Chelsea History Festival Announces 2023 Programme

14 July 2023

  • Returning for the fifth year, the National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Physic Garden join forces to offer an exciting line-up of events in historic Chelsea from the 26 September to 1 October 2023.
  • Discover a vibrant programme from walking tours to free open days, family-friendly activities and talks by world-renowned speakers, including travel documentary star and writer Sir Michael Palin, Tudor historian and author Alison Weir, and former Rolling Stones bassist and Chelsea resident Bill Wyman.
  • To celebrate the fifth year of the Festival, all three venues will host the voices of many rising historians and future stars, including Rosie Harte, Estelle Paranque and Honor Cargill-Martin.

Festival Dates: 26 September – 1 October 2023
Download images here

The Chelsea History Festival is proud to unveil a packed programme full of talks, tours and performances for its fifth year, running from Tuesday 26 September to Sunday 1 October 2023.

The Chelsea History Festival is a partnership between the National Army Museum, the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Physic Garden.

Nestled in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the festival takes place in a neighbourhood setting with hidden gems to discover, from military history to bohemian rock stars, as well as designers and artists, showcasing British and global stories to intrigue and inspire.

Book your tickets here.

The full programme of events can be found at

Festival highlights

Past meets Present

Exploring current affairs, contemporary issues and significant anniversaries, this strand of programming offers a historical lens through which to view today’s most pressing issues, fostering a deeper understanding of the world we live in.

On Tuesday 26 September, General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Nato Europe and Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, will share his unique perspectives into threats facing the United Kingdom today. And on Wednesday 27 September, British Army officer Major Levison Wood and former soldier Geraint Jones will deliver a compelling account of the evacuation of Kabul, Afghanistan in 2021.

On Saturday 30 September, historian Robert Lyman and former Chief of the General Staff Lord Dannatt will delve into the captivating reasons behind the British Army’s journey from success to failure in between the two World Wars.

Explore Chelsea

The Chelsea History Festival will offer a series of talks, tours and open days sharing the captivating and often unheard stories of the local neighbourhood. These events will delve into the historical foundations of the area’s most eminent institutions, alongside anecdotes and tales of local heroes, offering a fresh lens on Chelsea’s rich heritage.

On Sunday 1 October, former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman will share his unique perspective on Chelsea’s development from village to global centre for music, fashion, art and culture during the 1960s and 1970s. His reflections from years of living and working in the area will enable visitors to discover this iconic neighbourhood anew.

The Royal Hospital Chelsea, home of the iconic British Army veterans, will open its doors and offer public tours led by the Chelsea Pensioners on Thursday 28 and Friday 29 September. Visitors will experience the Royal Hospital through the eyes of its own residents and learn stories from the dawn of the Hospital’s founding during the Restoration through to the Napoleonic Wars into the two World Wars, and when the buildings themselves were damaged by bombings in the 1940s. 2023 also commemorates 300 years of Sir Christopher Wren’s works with a concert in the Royal Hospital Chapel on Thursday 28 September.

This year, the Festival will celebrate the 350-year anniversary of the Chelsea Physic Garden with a free open weekend, Saturday 30 September – Sunday 1 October. Visitors will have the chance to explore their recently reopened Glasshouses, which have just undergone a full restoration and are home to 1,200 different plant species.

New perspectives

The Festival’s programme will reveal fresh takes on familiar and unexplored historical events, highlighting the lives of past individuals, both celebrated and overlooked.

On Thursday 28 September, Alison Weir, bestselling historical Tudor fiction novelist and leading British historian, will present an original retelling of the life of Henry VIII. Viewed from the King’s perspective, this account offers a fresh understanding of his character. On Friday 29 September, renowned travel expert Michael Palin will share the life and tragic death of his great-uncle Harry. A veteran of the First World War, Harry’s extraordinary life was unknown until Michael began researching his family history. On Saturday 30 September, historian Joya Chatterji will offer a thrilling survey of the history of South Asia, looking at how politics, food, leisure and household traditions have shaped the continent.

