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Chelsea Hospital, or College.

This building was commenced by king James I. in the 5th year of his reign, for a college, to consist of a number of learned divines, who, being furnished with books, and all means of subsistence, might devote their time to the study and teaching of controversial divinity, especially those points in dispute between the churches of England and Rome. He accordingly incorporated a provost and fellows, by the title of king James's College in Chelsea. The corporation was endowed, by his letters patent, with the reversion of certain lands in Chelsea, and authorized also to receive of his loving subjects, lands not exceeding in the whole the yearly value of 3,000l. Every thing being previously settled, king James laid the first stone of the intended college; but for want of money, the building went on slowly; and at length, before an eighth part of the model was executed, it stood still. In this state it remained—for several years: but in the year 1616, the king sent letters to the archbishop of Canterbury, requiring him to stir up the clergy in his province to contribute towards it. In consequence of this, collections were made in several parishes in England; but the produce was small, and was swallowed by the fees and collectors. The corporation, however, though the building was stopped, was nominally kept up during the life of king James I. The troubles under king Charles I. caused all thoughts of completing the work to be relinquished. After the restoration, Charles II., erecting a convenient hospital for the reception of sick, maimed, and superannuated soldiers, converted the unfinished buildings of this college to that use; whence the hospital has retained the title of "college." It was founded by king Charles II., carried on by king James II., and finished in the reign of king William and queen Mary, by Sir Christopher Wren. The whole expense of this structure amounted to 150,000l., and the extent of the ground covered by it is about 40 acres.

The building is very spacious and magnificent. The middle, or front, consists of a chapel and hall; the other two lines, being four stories high, are divided into wards or galleries, two in each story, containing each twenty-six distinct apartments for the foot soldiers. At each of the four corners of the main building there is a pavilion; in one of which are the apartments of the governor, and the council-chamber; the other affording apartments for several of the officers of the house. Beside the main building, there are four wings; one for the infirmary, another for several officers of the house, another for old maimed officers of horse and foot, and the fourth for the baker, laundress, and others.

The number of pensioners in the house is, in general estimated at about 400, besides the officers and servant in the house. The out, or extraordinary, pensioners are also very numerous; and these, upon occasion, do duty in the several garrisons, from whence draughts are made for the army. Their allowance is 7l. 12s. 6d. a year each.

The pensioners are provided with clothes, diet, washing, lodging, and firing, and have a weekly allowance of eight-pence for pocket-money.

To be admitted into this hospital, the candidate must bring a certificate from his superior officer, that he has been maimed or disabled in the service of the crown, or that he has served twenty years, which must be proved by muster rolls.

To defray the expenses of this hospital, a considerable sum is paid yearly out of the poundage of the army besides one day's pay of each officer, and each common soldier, every year, which, in time of war, amounts to a very considerable sum. In case of deficiency, it is supplied by parliament.

For the administration of this magnificent hospital, commissioners are appointed, and also a governor, lieutenant governor, and other officers, with adequate salaries.

Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819