Archery, Aristocracy, And Espionage At The First Ever Chelsea History Festival

By Maire Rose Connor Last edited 10 months ago

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Archery, Aristocracy, And Espionage At The First Ever Chelsea History Festival

The inaugural Chelsea History Festival kicks off this week, bringing five days of talks, walking tours, and poignant performances to the Royal Borough. Expect plenty of local history — including stories from the Chelsea Pensioners, and a guided walk through Tite Street — as well as events covering everything from medieval archers, to royal rebellions, to second world war spies.

Here's a smattering of events that caught our eye.

Learn about the last royal rebel

Get to know James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth at this evening talk led by biographer Dr Anna Keay. She shares new insights on the charismatic Dutch-born nobleman who took a shot at the crown, revealing the research that underpins her acclaimed biography, The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth.

Royal Hospital Chelsea, £12, book ahead, 5pm-6pm, Thursday 10 October

Listen to The Lark Ascending

Royal Hospital Chelsea. Photo: Matt Brown

Renowned baritone Roderick Williams, violinist Siân Philipps, the London Mozart Players and the Royal Hospital’s Director of Music, William Vann, team up to perform Britain's favourite piece of music. Experience the melancholic beauty of The Lark Ascending, a work inspired by the beginning for the first world war.

Wren Chapel (Royal Hospital Chelsea), £30, book ahead, 7.30pm-8.30pm, Thursday 10 October

Hear Ali Ansari's letter to Britain

Professor Ali Ansari, author of These Islands: A Letter Britain, presents a talk that both celebrates Britain's strengths and explores potential threats at a time when nationalist groups are on the rise.

National Army Museum, £8, book ahead, 2.30pm-3.30pm, Friday 11 October

Visit Chelsea Physic Garden for free

Image: Chelsea Physic Garden

For one day only London's oldest botanic garden opens its gates to the public for free. This hidden oasis is home to over 5000 medicinal, herbal, edible, and useful plants, as well as the oldest rockery in Europe. Free tours of the garden run throughout the day.

Chelsea Physic Garden, free, just turn up, 11am-6pm, Saturday 12 October

Marvel at The Agin Court Archer

Life as a longbowman in the Hundred Years War is recreated in this lively demonstration at Royal Hospital Chelsea. This is your chance to see the world's most powerful hand-powered weapon in action.

Royal Hospital Chelsea, £8 adults/kids go free, book ahead, 12pm-1pm, Saturday 12 October

Discover a most dangerous spy

Learn all about Virginia Hall, described by the Gestapo as ‘the most dangerous of all Allied spies'. New York Times bestselling author Sonia Purnell reveals how the American spy supported the French Resistance and helped win the second world war.

National Army Museum, £12, book ahead, 1.30pm-2.30pm, Saturday 12 October

Meet the Chelsea Pensioners

Image: Chris Harvey /

Around 300 Army veterans live at Royal Hospital Chelsea. Hear the stories of these scarlet-coated pensioners in conversation with Lieutenant Colonel Jonny Lowe MBE.

Royal Hospital Chelsea, £12, book ahead, 1.30pm-2.30pm, Saturday 12 October

Go on a history walk

Step back in time on a guided walk through Chelsea. Anne Marie Craven explores Sloane Rangers, first aiders, and fashionistas, while historian Devon Cox zeroes in on Tite Street, a former artists' quarter once home to the likes of James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Oscar Wilde.

History Walk: Chelsea Past and Present. Meet at National Army Museum, £12, book ahead, 10am/2pm, Saturday 12 October

History Walk: Tite Street. Meet at National Army Museum, £12, book ahead, 12pm/3pm, Saturday 12 October

Chelsea History Festival, Wednesday 9-Sunday 12 October. Check out the full line-up here.

Last Updated 07 October 2019