Telephone: +44 (0) 7990 844 008
5 Park Walk
London, SW10 0AJ
These notes make up a somewhat idiosyncratic guide for exploratory wanders in a westerly direction along Chelsea’s Fulham Road, Kings Road and the Embankment, including Cheyne Walk.
They act as a collage – snippets of history and gossip, artists, architecture and the lost pubs.
My notes are illustrated by my treasured ‘Then & Nows’, comparing and contrasting old postcards from the early Twentieth Century that I have collected with photos of the same view 100 years later.
“One of the select few road names which is known around the world, From kitchen sink to miniskirt, from the Stones to the Sex Pistols”
“Tho’ I walks with fifty ‘ousmaids outer Chelsea to the Strand.” - Kipling
“In Chelsea, the girls in their breathtaking short skirts, their outrageous dresses, their stockings and kinky boots.” - Milton Shulman, 1967
“If it’s not for sale it should not be in the window.” - Mother of Michael Cain on the Parkinson show.
The Kings Road was so named in honour of King Charles II as his private road from Westminster to Fulham Palace, from where he took a boat on to Hampton Court. The road itself dates back to 704 as the road to the summer residence of the Bishops of London at Fulham Palace, up until 1973.
King Charles also used the road to visit his mistress Nell Gwyn, who is thought to have had a house, Sandford Manor at Sands End, near the present Lots Road. He is also reported to have swum in the Thames “over against Chelsea”.
During this time Chelsea became fashionable again and was referred to as “Hyde Park on Thames"! [Kensington & Chelsea by William Gaunt] In 1711 the use of the road was controlled by six gates, for example at Chelsea College, Church Street, Worlds End, and Sands End. In the 1719 access was opened up to those with privilege tickets. By 1722 they were copper tokens stamped ‘The Kings Private Roads’. Four types have been identified, examples of which can be seen sunk into the pavement in Duke of York Square. Three tollhouses were built. A map of the road published in 1720 describes it as “A Survey of His Majesties Private Road from London to Fulham”.
However by the 1780’s it was open to virtually all, although it was not opened to unhindered public traffic until 1820 when it passed from the Crown to the Parish. Around 1800 the family of George III used to stop most mornings at Black Lands Farm to take milk – Chelsea Common was attached to this farm as pastureland. George himself used the road to get to Kew [Chelsea Miscellany 16 I p. 2196, see watercolour]. The Kings Road was widened in the 1860’s. By the beginning of the 20th century it was “shabbier than Oxford Street with its straggling dirty stucco mid century houses and shops”. [William Rothenstien, the painter]
Set out in the 1830’s, it was a village green with posts and chains where boys played cricket. [Chelsea Scraps 1-270, 1897]
It was named after Sir Hans Sloane (d.1753), a physician with a degree in medicine from the University of Orange in 1653, a property developer of much of Chelsea (having purchased Henry VIII’s Chelsea Manor House), an inventor of milk chocolate whilst in Jamaica as physician to the governor the Duke of Albermarle, a collector whose collection formed the basis of the British Museum (he bequeathed it to the Nation for £20,000 in 1749), a naturalist and President of the Royal Society on the death of Sir Isaac Newton in 1727 until 1741, and a herbalist who ensured the survival of the Physic garden.
It was reported that the Kings Road “afforded the best overland access from Westminster”. It passed through robber haunted swamps referred to as Five Fields [now Belgravia and Pimlico] to a crossing over the River West Bourn just to the east of Sloane Square, past the parade of shops in New Kings Road. The crossing was variously called Blandel Bridge and Bloody Bridge, and it was reported that in 1748 four gentlemen were attacked by two highwaymen near the bridge.
The square and surrounding area was extensively redeveloped following the “falling in of Leases” in 1887. “Dilapidated and worn out properties principally occupied by the working classes were replaced by mansions and residential flats of a high-class character” - Estates Gazette, 1st October 1904.
The River West Bourn rises in Hampstead Heath near Jack Straws Castle and passes, via the Serpentine in Hyde Park, to the Thames. In the Eighteenth Century it was described as “a wood-skirted trout stream”. The River currently flows above Sloane Square Station, opened in 1868, via a large, highly visible cast iron pipe above the platforms. This tube station was bombed on 12th November 1940, injuring 79 people.
