Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea’

London — By Andrea Kirkby on December 22, 2009 at 5:59 am
Filed under: Chelsea, chelsea pensioners, featuredarticle, royal hospital

Talking to a Pensioner – The Royal Hospital, Chelsea

I visited the Royal Hospital, Chelsea[map], a couple of days ago, and ended up being taken on a tour of the museum by a friendly Chelsea Pensioner.

chelsea-pensioners

A Chelsea Pensioner isn’t just an old chap with a pension book. The hospital was founded by Charles II to look after old soldiers – and it still does. You’ll recognise them by their neat caps, with the initials ‘RH’ on them, even if they’re in their ‘undress’ navy blue uniform, not the fine red coats of their dress uniform.

I learned quite a lot of things I didn’t know about the Royal Hospital. For all its old-fashioned atmosphere, I was surprised just how modern it is. Every pensioner who wants to listen to the radio, or watch TV in his berth (room) has to use headphones. ‘We’re all a bit deaf’, the pensioner told me, ‘and if we didn’t use the headphones, well, it would be impossible!’

The mock-up in the museum of a pensioner’s berth also proudly displays a laptop on the bed. ‘Quite a lot of us have got laptops,’ I was told, ‘and if you haven’t, there are some shared ones available and you can get help learning to use them.’

Another thing I learned was that there are now lady pensioners. They wear the same uniform, but they have their own wing of the hospital – what used to be the old infirmary, before a striking new infirmary in yellow brick was built to one side of the older buildings.

I also learned about the recipe for the huge Christmas pudding – which includes not just a lot of Guinness, but also two bottles of brandy, and a number of additional alcoholic inputs!

But some things remain the same as they have done for three hundred years. Founder’s Day is still celebrated on (or close to) 29 May, with a review of all the pensioners , usually by a member of the royal family. Everyone attending wears a sprig of oak leaves, commemorating Charles II’s escape after the battle of Worcester by hiding in an oak tree – he made it to the Continent, where he was to remain for nine years before being brought back to England after the failure of the Republican government.

‘Everyone has to be there,’ my informant told me. ‘The rest of the year, if I want to go on holiday, if I want to get up late, or go shopping, I can do it. That day – no! I’ve got to be there! Unless I really am too ill to get up.’ He pointed at the photo of the Founder’s Day ceremony, showing me a row of Pensioners sitting in the seats under the Colonnade, while the others, drawn up in their four Companies, stand at attention. ‘See, even if you’re not able to stand up, you have to be there if you can get out of bed.’

Celebrations afterwards, for the Pensioners and their invited guests, include a full bar, a talented singer, and…. a number of belly dancers! I was assured that the belly dancers are always popular with the Pensioners. I bet!

I’d highly recommend a visit to the Royal Hospital to anyone visiting London. My guide was a charming chap, full of interesting stories and information, and I’ve rarely met anyone with such a good memory for dates and numbers.

Where: Royal Hospital Road (Sloane Square tube)

When: 10-12 and 2-4 daily, except bank holidays (closed) and Sundays (2-4 only)

How much: free.

Photo by Roy Costello on flickr

1 places are mentioned in this post!
Click on the place name to learn more

No Comments


Permalink |


Recent Articles in this category

Maritime Hotel in West Chelsea

Maritime Hotel NYC You don’t stay at the Maritime Hotel purely for the value or because it’s close to any sight seeing action.  You check in because you want to mingle with hip scene makers and revel in retro décor and architecture.  Originally the headquarters for the National Maritime...
September 2nd, 2009 | Steve Mirsky | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Chelsea, Hiro, Hotels & Places to Stay, La Bottega, Matsuri, national maritime union, nightlife, outdoor showers, People - Interesting Local People

Nickel Spa for Men

Nickel Spa You can’t miss this place if you’re passing by the corner of 14th Street and 8th Avenue in Chelsea.  A huge stone columned once-upon-a-time bank building is now a grand 4500 sq foot men’s spa.  If you’re a man, don’t be shy, go ahead and climb the steps and...
July 20th, 2009 | Steve Mirsky | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Chelsea, mens spa nyc, mens spas nyc, nyc spas for men, philippe dumont, Sports & Recreation

Dirty Bird To-Go

Dirty Bird To-Go Fried Chicken First of all, this tiny place is half way between a take out joint and sit down restaurant.  If you’re lucky enough to find a seat, of which there are only two tables along with small counters on either side of the door, you’ll get real silver ware, cloth napkins,...
July 2nd, 2009 | Steve Mirsky | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: amish country, Chelsea, finger lickin good, finger licking good, Food & Beverage, free range, fried chicken, fried chicken nyc, organic peach ice tea, rotisserie chicken nyc

Chelsea Wine Vault Bargains

Chelsea Wine Vault Enter this cavernous yet intimate brick-walled wine shop in Chelsea Market and it’s easy to feel as if the wine selection here is handpicked and reserved for serious oenophiles.  But after some more careful examination, you’ll find deals mixed into their stock, anywhere from 700...
June 29th, 2009 | Steve Mirsky | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: affordable wines, Announcements, caribbean rum new york, Chelsea, italian wine, trapiche pinot noir, viva italiano

Elevated Park Opens to the Public

Highline Park Grand Opening The first portion of the three-section High Line, running along the Hudson River from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, is now open to the public daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.  High above the city streets in NYC’s Chelsea District, this once abandoned railroad trestle...
June 10th, 2009 | Steve Mirsky | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Announcements, Attractions, Barry Diller, Chelsea, Diane von Furstenberg, high line park, high line park opening, highline park, Kevin Bacon, mayor mike bloomberg, mike bloomberg, News, promenade plante