Chelsea Pensioners Monument (1901)
Erected on behalf of an admiring nation.
When a newspaper reported the scandalously neglected graves of Chelsea Pensioners in Brompton Cemetery in 1898, money was soon found to tidy the area and erect a fitting memorial.
The red-coated Pensioners, all veteran British Army soldiers, lived at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Its own burial ground was full by 1854, so 2,625 men were buried here in neighbouring Brompton Cemetery in largely unmarked graves.
The Treasury agreed to contribute £250 towards an official monument in August 1899, and the design was finalised the following month. But the memorial was not unveiled until two years later. What caused the delay? Mr George Wyndham, the Undersecretary for War, didn’t write the promised epitaph in time!
The monument stands ‘in tribute to the valour, endurance, sufferings and devotion of these veterans’ who fought in almost every part of the world.
It consists of a pink granite obelisk on a grey granite base and pedestal. The draped flags on the top, and the handsome lions’ masks surrounding the base, are made of bronze. The piles of cannon balls in each corner are iron. The War Office provided the gunmetal for the castings. There are upside-down torches decorating the corners of the obelisk. You will often see these symbols of death on Victorian graves.
The monument is Grade II listed by Historic England, which recognises its historic significance and design.