The statues in the square are ‘Girl with a Dove’ by David Wynne, and a fibre glass copy of the 1733 statue of Sir Hans Sloane by Rysbrack, formerly in the Physic Garden and now in the British Museum. The large brick and stone building on the south side was designed by Amos Faulkner and developed by William Willett.
The Beatles stayed at The Royal Court Hotel prior to their first national TV show in 1962, ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ with Janice Nichols of “Oi’ll give it foive” fame.
A famous restaurant in Sloane Square was the Queens Restaurant, which had Augustus John’s table for artists and a journalist table, the latter of which had the tradition of giving free lunches to the unemployed.
On the east side of Sloane Square is the following:
The Chelsea Theatre first opened on 16th April in 1870 in the Ranelegh Chapel. In 1871 it became the Court Theatre. In 1873 a satire ‘The Happy Land’ by F. Tamline [WS Gilbert] and Gilbert a’Beckett was closed down by Mr Gladstone because he had been caricatured by “hack-tors”. In 1876 Miss Ellen Terry appeared in ‘New Men and Old Acts’, and in 1885 the first of A.W. Pinero’s plays, ‘The Magistrate’, ran for 12 months.
It was demolished following the redevelopment of Sloane Square, and the New Court Theatre, built to the design of Walter Emden and Bertie Crew with an Italian renaissance façade, was opened on 24th November 1888. It featured the plays of Bernard Shaw, the first nights of ‘Heartbreak House’ and ‘Back to Methusaleh’, and in 1905 ‘Major Barbara’ together with plays by John Goldsworthy. It closed in 1932, became a cinema in 1935, was bombed during the war, and re-opened as a theatre in 1953.
Incidentally its telephone number in 1903 was “48 Westminster”. It was taken over by the English Theatre Company in 1956, with the first night of ‘Look Back In Anger’ by John Osborne on 8th May 1956, with Kenneth Haig playing Jimmy Porter. This was followed by (among others) ‘The Entertainer’, N.F. Simpson’s ‘A Resounding Tinkle’ in 1958, Ionesco’s ‘Rhinoceros’ in 1960 with Olivier, Michael Macliammoir’s ‘The Importance of being Oscar’ in 1961, and ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ in 1973. It moved on to the Classic Cinema and then The Essoldo.
It will always be associated with John Osborn, Tony Richardson, George Devine and Lindsay Anderson. The Oriel bar next door used to be the “Kings Arms” pub.
And on the west side of Sloane Square is the following:
Founded by Peter Rees Jones [1843-1905] in 1871 in Draycott Avenue as “The Co-operative Drapery”, it moved to the Kings Road in 1877. In 1895 he built a new red brick five-story building on the present site, parts of which can still be seen at the back of the present store in Seymour Place. By 1900 his turnover was £180,000. In 1904 Peter Jones sold the store to John Lewis of Oxford Street for £20,000. He died the following year. Lewis’s son John Seddon Lewis managed the store and in 1929 he made it a profit-sharing partnership, on the basis that he should look after both the customer “who exchanged money for his merchandise” and the staff “who exchanged their work for his money”.
The present iconic building was built by John Lewis in 1935. The architect was William Crabtree of Slater, Crebtree and Moberley, together with C.H. Reilly. He was much influenced by Erich Mendelsohn. It was referred to as ‘the Glass Cage’ and Pevsner refers to it as “still one of London’s most likeable modern buildings”.
In 1973 Richard Branson opened a record store ‘Virgin Imports’ at 2b Symons Street.
West along the Kings Road, past Peter Jones is the following:
This building forms part of the Peter Jones complex, and makes an interesting contrast to the main building. It was designed by the Century Guild leader Arthur Mackmurdo in 1892 for the Australian Mortimer Mennes, the renowned painter, etcher, rifle shooter, and raconteur. All of the internal fittings were imported from Japan. Mennes created the celebrated “Home of Taste” on the Fulham Road.
On the left, south side is the new shopping complex Duke of York Square, south of which is:
“The Dukies, How Tommy Atkins junior is trained.” - Daily Chronicle, 2nd July 1896.
Named after Frederick, Duke of York and son of George III, it was opened in 1803 as a Royal Military Asylum, a boarding school for the orphans of British soldiers, including 700 boys and 300 girls. It was designed by John Saunders, who also designed the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.
