in the
centre bay is a semi-circular niche, with hemispherical head in rubbed
brickwork. The adjoining bays have square-headed, and the end bays semicircular-headed, shallow recesses. The quadrant sweep of the southern wall
has three square-headed panels, similar to those just described, but without
the intermediate pilasters. The angles have stone quoins, and the remaining
part of the wall is treated in the same way, with two panels on each side of
a simple doorway. The enclosed courts are now filled with 18th-century
The centre block of this pavilion is occupied by the Board Room,
the walls of which are covered with raised panelling three panels high.
There are two original doors with bolection mouldings, and a stone architrave,
similarly moulded, surrounds the fireplace. From the ceiling hangs a brass
chandelier with seven scroll branches, and a moulded centre stem, with a
crown above and large ball below. Lobbies have been partitioned off with old
panelling, and the entrance door of two leaves dates from the 18th century.
The western part of the pavilion retains its fine staircase, of detail similar
to those in the main buildings. The reading-room to the left of the entrance
is panelled like the Board Room, and the southern room to the right has a
panelled dado. The rooms on the first floor of this section have panelled
walls and roof slopes, the soffits of the dormer windows being similarly
treated, and the doors have two panels with bolection mouldings. In the
eastern section both the front and back rooms to the left of the entrance are
panelled for two-thirds of their height, and in the front room on the right
the panelling reaches the ceiling. There is a chimney-piece with moulded
and enriched shelf of the 18th century in the north-west room. The first
floor is similar to that of the western portion, and one room has long drawers
fitted between the dormers. In the basement are square panelled doors, dado,
and a moulded shelf to the fireplace.
The south-west pavilion, which probably stands on the site of King
James's College (see page 6), is externally a replica of that to the north-west
just described. The lower ground to the south makes for a higher plinth
level, and the bays of the walls enclosing the former courts all now contain
windows and a door to which steps with iron railings make an approach.
Internally the old arrangement has almost entirely gone, and the original
staircase has disappeared. A few doors, the panelling in the kitchen and in
part of the upper floor are all that remain of the old fittings. In the basement
is some of the old groined brick vaulting and traces of the foundation walls
of the earlier building.
The south-east pavilion follows the others externally. Inside, it
retains a considerable part of the original arrangement. A long passage-hall
on each side of the central block next the court is panelled for three-quarters
of its height. The western section has kept its old staircase (like that in the
north-west pavilion), but the stair in the eastern part is modern. The old
stair, however, seems to have been altered in position. The small north
and the large south room in the centre block have preserved their panelling.
A certain amount of panelling remains on the first floor. In the basement
there is a slight variation in the design of the stair balusters. The kitchen
has old doors with bolection mouldings, an old corner cupboard, and a circular table on turned legs surrounding a central chamfered post. This
probably dates from the 18th century. Several doors retain their original
hinges and fittings.
In the centre of each outer court, formed by the pavilions and the
main wings, is a well, and above each well is a cage of wrought iron-work
combined with a lamp standard (Plates 40 41). These elaborate well-heads
are of very beautiful design and workmanship. A space some 5 feet square
is enclosed by four lengths of railing united at the angles by a cast iron
baluster standard with vase finials. The railings have each two panels of
scroll work next the standards with plain bars in the centre which on one side
form the gate of the enclosure. A strong iron bar connects the standards
and from it a charming dome-like roof of shaped bars and scroll work of
ogee shape is formed towards a square centre-piece which supports the lamp
standard. This standard is shaped like a Roman Ionic column of vertical
bars bound by scrolls, the whole of open work, circular in plan, and united at
the top by a cast Ionic capital with projecting angle volutes. Upon this
stands the iron framework of the lamp, which is surmounted by a crown.
Among the lead cisterns preserved at the Royal Hospital are:—
1. Two shaped panels on face (Plate 102). Emblems: rose, fleurde-lis, sprigs of oak. In each panel royal arms with monogram formed of
the letters W.M.R. Date on upper part 1694. (Lieutenant-Governor's
2. Shaped panels, with bay wreaths and crown. Monogram W.M.R.
Date 1695. (Lieutenant-Governor's house.)
