Royal Hospital Chelsea, Audio Tour

The Royal Hospital Chelsea (RHC) has been home to the Chelsea Pensioners since 1692 – a combination of retirement home and care home for ex-soldiers of the British Army. Having previously worked with the RHC to produce a number of films, ATS were invited to help the visitor operations team to better engage their audiences through a new audio guide. The main aim was to improve the visitor experience for those visitors not taking a live guided tour. 

Challenge: The new tour needed to appeal to a broad audience of casual (non-group) visitors, including families and visitors whose first language is not English. It was important to convey both the long and rich history of the RHC, but also to emphasize its ongoing function as a working home. 

Key to this was for visitors to get a real sense of the day-to-day lives of the Pensioners themselves. It was important to ensure that visitors are aware that they are not simply exploring a historic building, but are also entering a private home. 

Finally, the living, working site posed some challenges for orientation as it cannot be cluttered with signage. 

Solution: ATS developed a script and style of production that conveyed an accessible, informal and warm tone – with welcoming, conversational language and elements of humour and fun. 

Scripted narration chimes well with the interviews we conducted with various Pensioners, and it’s their voices which predominate and which provide the sense of a personal, ‘behind the scenes’ tour, full of anecdote, wisdom, laughter and insight. We supplemented this with moments of immersive binaural sound (3D Audio), to envelop the tour listener in the midst of daily life at the Hospital. Soundscapes are automatically triggered by beacons as visitors enter certain spaces, providing an element of surprise as they explore the site. 

To address the way finding challenge, we carefully designed stop numbers as lanterns which may seem obvious enough, but they were sympathetically blended with the heritage surroundings. 

Carys Duggan-Rees, Visitor Engagement Manager said: 


As always it has been a pleasure to work with ATS Heritage. Having previously collaborated on visitor information videos, creating the audio guide was quite a different project for us as we had previously not catered for independent visitors. The audio guide created has really filled that gap by giving visitors the historical information and context of the site that they require, with the extra level of brilliantly incorporated voices and experiences of the Chelsea Pensioners that add the personal touch to the visitors experience”.