In 1909 the school moved to Dover and it was taken over by the London TA. In June 1970 the gym was used for rehearsals of ‘Oh Calcutta’ which a US critic described as “the kind of show that gave pornography a dirty name.” The running track was used by Sir Roger Bannister when training for the “four minute mile” in the early fifties. In 1999 the MoD sold it back to the Cadogan Estate. The new square was designed by Paul Davies & Partners in 2003 and The Saatchi Gallery opened there in 2008.
The Chapel on the corner of Cheltenham Terrace was consecrated in 1824 by the Bishop of London. Previously on this site there had stood a cottage, which in 1797 became the rural retreat of Mrs. Crouch, an accomplished singer who performed at Drury Lane, was a great success in Dublin, and died in 1806 in Brighton. It is now a shop.
The open piazza area has, engraved in the pavement, a map of the Kings Road at the time of Charles II, with tokens of the time also embedded in the pavement.
Opposite is one of the few remaining coherent stretches of mid 19th century stucco buildings, stretching from no. 72, the former Colville Tavern, to Anderson Street.
Opposite on the north side is Blacklands Terrace, the site of:
Blacklands was situated just to the west of the southern end of Sloane Avenue with extensive land surrounding it – in 1771 it was comprised of at least 89 acres. The house was owned by Charles Cheyne, later Viscount Newhaven, where he and his wife Lady Jane Cheyne would probably have lived prior to their purchase of the Manor of Chelsea.
Blacklands was described as “a lonely place where a cow keeper tended the commoner’s cattle.” In 1729 it is recorded that “on Sunday morning last about 8 0’clock Mr. Rogers of Chelsea, crossing the common in order to go to Kensington, was knocked down by two footpads who robbed him of his money and beat him in a barbarous manner and then made off across the fields towards Little Chelsea.” The name is perpetuated in Blacklands Terrace.
From the notes to an Exhibition on the history of the Kings Road titled from Inigo Jones to Peter Jones, it is known that the shop on the corner was ‘The Colville Tavern’ pub, which closed in 1969. It was named after Colville’s Flower nursery, which was on the site in the 18th century.
Further west, on the south side past the Chapel and Cheltenham Terrace, is:
The original building was put up in 1772 as a Girls’ Boarding School, but in 1841 it became a Teacher Training College. The School was rebuilt in 1891 by Henry Clutton. In 1881 John Ruskin established an annual May Day Flower festival where a gold hawthorn cross designed by Arthur Severn was presented to the chosen queen with a copy of ‘sesame and lilies’. The school moved to West Hill Putney in 1930.
For a brief time in 1933-5 it became the HQ of Sir Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists, and it was known locally as Fascist Fort or Blackhouse. [Alf Goldberg’s book “Worlds End for Sir Oswald”, Book Guild]
In 1935 it was demolished and the current block of flats was built in its place.
An advertisement dated May 1704 describes “Marlborough Tavern and Tea Garden adjoining to White-Lands boarding school near Chelsea, delightfully situated between the Kings Road and Fulham Road, rural prospect and agreeable situation where art modestly endeavours to improve upon natured. Hot rolls every day with the best of tea, coffee and cream, wines, syllabubs. A genteel ordinary on Sundays at 2 o’clock and the choicest of apples and pears lately arrived from France, known by the name of Renette Grife, the pears are Bon Chretien.” [From Chelsea Scraps 2]
Opposite on the north side is:
Karl Marx spent 6 months at 4 Anderson Street in 1848.
This was originally a footpath, known locally as “Butterfly Alley”, which separated two famous nurseries: John Colville, opened in 1793, and Thomas Davey. Colville is reputed to have introduced the Chrysanthemum from China. The Estates Gazette of October 1904 reported that from 1685 many French gardeners came over as refugees and established a number of nursery gardens in and around the Kings Road. By 1830 tea gardens, nurseries and market gardens lined the Kings Road. Tryon Street was originally called Keppel Street and was renamed in 1913 after Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon.
Laura Ashley was at 120 Kings Road, which until 1966 had been owned by the water closet manufacturer Thomas Crapper [1836-1910], who started in Marlborough Road (now Draycott Avenue) in 1861 and moved there in 1907. He was initially apprenticed to a plumber in Sidney Street, and later became plumber to Royalty following his highly successful invention of “Crapper’s Valveless Waste Preventer” with “Certain Flush with easy Pull.”