3. Shaped panels, in the upper part of each the figure of a man in
cloak, tunic and sandals with hands clasped. In centre, scrolls and cherub's
heads, and in the base a seated figure, crowned, holding a harp, with two
figures above, holding harps, palms and wreaths. Between the panels figures
of Faith, Hope and Charity. Date 1700. (In grounds.)
4. Triangular in plan. On each face a similar panel to No. 3.
Date 1700. (Clerk of Works' office.)
5. Single panel with floral emblem of rose and thistle repeated five
times, the centre one in a circle. On each side the Prince of Wales's
feathers. Date 1718. (Plate 98.)
6. Two shaped panels with circles in centre. No date. (Plate 46.)
The Pensioners' Library.
The pensioners' library across the approach road west of the northwest pavilion is a rectangular one-storey building similar to the rest of the
Hospital with rubbed brick arches and stone quoins and beaded arrises
to the windows. The cornice, with its modillions, has been largely renewed.
The four windows towards the roadway have mullions and transomes, glazed
with diamond lead lights. The other walls have the windows blocked,
forming shallow panels. The chimney is panelled in brick, and has a stone
capping and necking. The walls inside are panelled to the ceilings, two
panels in height, with cornice. The windows are fitted with iron stanchions
The Infirmary Buildings.
The infirmary buildings have been described in the Parish of Chelsea,
Part I, under Walpole House. (fn. 5)
There are two small lodges at the gates in Royal Hospital Avenue,
and two more at the entrances to the east and west drives from Royal Hospital Road, and there are several fine gateways with stone piers and wrought
The triple entrance (Plate 42) on the northern side of Burton
Court, facing the avenue, is formed of four lofty stone piers with pilasters
on each face. A moulded cornice, necking and base are carried round each
pier, and the finials are composed of trophies behind shaped escutcheons
supporting vases. The centre pair of gates, and two panels of railing between
each pair of piers, consist of vertical bars with barbed points, interrupted in
the centre by a broad band of excellent scroll work in wrought iron. The
iron work reaches some two-thirds of the height of the piers, and at a higher
level two wrought iron brackets support a ring for a lamp over the gates.
The whole composition is exceedingly effective.
In the centre of the boundaries to the eastern and western courts,
half-way between the north and south pavilions, are stone piers rebated for
gates, but they have the appearance of having been moved and refixed in
this position. They differ somewhat from those described below.
The east gateway to the South Terrace (Plate 43) has square stone
piers with moulded cornice and base. The bed mould of the cornice is
enriched, and the piers support ball finials. The gate occupies about a
third part of the railings between the piers, and the side panels have vertical
borders of scroll work, doubled against the gate, and there is a range of
dog-bars below. Under the top horizontal bar are scroll ornaments to the
railings and a band of circles to the gates, the whole being surmounted by
an ornamental overthrow.
The west gateway to the South Terrace (Plate 43) is similar
in design to that last described, but it consists of a pair of gates instead of
a single one. The panels and the overthrow are slightly altered on account
The infirmary garden (Plate 44) has another very effective gateway. The stone piers follow the character of those to the Terrace.
Beautiful panels of scroll work flank the two gates. The row of circles to
the gates appears as a centre band as well as at the top, and the overthrow
is more elaborately designed.
The terrace wall on the south side of the great central court has a
balustrade of stone with moulded coping and base. In the centre are two
large but low piers flanking the steps to the gardens.
In the centre of the court is a statue in brass (bronzed) of Charles II
in the costume of a Roman general. The figure is by Grinling Gibbons,
who was commissioned by Tobias Rustat to execute it for the Royal Hospital. The sculptor's fee was £500. In the Hospital accounts is an entry
recording the removal of the statue, c. 1690, from the hall to the courtyard,
for which work one Augustine Harris was paid 60s.
