Royal Hospital Chelsea Long Wards

Paved the way for the continued use of a special building

· Credit: June Buck

Peregrine Bryant Architecture and Building Conservation for Royal Hospital Chelsea

Contract value: Undisclosed

GIA: 10,836m²


The Royal Warrant of 1681 instructed the building of Royal Hospital to house the King’s pensioners. Christopher Wren, as surveyor-general of works, was appointed to undertake the commission. Sleeping accommodation was composed of windowless, semi-open 6ft2 back-to-back cubicles. On either side a generous social corridor with windows brought borrowed light and air to the pensioners’ berths. But by the beginning of the 21st century these spaces were becoming unsustainable as applications to become pensioners were tailing off.

  • · Credit: June Buck
  • · Credit: June Buck
  • · Credit: June Buck
  • · Credit: June Buck

For this project the architect proposed the sacrifice of one of the social corridors and developed a strategy of single-sided windowed en-suite rooms – with the reinstatement of Wren’s original partitions acting as entrance studies and the recreation of his original wide corridor. The conservation gain was that by reducing the depth of the berths to their original dimension of 6ft, the width of the retained corridor could also be restored to Wren’s original proportions. The jury found that the project has paved the way for the continued use of a special building.

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