Continue west and on the south side is a wide tree-lined avenue:
This was laid out for William III in 1692-4 as part of a proposed Parisian style triumphal way leading from Wren’s Royal Hospital to the south right up to Kensington Palace in the north. He also made substantial alterations to this palace. In true English fashion it got as far as the Kings Road. For details of the Royal Hospital please see the Embankment Walk.
Royal Avenue was originally called Chestnut Walk on account of the lines of Chestnut trees, but by 1748 it was called White Stile Walk, and it was not called Royal Avenue until 1875. It was closed off from the Kings Road in 1971. The houses on the west side are from the 1830’s, on the east side are from the 1840’s and 1850’s, and those on the north side are 20th century replacements.
Royal Avenue was the setting for the cult movie ‘The Servant’ by Harold Pinter, starring Dirk Bogarde and James Fox. It was also the address that Ian Fleming gave for James Bond at no’s 30.
On the corner was the famous 1960’s phenomena ‘The Chelsea Drug Store’ based on ‘Le Drugstore’ on Boulevard St. Germain. The building was designed by Barnett, Cloughley and Blakemore. Originally it was “the White Hart” pub, dating back to 1880, and it is currently a McDonalds – need I say more!
On a little detour, at the end turn right into:
Bram Stoker, 1847-1912, lived here from 1902 until his death. He first lived with his wife Florence at 27 Cheyne Walk, where he wrote his most famous novel Dracula in 1897, one of eighteen novels. He worked for Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre from 1879 to 1906.
Joyce Grenfell lived at number 21 St. Leonards Terrace in the 1920’s. Whilst living there she “had two friends who joined in the Nancy loot sharing.” Nancy Astor was her aunt and one of the Langhorne sisters. From there she moved to 149 Kings Road, then 114 Kings Road, and finally to 34 Elm Park Gardens.
Returning to the Kings Road and turning left, we proceed to:
Built in the 1850’s by Francis Edwards, the elegant terraces on either side of the square facing Kings Road were built some ten years earlier. It was named in honour of the Duke of Wellington whose body had lain in state in the Royal Hospital.
Aleister Crowley, the satanic author, lived at 31 Wellington Square, as did the fictitious James Bond.
And opposite is the cul-de-sac of:
Built in the 1850’s on the site of a nursery garden, Bywater Street was originally called Addison Place. John le Carre’s character George Smiley in ‘Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy’ (published in 1974) lived at no.9 Bywater Street: "Smiley arrived at the King’s Road, where he paused on the pavement as if waiting to cross. To either side, festive boutiques. Before him, his own Bywater Street, a cul-de-sac exactly one hundred and seventeen of his own paces long.”
The shop on the west side was Beaton’s the baker, which flourished from 1913 until the 1990’s.
Continue west on the north side to site of:
This popular pub has sadly been converted into a building society, a sign of the times. Virginia Ironside in her book “Chelsea Bird” noted that “Not like the old days when everyone has private means and we spent our days in the Markham. Now it’s coffee and petty pilfering.”
Frank Norman, in his book “Norman’s London” (1969), noted that “Of late I have taken to visiting King’s Road Chelsea on a Saturday morning, to drink, of course, at the Markham Arms and ogle the stunning mini-skirted girls as they parade up and down without destination in the company of their narcissistic boyfriends, with lank medusa hair, frilly shirts and gormless expressions. I feel old, ugly, fat and lonely.” [from Kings Road by Max Decharne]
Next is the site of:
Mary Quant opened her iconic boutique Bazaar in 1955 at Markham House, next to Markham Square, introducing the miniskirt, an iconic symbol of the swinging sixties. Virginia Ironside in her book 'Chelsea Bird' noted that “We stumbled up the Kings Road back home. We looked, as usual, in Sportique and Kiki Byrne and said how pretty the clothes were, and was Kiki Byrne better than Bazaar. I’m not sure… did you see that pretty blue one with a flared skirt? ...yes, but on the other hand there was that brown lace one with long sleeves… oh I didn’t like that, it’s not my colour. I rather enjoy routine conversations as they require very little effort.”
It was started in the 1840’s but not completed until the 1860’s, and named after Pelham Markham Evans, the owner of Box Farm which stood between here and Markham Street. It had a Congregational church at the end, designed by John Tarring in the Gothic style, which opened in 1860 and was demolished in 1953. Its spire was 138 feet high.
The gardens were redesigned in the 1950’s as a private country garden by the head gardener of Royal Hospital.
This was built between 1794 and 1807 by a vintner named Thomas Smith.