This strand of programming will also share the fascinating tales of women throughout history. On Saturday 30 September, best-selling author and historian Helen Fry will discuss the stories of women in intelligence services in the 20th century, from parachuting behind enemy lines to decoding the secrets hidden in aerial photography.

Rising stars

To celebrate the fifth year of the Festival, all three venues will host voices of many rising historians and future stars. On Wednesday 27 September at the Chelsea Physic Garden, Honor Cargill-Martin will reveal the true story of Messalina, one of the Roman Empire’s most powerful women. The Royal Hospital will host Estelle Paranque, who will explore the story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de’ Medici on Friday 29 September. At the National Army Museum on Saturday 30 September, Rosie Harte will share what royal fashion can reveal about the position and personalities of the British monarchy.

Family fun

Returning for the third year is History Street, an interactive outdoor experience taking visitors into London’s past, from ancient history through to the present day. Expert living historians, alongside service military units and local cultural organisations, will come together to bring the history of London back to life.

More details on the full family programme will be released later this summer.

Notes to editors

  • Festival dates: 26 September – 1 October 2023
  • Locations:
    Chelsea Physic Garden, London SW3 4HS
    National Army Museum, London SW3 4HT
    Royal Hospital Chelsea, London SW3 4SR
  • Hashtag: #ChelseaHistoryFest
  • Twitter: @ChelseaHistFest
  • Facebook: Chelsea History Festival
  • Instagram: @chelseahistfest
For further information, to arrange interviews, request press tickets and high-resolution images, please contact Constance Ayrton at Sutton :

About the Chelsea History Festival

Founded in 2019, the Chelsea History Festival is a partnership between the National Army Museum, the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Physic Garden. Its aim is to entertain, educate and inspire through local, national and global history. Every year, the Chelsea History Festival brings the past to life through a programme of events, featuring a brilliant blend of storytellers and performers from different walks of life. The Festival creates a stage in Chelsea, along the historic Royal Hospital Road, for world class speakers and authors to celebration history.

About the National Army Museum

The National Army Museum shares the history and heritage of our soldiers and their service in the Army, across the globe and down the centuries. Through our collections and research, we explore the history of the Army from its origins to the present day. We aim to engage and inspire everyone with the stories of our soldiers and how their service shapes our world, past present and future.

About the Royal Hospital Chelsea

The Royal Hospital Chelsea is the home of the iconic veterans of the British Army, the Chelsea Pensioners. We offer excellent accommodation, comradeship and the highest standards of care in recognition of their loyal service to the nation. Any former soldier of the British Army over the age of 65, who is facing spending their advanced years alone, can apply for residence as a Chelsea Pensioner. Some 300 army veterans live at the Royal Hospital today, including those who have served in Korea, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and World War II. Others may not have served in campaigns, but all understand what it means to be a soldier and the potential sacrifice that it entails. The Royal Hospital is a Grade I and II listed site, a beautiful architectural legacy left to us by Charles II and Sir Christopher Wren. Maintenance of the site continues today with ongoing restoration work to ensure that this legacy lives on into the future.

About Chelsea Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden. Founded in 1673, it turned 350 in 2023. It has been a teaching garden for all of these 350 years and the core principles of discovery, learning and wellbeing are still realised today through its charitable activities. Within the Garden visitors can find over 4500 species of edible, useful and medicinal plants that help to tell the story of humanity’s relationship with plants. The Garden is an independent charity which relies on public support to ensure it can achieve its purpose of education and public access. Chelsea Physic Garden offers a year-round programme of educational activities, walks, talks, tours and workshops.

About the Cadogan Estate

Cadogan is a family business, property manager, investor, and developer with a 300-year history that informs its dynamic estate management approach today. As custodians of over 90 acres of Chelsea and Knightsbridge, their long-term stewardship aims to enrich the area’s unique character and community, while safeguarding its future vitality.