Page 5: Beating the Bounds

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A few hundred ex-soldiers were more fortunate than those sent to the workhouse as they became inmates at the Royal Hospital. Founded by Charles II and designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it received its first veterans in 1689. The scarlet-coated pensioners are now a familiar and well-loved Chelsea institution. But this was not always so. For much of the 18th century the Royal Hospital was a source of trouble to the Parish, mainly because the Parish supported pensioners’ families even though the Hospital did not contribute to the rates.

One custom that the vestries took over from the manor was perambulation of their boundaries or ‘beating the bounds’. Before Ordnance Survey provided maps marking boundaries a group of parishioners, often led by the vicar, would walk around the parish boundaries. They checked that stone markers were in place and that no new unrated buildings had been erected. In the Chelsea Vestry accounts for 1678 there is an entry for £10 for the payment for the perambulation of the outbounds. This was the detached part of Chelsea at Kensal, known as Chelsea in the Wilderness.


Drawing of Royal Hospital, Chelsea 1832

Engraving of the north front of Royal Hospital, Chelsea in 1832
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Vestry accounts list of names and household details

Chelsea Vestry accounts for 1678, the first entry concerns Kensal perambulation cost
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Virtual Museum – The History of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
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