Continue west on the north side to:
The Chelsea Classic Cinema was on the western corner of Markham Street and it was initially opened by the London & Provincial Electric Theatre Company in 1913, designed by Felix Joubert. It was replaced by Boots the Chemist in 1973.
Prior to this, the site was occupied by Box Farm, built in 1686 and demolished in 1899. Its last owner was Mr. Pullam Markham Evans whose family had common rights “since 29 years of Elizabeth.” Further up the street a John More had a nursery where he bred pelargonia including More’s Victory Pelargonium.
Continue on towards the arch:
On 152 Kings Road the Pheasantry was a Georgian Mansion built in 1769. The façade was added in 1881 in the French style by the artist and interior decorator Amedee/ Lelix Joubert, a member of the Joubert family of cabinet-makers who owned the building. He also added the entrance arch that is supposed to be a copy of the Arc du Carrousel with its quadriga, a four-horsed chariot.
Its name derives from a game dealer called Samuel Baker in 1865. In 1916 a dancing academy was founded by Russian Princess Serafine Astafieva, whose pupils include Anna Neagle, Anton Dolin, Alicia Markova and Margot Fonteyn, and Diaghilev visited often.
After the war it became a set of apartments “whose tenants included Martin Sharp, who co-edited the underground magazine Oz and wrote the lyrics to Cream’s ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’”. On one occasion Eric Clapton, Cream’s guitarist, narrowly escaped arrest on drug charges by fleeing out of the back of the building as Sergeant Norman Pilcher, a detective who had a talent for arresting rock stars, buzzed the intercom, shouting “postman, special delivery,” and burst in. [Gavin Weightman, London’s Thames, John Murray] He was known as The Gardener, “being so good at planting”.
In 1932 Rene de Meo and Mario Cazzini opened a members-only club restaurant on the ground floor and basement, which survived until 1966. Members included Francis Bacon, Aneurin Bevan, Marc Chagall, Cyril Connolly, Lucien Freud, Robert Newton, Gregory Peck, John Rothenstien, Dylan Thomas, and Peter Ustinov. [See Booklet by Nesta Macdonald]
In 1956 The Pheasantry Club, with its candles in Chianty bottles, charged an annual membership of 10/6. Germain Greer wrote ‘The Femail Eunuch’ here.
It was totally redeveloped in 1971-81 with the exception of the façade, and it is currently a pizza restaurant.
This was named after Letitia, Countess of Radnor, who lived at the corner of Flood Street and Royal Hospital Road in the 17th century. On the death of her husband she married Charles Lord Cheyne. In the early 19th century it was the site of Pilton’s Manufactory.
Ossie Clark & Alice Pollock ran Quorum at 52 Radnor Walk. Other shops of the period included ‘I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet’ and ‘Granny Takes A Trip’. Shoe (Susan Mary) Taylor, Sixties icon and mistress of Jonathan Guinness, lived in Radnor walk where she brought up their three children. He wrote a biography of her called “Shoe, the Odyssey of a Sixties Survivor”.
The Antiquarius Antique market was originally a Temperance Billiard Hall.
Originally called ‘The Commercial Tavern’ and dating from 1842, it was renamed “The Chelsea Potter” in 1957. It was built by the owners of a “tea and recreation garden, a sort of little Vauxhall, with coloured lamps, statuary, shrubbery and fountain, with music and dancing” in Manor House, King’s Road. The pleasure garden was started in 1836 but lasted only for a few years when the Commercial was built on the site. [From Historical notes on Chelsea Pubs and Ellenor]
Virginia Ironside in her book referred to it as the Chelsea Weaver: “To be 'in' at the time was only to appear once a week at Slashers, have a few drinks at the Chelsea Weaver in the Kings Road, read Town and Queen, have coffee at the Brazil which was also in the Kings Road, and refer to girls as birds.”
Further on is:
First opened in 1958, this is a classic Kings Road feature echoing back to a trendier era. The author Martin Amis, when eighteen and still living at home in the Fulham Road, spent a lot of time, as he later wrote, “mincing up and down the Kings Road in skin-tight velvets and grimy silk scarves, and haunting a coffee bar called the Picasso, and smoking hash, then £8 an ounce, and trying to pick up girls.” [from Kings Road by Max Decharne]
The next street going south is:
Named in 1906 after a local JP in the 1860’s, Luke Thomas Flood, who lived in Cheyne Walk and was a generous supporter of the Parochial Schools. Previously the street was known as Robinson’s Lane, perhaps after Sir Ernest Robinson, the developer of Ranelagh Gardens in 1741, and later as Queen Street, and initially as Pound Lane. It led directly down to the famous Swan Inn, much frequented by Samuel Pypes.
