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This text was copied from Wikipedia on 13 April 2024 at 6:10AM.

Chelsea College was a polemical college founded in London in 1609. This establishment was intended to centralize controversial writing against Catholicism, and was the idea of Matthew Sutcliffe, Dean of Exeter, who was the first Provost. After his death in 1629 it declined as an institution.[1]


James I of England was one of its foremost patrons, and supported it by grants and benefactions; he himself laid the first stone of the new edifice on 8 May 1609; gave timber for the building out of Windsor forest; and in the original charter of incorporation, bearing date 8 May 1610, ordered that it should be called "King James's College at Chelsey."[1]

Building was begun on a piece of ground called Thame Shot (or Thames Shot), a site of six acres,[2] crown lands from Westminster Abbey obtained at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and leased by Sutcliffe from Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham.[3] The College was to have consisted of two quadrangles, with a piazza along the four sides of the smaller court. Only one side of the first quadrangle was ever completed; and this range of buildings cost, according to Thomas Fuller, above £3,000.[1]

Fellows and members

The charter limited the number of members to a provost and nineteen fellows, of whom seventeen were to be in holy orders. The king himself nominated the members. Sutcliffe was the first provost, and John Overall, Thomas Morton, Richard Field, Robert Abbot, Miles Smith, John Howson, Martin Fotherby, John Spenser, John Prideaux,[4] and John Boys, were among the original fellows, while the lay historians William Camden (a personal friend of Sutcliffe[5]) and John Hayward[6] were appointed to record and publish to posterity "all memorable passages in church or commonwealth."[1]

Other original fellows included Benjamin Carier,[7] John Layfield, Richard Brett, William Covell, Peter Lilly, Francis Burley, John White and William Hellier.[3] Later were Edward Gee,[8] and Nathanael Carpenter.[9]

History of the College

The scheme ultimately proved to be a failure. In consequence of a letter addressed by the king to Archbishop George Abbot, collections in aid of the institution were made in all the dioceses of England, but the amount raised was small, and hardly covered fees due to the collectors. After Sutcliffe's death the college sank into insignificance, and Charles I in 1636 refused to revive the moribund institution.[10] William Laud thought of it as "controversy college", and he disliked public disputation as divisive.[11] An engraving representing the building project, which was only very partially carried through, is in the second volume of Francis Grose's Military Antiquities (1788).[1][12]

Daniel Featley was provost in 1630 as Sutcliffe's successor.[13] William Slater was provost from 1645. The fourth and last provost was Samuel Wilkinson. The College was dissolved in the Interregnum, by 1655.[1][3][14]

Impression of the intended College; from Francis Grose, Military Antiquities.

Nothing of the buildings now remains. For a while, though, there was activity and interest in the premises. Francis Kynaston wanted to move his royal academy there, at a point when there were only two resident fellows.[3] From 1641 there was a project to set up a pansophist institution in England, on the visit of Comenius, and the Chelsea College building was mentioned in discussions of a Parliament-backed Universal College; this came to nothing. In the 1650s the College became a prison; and in the Second Anglo-Dutch War of the mid-1660s it housed prisoners of war.[3]

John Dury in 1651 advocated that Parliament should renew the charter, and create a centre in the College for intelligencer work; his close colleague Samuel Hartlib also agitated that the revenue should be better spent. The grounds were granted to the Royal Society, and a print of the original design is prefixed to The Glory of Chelsey Colledge revived, published in 1662 by John Darley (rector of Northull in Cornwall) who, in a dedication to Charles II, urged that monarch to grant a fixed revenue to the college.[15][16] This royal grant was apparently reversed (or repurchased for a sum never handed over).[17]

Chelsea Hospital in 1800.

