Memorial to Chelsea Pensioners, 1899-1901, by J Whitehead and Sons Ltd.
Reason for Listing
* Historic interest: a poignant monument to over 2600 Chelsea Pensioners from the nearby Royal Hospital buried in Brompton Cemetery;
* Design interest: an imposing granite monument with baroque metalwork;
* Group value: it is located within the Grade I-registered Brompton Cemetery and has group value with other listed tombs and structures nearby including the Brigade of Guards Monument.
The Chelsea Pensioners' Monument appears to have been prompted by a request by the Chelsea Hospital Commissioners in the Morning Post, 23 December 1898, asking that '... something should be done to obliterate the traces of neglect that now scandalously disfigure the burying ground of some two thousand five hundred Pensioners in Brompton Cemetery, and that a memorial of some kind should be raised to the memory of the old soldiers who lie there.' In conclusion, the paper invited subscriptions from readers to fund the memorial. John Whitehead and Sons submitted an unexecuted design in April 1899 and the final design by September. In August 1899 the Treasury had guaranteed a maximum of £250 to pay for the monument and gunmetal for the castings was eventually supplied by the War Office. The casting was by W J Singer & Sons of Frome. The railings were installed in October 1899 and the monument was unveiled on 21 June 1901.
Brompton Cemetery was one of the 'magnificent seven' privately-run burial grounds established in the 1830s and 1840s to relieve pressure on London's overcrowded churchyards. It was laid out in 1839-1844 to designs by the architect Benjamin B Baud, who devised a classical landscape of axial drives and vistas with rond-points at the intersections marked by mausolea or ornamental planting, the latter devised by Isaac Finnemore with advice from J C Loudon. The main Ceremonial Way culminates in a dramatic architectural ensemble recalling Bernini's piazza in front of St Peter's in Rome, with flanking colonnades curving outwards to form a Great Circle, closed at its southern end in a domed Anglican chapel (the planned Catholic and Nonconformist chapels were omitted for financial reasons). The cemetery, never a commercial success, was compulsorily purchased by the General Board of Health in the early 1850s, and has remained in state ownership ever since.
MATERIALS: Pink granite obelisk with grey granite base and pedestal, bronze fittings and panoply, and iron cannon balls at the base.
The monument consists of an obelisk set on a square pedestal with rough-hewn panels at the base and a bold projecting cornice. The low square base has bevelled upper edges and a plinth at each corner surmounted with a pile of five cannon balls (missing the top ball on two of the corners). The obelisk is surmounted by a bronze panoply of draped standards, has inverted torches, symbolic of death, down the corners and a spray of leaves and the royal cipher (VR) carved in relief at the head of the west face. The hollowed central section of the pedestal below the cornice is decorated on each face by a bronze lion mask set on a pelta (leather shield) in a trophy of arms. The inscriptions, in bronze lettering, on each face of the obelisk as follows:
West face: TO THE/ GLORY OF GOD/ AND/ IN REVERED AND/ GRATEFUL MEMORY/ OF/ 2625 PENSIONERS/ OF THE/ ROYAL HOSPITAL/ CHELSEA/ BURIED AROUND THIS SPOT/ BETWEEN/ 1855 AND 1893
North face: THESE VETERANS/ HAVING FOUGHT/ FOR KING/ FOR QUEEN/ FOR ENGLAND/ FOR EMPIRE/ IN ALMOST EVERY/ PART OF THE WORLD/ CAME HOME TO DIE/ IN PEACE/ HONOURED/ AND RESPECTED/ BY THEIR/ FELLOW-COUNTRYMEN
South face: ERECTED/ BY THE/ CHELSEA/ COMMISSIONERS/ ON BEHALF OF/ AN ADMIRING NATION/ AS A TESTIMONY/ AND TRIBUTE TO/ VALOUR ENDURANCE/ SUFFERINGS & DEVOTION
East face (battle honours): MYSORE/ EGYPT/ INDIA/ PENINSULA/ CORUNNA/ SALAMANCA/ FLANDERS/ WATERLOO/ NEPAUL/ BURMAH/ SOUTH AFRICA/ AFGHANISTAN/ CABUL/ CANDAHAR/ CHINA/ NEW ZEALAND/ PUNJAB/ CRIMEA/ ALMA/ BALAKLAVA/ INKERMAN/ SEBASTOPOL/ PERSIA/ INDIAN MUTINY/ DELHI/ LUCKNOW.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.