Mr. Flood has a memorial stone in St. Lukes Church.
In May 1964 The Beatles rehearsed a show at the Hall of Remembrance with Long John Baldry, Millie, P.J. Proby, and Cilla Black. On 30th March 1967 at Michael Coopers Photographic Studio, 4 Chelsea Manor Studios, 1-11 Flood Street, the sleeve of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was put together.
Quintin Crew lived at no.33, and the Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher lived at no.19. James Joyce, the Nazi propagandist, lived in Flood Street from 1928 to 1930 with his first wife Hazel and their small daughter. He joined the conservative group, the Junior Imperial League, but moved further right and joined Moseley’s Fascist Party. He gave his last pro-fascist speech in Sloane Square in August 1939. The next night he fled to Germany. Jonah Barrington of the Daily Express coined his nickname “Lord Haw Haw”. [From Hester Marsden Smedley, Times of Chelsea, Feb. 1973]
Rossetti Studios were built in 1894 “when Chelsea secured its international name as the art centre of London.” [Artists Houses in London by Giles Walkley]
The ‘Trafalgar’ pub opposite was originally called ‘the Lord Nelson’.
Take a detour down to the charmingly named:
This was named after William St. Loo, the third husband of Bess of Hardwick. Her fourth husband was the Earl of Shrewsbury, who had Shrewsbury house built in 1520. Her second husband was William Cavendish of Chatsworth. The house was finally demolished in 1813.
Return back to the Kings Road via:
Previously simply ‘Manor Street’, it passed through the former great garden of the New Manor House, the home of Katherine Parr. The Methodist Sunday School was built in 1903.
Opposite on the north side is:
The Chelsea Electric Palace, 180/182 Kings Road, was Chelsea’s original picture theatre. It featured, according to a contemporary advertisement, A Great Vitagraph Masterpiece ‘Love, Luck and Gasoline’.
The cinema, designed by W.E. Trent and E.F. Tulley, opened in 1934. The bust on the façade is of W. Friese-Greene between comedy and tragedy.
Waitrose is built on the site of Tankard & Smith’s garage.
The adjacent bank was built in 1909 in the Edwardian Baroque style, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield (1856-1942) who is better known for Lambeth Bridge and recasting the façades of John Nash’s Regent Street.
And the site of:
This, designed by Wylson Alan & Lang in 1903, was situated on the corner of Kings Road and Sidney Street. It seated 2500 and had such stars as Gracie Fields and George Robie.
In 1940 Alfred Hawthorn Hill - Benny Hill after Jack Benny – got his first job at 16 years old after an audition with Harry Benet at Chelsea Palace. In 1953 The Beverly Sisters and Max Wall played there.
In 1957 it closed and became a Granada recording studio where such programmes as ‘The Army Game’, ‘Bootsy and Snudge’, and a live variety show ‘Chelsea at Nine’ were made. In 1958 Billie Holliday appeared there, and as did Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren in 1960.
It was demolished in 1969 for flats and a showroom.
The site had previously been Oakley Works where the Wilkinson Sword Company, manufacturer of guns and swords, had a factory.
Opposite is the:
The Chelsea Vestry, including public baths, was built in 1858, designed by the architect W. Pocock. In 1887 an addition in a palladian style was built on the rear-facing Chelsea Manor Gardens, designed by the architect J.M. Brydon. Then in 1907 the Vestry part was demolished and the current Town hall was built to the designs of Leonard Stokes in 1908.
Next door are the:
These were built in 1905 as art galleries by John Knewslub , replacing Charles Chenil’s art material shop. Chenils’ two sisters were married to William Orpen and William Rothenstien. In 1910 Augustus John had a studio there, as did Eric Gill and Roger Fry, and David Bomberg had his first show there in 1914. In 1926 David Barbirolli conducted a chamber Orchestra there. In 1933 the receivers were called. It became a recording studio for Decca, and Duke Ellington and his orchestra recorded there. It is now a toyshop, having previously been an antique market.
Green and Stone, the artist suppliers, moved from Chenil Galleries to 259 Kings Road in 1934.
