The inaugural Chelsea History Festival: Dates and headlines announced

29 July 2019

Inaugural Chelsea History Festival announced

The first Chelsea History Festival is confirmed to take place 9–13 October 2019, along Royal Hospital Road at founder venues: the National Army Museum, the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Physic Garden. The all-new, five-day event will bring the past to life through a programme of world-class speakers, historians and performers.

Inaugural year

The festival opens on Wednesday 9 October, the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, one of the most daring campaigns of the Second World War. Celebrated Arnhem veteran Victor Gregg will be in conversation with bestselling historian Rick Stroud, followed by a lecture from Antony Beevor on the famous ‘battle for the bridges’.

In its first year, the Chelsea History Festival will host more than 35 events including talks, concerts and family activities. A diverse programme of free and ticketed events has been designed to inspire, enlighten and entertain visitors from near and far. The festival will provide a platform for both established authors and emerging talent to help make history more accessible.

Headline events

Thursday’s main event is an evening performance of The Lark Ascending, featuring one of the world’s leading lyric baritones, Roderick Williams. The concert takes place in the beautiful Wren Chapel at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Max Hastings headlines Friday with a talk on his new book, Chastise: The Dambusters Story, 1943, which will be published this September. Saturday is set to be the principal day of the festival with over 20 scheduled events; from the formidable Sonia Purnell with her New York Times bestseller A Woman of No Importance, to history walks around the neighbourhood and David Nott sharing his experiences as a surgeon in Aleppo.


Established in London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the festival is set to become a mainstay in the capital’s cultural calendar. Events will take place across three iconic sites on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea: the National Army Museum, an institution that tells the stories of soldiers who have shaped world history over 350 years; Chelsea Physic Garden, a botanical oasis founded in 1673 with a collection of global historical significance; and the Royal Hospital Chelsea, an exquisite building and open space founded in 1682, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and home to living history, the Chelsea Pensioners.

Founder of Britain’s Chalke Valley History Festival, James Holland has been instrumental in consulting on the schedule, together with the Chelsea History Festival’s creative director, artist and author Harry Parker. Holland says: “It is great to see the Chelsea History Festival join the calendar of history events in Britain. Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea is so rich in heritage and provides a magnificent setting at the heart of one of the great cities of the world. Being so easily accessible to many millions of people makes it an ideal location in which to share the stories that have shaped our world.”

The Chelsea History Festival is supported this year by media partner Country & Town House magazine. Managing Director, Jeremy Isaac, comments: “We are delighted and proud to partner with the Chelsea History Festival in its inaugural year. The team has curated a fabulous line-up of events, talks and activities with which I know our readers are going to be very engaged and I am certain that the festival is going to become a key date in the London cultural diary in the years to follow.” 

Tickets go on sale in September, ranging from £0 to £30. The full programme will be available at

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact:
+44 (0)20 7730 0717

About Chelsea History Festival

Launching in October 2019, the Chelsea History Festival is a partnership between three major heritage sites in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea: the National Army Museum, the Royal Hospital Chelsea and the Chelsea Physic Garden. This annual festival aims to draw visitors from near and far to explore and celebrate the area’s unique history. Over five days, a diverse programme of events will entertain and engage audiences of all ages.

About Royal Hospital Chelsea

Since 1692 the Royal Hospital Chelsea has provided the very highest standard of care to retired British Army veterans. It is an independent charity and home to over 300 Chelsea Pensioners. We care for the veterans who were willing to risk their lives yesterday to give us freedom today.

About National Army Museum

The National Army Museum is one of the leading authorities on the history of the British Army. It was founded in 1960 by Royal Charter and established for the purpose of collecting, preserving and exhibiting objects and records relating to the Land Forces of the British Crown. The Museum seeks to tell the story of the nation’s Army and of the soldiers who have served in it. It aims to inspire, educate and engage the public with its world-class collection.

About Chelsea Physic Garden

Hidden in the heart of London, Chelsea Physic Garden is a peaceful oasis and centre for learning. Founded by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London in 1673 for apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants, by the 18th century it was one of the world’s most important centres of botany and plant exchange. We believe in the power of plants to this day.

About Country & Town House

Country & Town House is a beautiful British monthly luxury lifestyle magazine, packed with stunning shoots and insightful features, for those who enjoy the very best of both country and city living. Each issue celebrates the finest houses and interiors, fashion and style, food and travel, the arts, culture and events, with extra editions dedicated solely to Schools, Watch/Jewellery, Best Hotels, Interiors, plus the annual 400+ page Great British Brands book.

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