The burial ground of the Royal Hospital was formed at its foundation for the interment of the officers and pensioners of the Hospital. It was
consecrated on 30th August, 1691. A plan showing the chief monuments
and a record of the inscriptions are given in Appendix, pp. 71–89.
The following memorials of modern date are in the Royal Hospital
Memorial to troops lost on the Birkenhead, 1852.
" " " Europa, 1854.
" to Colonel Edward W. C. Wright, 1871.
" to Colonel Richard Wadeson, V.C., 1885.
" to Major-General J. W. Armstrong, C.B., 1880.
" commemorating the action at Chillianwallah, 1849.
" to Major-General A. W. Torrens, 1854.
The following extracts from the Royal Hospital accounts relate to
the payments made for building work from 1685–7:—
To the executrs of Tho. Wise for mason-worke and materialls furnished and done in the porticoe, south front and cloyster, and in galleries.
Tho. Hill, for mason-worke in the south front over the porticoe, in
the west wing, in the halls, and in the south-west pavilion vijc xxijli xs xd.
Matthew Banckes, carpenter, for timber, oake-plank, nales, and other
materialls and worke done in & about the said building, as by the sundry
particulars appeares. m,ixli xiijs vijd.
Morris Emmett, bricklayer, for worke in makeing sevrall large
welles and draines, paveing wth tyles wrought in tarras, cc,iijxx iijli xijs viijd
and for sundry dayes worke with bricklayers and labourers xvli xs vjd in
both cciiijxx xixli iijs iiijd.
Charles Hopson, joyner, his taske worke wainscotting the second
and third galleries in the west wing . . . and for pieces of wainscotting in
the great stairecase and kitchin pavillion, the great stairecase by the pavillion
next the Thames, in the next wing and in the hall . . . in both m.clxxvjli
xijs iijd ob.
John Heisenbutle and Edwd Cannell, joyners, their taske for wainscotting the third gallery in the west wing cccvijli.
The said John Heisenbuttell repairing & cleaneing the moddle xls.
John Gibson, joyner, his taske wainscotting the uppermost & lower
gallerys in the west wing. vc iiijxx xijli iijs iijd ob.
Matthew Williams, joyner, his taske worke wainscotting the uppermost and lower galleryes fronting the court wth sevrall other small pcells.
vc iijxx xijli iijs iijd ob.
Henry Margetts, plasterer, for lathing, plastering and whiteing
cciijxx viiijli iijs viijd.
Willm Newton, slater, for slateing over the pedament roofe of the
great porticoe and finding all materialls xvli xvs.
Robt Streeter, serjt painter, for painting rivet barrs, saddle barrs,
casements, and frames and cornices, and guilding sevrall pcells iiijxx xvli
Will'm Bushell, for digging of wells to receave the water for the
draines, and for the engines, and in the cellars, wth sundry dayes worke of
labourers carrying of rubbish lvijli iiijs jd.
Joñ Martyr, paleing in the ground about the said hospitall &
makeing gates and finding all materialls according to contract, and setting
sundry posts, and carring of them ciiijxx vli.
Tho. Humphries, ironmonger, for sundry wares lxvjli xijs vjd.
John Vile, blacksmith, for sundry sorts of worke made by him
iiijc lxxixli xvs.
Samll fforrest, glazier, for worke and materialls cxli xs ixd.
Jon Scarborow, surveying the ground vijli vs.
Leonard Gammon, clerke of the workes and ingrosseing the booke
To Thomas Hill, mason, for worke done in the east wing galleries
[& in council chamber] cccxlli xviijs jd ob. In the hall and chapell [and in
kitchin pavilion] iiijc xlicli xijs iiijd. In square courts [cc.iiijxx iiijli vjs iijd.
In the kitchin] lxxixli xiiijs xd and for sundry dayes worke viijli xiiijs ijd.
Matthew Banks, carpenter, for worke in the east wing & nor' east
pavilion ixc xxxli xs gr.