The road from the north is Sydney Street, with, half way up:
St Luke’s, Sydney Street, built in the Gothic Revival style by James Savage in 1821, is the biggest and tallest parish church in London. Its style is magpie-like with influences from Kings College Cambridge, Magdalen College Oxford, Bath Abbey, and Exeter Cathedral. According to Eastlake’s ‘Gothic Revival’ it is “the earliest groined church of the modern revival”. It was consecrated on 18th October 1824.
James Savage (1779-1852) also designed St. James Spa Road Bermondsey, one of the waterloo Churches.
Charles Dickens and Jerome K. Jerome were married here. The “K” stands for Klapka, after the hero of the 1849 Hungarian uprising General Georg Klapka. Steven Spielberg chose it for the opening sequence of ‘Empire of the Sun’.
On the west corner is:
Originally a terrace called Parham Place, the western part was built in 1883, and the extension, designed by Lansell & Harrison, was built in 1903.
Still on the north side, next is:
This land was given to the Church as an overspill graveyard in 1727 by Sir Hans Sloane, then it was enlarged in 1790, and finally closed in 1812. However a mortuary chapel was built in the late 19th century to serve the workhouse. This was demolished in 1947, the tombstones were cleared, and the land was opened as a public garden. In 1977 the Old Burial Ground was landscaped and fully opened to the public as Dovehouse Green. The obelisk in the centre was erected in memory of Andrew Millar, a famous bookseller and publisher who died in 1785.
Christine Keeler was in the Chelsea Hospital for Women on 20th January 1962.
Opposite was (but is now Henry J Bean):
C.R. Crickmay described it in 1898 as “a larger than life old English style in the manner of Shaw or George; two splendid lavish storeys of Ipswich windows below three picturesque jettied gables.” [Pevsner]
The much older building that preceded the current one standing was popular with Whistler and Rossetti, as well as Carlyle, as he was not allowed to smoke at home.
During the rebuilding in 1901, a mammoth’s tooth weighing 16 lbs and measuring 15” by 12” was excavated.
Back on the north side is the:
The Fire Station was built in the 1960’s by the London County Council on the site of a regency terrace similar to the existing Kings Parade further west.
The next street south is:
This was formed in 1830 following the demolition of Chelsea Manor House in 1822, and named after William Cadogan, who was created Baron Cadogan of Oakley in 1718. The terrace houses date from 1850-60.
The eccentric Dr. John Samuel Phene, who developed Oakley Street and lived at no.34 Oakley Street on the corner of Upper Cheyne Row, built a house in Carlton Terrace featuring an extensive collection of architectural relics on its exterior. He built it as a replica of his family’s Chateau de Savenay in the Loire, which was destroyed in the 1790s. He never actually lived in the house, which was nicknamed the Gingerbread Castle by the locals, and it was demolished in 1917. He planted trees in Oakley Street, the first example in London. It was much admired by Prince Albert who proceeded to plant trees in front of the South Kensington Museum.
Robert Falcon Scott of the Antarctic lived at no.56 from 1905-8. Later George Melly lived there in the 1950’s when working for E.L.T. Mesens, a friend of Magritt and the head of The Surrealist Group of England. David & Angie Bowie had a large Georgian house in Oakley street in 1973, where he was found in bed with Mick Jagger. Donald Maclean lived at no.29 Oakley Street. Martin Summer has a roof garden at no.90 with 2,500 potted plants.
The pub ‘The Phene’, built in 1850, was a favourite drinking hole of George Best.
In her biography ‘Love is Blue’ Joan Wyndham mentions “My week’s leave is coming up soon, thank god, but I have rashly promised to spend it with Petya. He says we’ve got to take a room because of Ethel. Is Ethel his mistress? I ask myself. We wandered through Chelsea eating cherries and looking for digs and finally ended up in Oakley Street at a brothel owned by old Mabel Lethbridge, whose telegraphic address used to be Chastity, London. I didn’t know if it was still a brothel so I pretended to be Petya’s wife, and we booked a lovely room with a window looking onto the garden, a patchwork quilt, a wireless, a copy of Kipling’s ‘If’ over the bed. Dylan Thomas lives here too but I think he is away at the moment.”