After proposals including an observatory, supported by John Flamsteed but vetoed by Christopher Wren in favour of Greenwich,[18] the site was devoted to Chelsea Hospital later in the reign of Charles II, with the old name still used in the following years.[19] The king had wanted to keep open the chance of using the site also as a barracks for a standing army. The situation was resolved only when Stephen Fox, the major benefactor to the Hospital, put up £1,300 of his own money for its purchase, and made a deal with the Royal Society through the good offices of John Evelyn.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Sutcliffe, Matthew" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  2. ^ "Chelsea College". John Strypre's survey of London and Westminster. Archived from the original on 10 November 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Royal Hospital: King James's Theological College | British History Online".
  4. ^ "Prideaux, John (1578-1650)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  5. ^ "Camden, William" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  6. ^ "Hayward, John" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  7. ^ "Carier, Benjamin" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  8. ^ His DNB article.
  9. ^ "Carpenter, Nathanael" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  10. ^ Hugh Trevor-Roper, Archbishop Laud (1962 edition), p. 67.
  11. ^ Kevin Sharpe, The Personal Rule of Charles I (1992), pp.287–8.
  12. ^ "Military antiquities: respecting a history of the English army ..., Volume 2". Printed for T. Egerton ... & G. Kearsley, 1801 – via Internet Archive.
  13. ^ "Featley, Daniel" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  14. ^ "The Rectory | British History Online".
  15. ^ "Read the eBook The wonderful village; a further record of some famous folk and places by Chelsea reach by Reginald Blunt online for free (page 9 of 19)".
  16. ^ Margery Purver, The Royal Society: Concept and Creation (1967), pp. 214-5.
  17. ^ "17th-Century Tradsemen's Tokens (Chelsea in Middlesex)".
  18. ^ "Greenwich | British History Online".
  19. ^ "Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Million-Peopled City, by John Garwood, 1853 - Chapter 2 - Greenwich and Chelsea Pensioners".
  20. ^ Gillian Darley, John Evelyn: Living for Ingenuity (2006), p. 261.

3 Annotations

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Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Chelsea College, which was given by Charles II to the Royal Society, had a glorious location on the Thames. It was a large property, which John Evelyn used as a prison during the third Anglo-Dutch War.

But Charles II (r. 1660–1685) had other plans. He had witnesed fighting during the Civil Wars. He was present as a 13-year-old at Edgehill in 1642 (the first battle in the conflict) and commanded the outnumbered Royalist forces at the second Battle of Worcester in 1651 at its military conclusion.

The fate of wounded and destitute soldiers must have been all too evident to him, not to mention the value of a magnificent gesture of charity towards the injured who had been loyal to his cause.

There were other reasons why the idea of a royal hospital appealed to the Crown.
The place of the army was growing in importance; the Restoration was made possible by the military power of Gen. Monck.
Politically, having a standing army was controversial and the Crown had to be carefully to avoid being seen building barracks outside the City of London.
A royal hospital could prove useful as a place for billeting troops. In an emergency, the veterans living there might also do service (and muskets were kept in readiness for possible use by Pensioners until 1854).

In France, Louis XIV (r. 1643 –1715), whose military adventures dominated European politics, offered an example. The Hôtel Royal des Invalides, built 1670–1675, was the grandest new building in Paris. It housed 4,000 veterans in its splendid courtyards, designed by Mansart.

The Duke of Monmouth, Charles II’s favorite son, who served gallantly alongside the French in the Low Countries, visited Les Invalides in 1672 as it was being built. One could regard Monmouth with his father as the Royal Hospital’s joint founder; he revisited Les Invalides in 1677 and requested plans from Louvois, Louis XIV’s Minister of War.

Most of the interiors are taken up with Long Wards: the living quarters for the original Pensioners, who occupied individual berths, were a mere 6 ft. sq. and screened off with curtains. Spartan as this was, it represented a big improvement to the accommodation most veterans were accustomed to.

Where did they build this beautiful hospital? It so happened that Sir Christopher Wren was the President of the Royal Society that year, and he handed back Chelsea College to the Crown, so the Royal Society had to relocate. Then he got the job of supervising the new buildings. But this is long after the Diary.

Pictures of Wren's masterpiece, as improved by James II, Mary II and William III:…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.