Morris Emmett, bricklayer, for worke done about the six stone
arches wth two course of plaine tyleing in tarras, altering the chimneys about
the building and plastering them with plaster of Parris, and makeing of
draines in sevrall places and other services cccixli xvjs vijd.
Charles Hopson, joyner, for worke done in the lower gallery in the
east wing, next the court, according to contract, cccvijli and sev'all parcells
of wainscotting, Italian moulding, architrave, and other worke vc lvjli
Richd Ryley, joyner, for wainscotting the lower galleryes in the
east wing according to contract, and setting on locks and bolts cccviijli xs.
Roger Davis, joyner, for wainscotting two galleryes in the east wing
upon the first floore, according to contract, and for setting the iron worke
on the doores an chests vjc xxijli.
Abraham Harborough, joyner, for wainscotting on upper gallery in
the east wing according to contract, and for setting the iron worke on the
doores & chests, and for one yard vijen foote of wall worke cclxxvijli viijd.
Jon Gibson, joyner, for wainscotting one gallery in the east wing
upon the third floore according to contract, for foure ft. of wall worke in
the addic'on to the wainscott under the pedament and setting the iron worke
cccxiijli xiiijs viijd.
Matthew Williams, joyner, wainscotting one upper gallery in the
east wing according to contract, with vij yds iij ft of wall worke, setting on
the iron worke, and for sevrall other parcells of right wainscott in the withdrawing roome. cccxxxviijli viijs jd.
John Smallwell, joyner, for materialls and worke done in the west
wing of the said hospitall next the Thames, in the master's pavilion in the
east wing, wainscotting the gallery in the east wing in the third floore
according to contract wth setting on the iron worke for the doores and chests
mcciiijxx li xvijs vjd.
Wm Cheere, joyner, for sevrll parcells of right wainscott in the
council chamber and passage by it in the south-east pavilion wth sevrall
other peeces of wainscott, Italian moulding, architrave, and other wainscott
of deale, as by his bill appeares ccxlli vijs.
Isaac Tompkins, enginer, for making engines lijli.
Wm Newton, slater, mending the slates over the hall and chappell
Tho. Humphreys, ironmonger, for sundry sortes of iron wares in
the galleryes of the east wing, in the xvj galleries of the east and west wing,
in the pavilion, and the presses and chests for linnen ccclviijli iiijs.
Robt Streeter, Serjt painter, for painting worke in sevrall pts of the
said hospitall and in the chappell iiijc lxxixli xjs.
Tho. Dobbins, plomber, for worke and materialls in the yeares 1686
and 1687. mcxxijli xvjs.
Wm Bushell for clayeing and ramming the walks, digging and removeing of earth, for charge of labourers to cleare and carry the rubbish,
and mending the high waye before the gate vijc lvijli xvd ob.
Jon Owne, Mr plasterer, for lathing wth hart oake lath, plastering
and whiteing sevrall pts of the said hospitall iiijc lxvli xiijs ixd.
Henry Margetts, plasterer, for the like service vjc lli ixs jd.
Wm Emmett, carver, for carveing worke in the hall, councell
chamber, in the chappell, makinge fflower potts and other worke ccxijli
iiijs iiijd ob.
Wm Morgan, carver, for the like worke clxxvli iijs vijd.
Paul Winckles, for smith worke cccijli vijs xd gr.
Jon Vile, for sundry sorts of smith worke vijc ijli xviijs iijd ob.
Wm Bache, mr locksmith, for screw'd bolts and hinges xlviijs.
Jon Smith, brazier, for two coppers wth covers for the kitchin, and
one other for Sr Thomas Ogle, wth two grates and ffenders lli vijs xd.
Samuell fforest, glasier, for worke and materialls by him done and
furnished for the service of the hospitall cxliijli xs rijd ob.
Leonard Gammon, clerke to the works, for measuring the worke,
casting up and engrossing the accots xxvli.