On the south side, next to Oakley Street, is:
The society hostess Lady Sibyl Colefax (1874-1950) lived here from 1922 to 1937. During this time she entertained “tout society” including Arnold Bennett, Virginia Woolf, Hilair Belloc, Max Beerbolm, Winston Churchill, Fred Astaire and George Gershwin. It is alleged that in 1935 here Ernest and Wallace Simpson were introduced to The Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, who gave up the throne for the woman. Sibyl Colefax set up the interior design company Colefax & Fowler.
This is the oldest existing house on the Kings Road, built in 1723 for a John Perrin by a Venetian architect named Giacomo Leoni (1686-1746). He was a protégé of Lord Burlington, and he wrote on the Palladio and designed Queensbury House Burlington Gardens in 1721, now the Royal Bank of Scotland. It was purchased by The Duke of Argyll in 1769, leading to its current name.
The next two houses were built in 1720’s in the English Renaissance style. Syrie Maugham, a noted society decorator in the 1930’s, lived at no.213 next door. After the war Sir Carol Reed, the film director famous for ‘The Third Man’, lived there.
Dr. Thomas Arne (1710-1778), the composer of ‘Rule Brittannia’, lived at no.215 in the Eighteenth Century. He was the doyen of glees, composed for the Pleasure Gardens at Ranelagh. It was occupied by the actress Ellen Terry from 1904 to 1920. Later Peter Ustinov lived there.
In 1960 Judy Garland rented Carol Reed’s house with Sid Lufts and her children Liza, Lorna and Joey.
James Hutton (1715-1795), one of the founding members of the Moravian Church, lived at no.217, which was built in 1750.
The next street on the south side is:
A chapel was built in 1687 on Cooks Ground, now Glebe Place, for the Huguenots who settled in Chelsea after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 [Chelsea Scraps 1-270, 1897]. It was demolished in 1892 to make way for 64/65 Glebe Place [Notes on Sites and History of French Churches in London by George Beeman, Huguenot Society 1905].
Glebe Place and Manresa Road became the centre for artists in London and, in the 1880’s, it was internationally famous as the arts centre of London. Glebe Place Studios, 52-59, 60-61 and 64-65, were all built in 1888, the latter by Dance and Smirk. They were used by, among others, Walter Sickert, William Rothenstien and Ernest Shepard. Cedar Studios were built for the sculptor Conrad Dressler in 1885.
Francis Bacon the painter lived at 1 Glebe Place in the 1930’s, and then moved to 7 Cromwell place, the studio of Sir John Everett Millais.
The West House, no.35 Glebe Place, is regarded as a “landmark in the history of English Nineteenth Century architecture” signalling the re-emergence of the Queen Ann style. It was built in 1868-9 to the design of Philip Speakman Webb (1831-1915) in a “vernacular domestic astylar eclecticism” for the Pre-Raphaelite artist G.P. Boyce. Webb also designed the Red House in Bexley for William Morris. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings was founded here at West House, and the building greatly influenced Lutyens (1869-1944).
The Studio, no.48, was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1920-4 and built on the gardens of Phenes House where he had buried his horse, which supposedly haunted the house. Mackintosh lived at no.43a and he proposed a major studio development along the south side. See ‘C.R. Mackintosh, The Chelsea Years’ by Alan Crawford, Huntarian Art Gallery.
No.50 was designed by Frank Lowe in 1985-7.
Holman Hunt had a studio in Manresa Street in 1876 where he painted ‘The Triumph of The Innocents’. There was an artist community here, which E.M. Forster refers to in 1910 as “long haired Chelsea”. The artists’ colony resided in purpose-built studios constructed by John Brass in 1878. Those on the east were known as Trafalgar Studios, and those on the west were known as Merton Villa Studios.
St Margarets, a house on the south side of Trafalgar Square (now Chelsea Square) was the residence of Lord Gilbert Kennedy. It was demolished for the polytechnic.
The Public Library and South West Polytechnic in Manresa Road were designed by J.M. Brydon, who also was the architect for Chelsea Town Hall, and built in 1891. The Poly, a People’s Palace, featured courses on Cookery, Dressmaking, Needlework, Household Management, and Home Science. The building on the east side is of the 1960’s and housed the art school – the Chelsea College of Art. The Sex Pistols’ second gig, on 5th December 1975, was held there.
The new buildings on either side of Manresa Road, the fire station, the art school and the hostel replaced an elegant terrace of houses dating from 1810 and later demolished in 1955. They were designed by the LCC architects department to much acclaim from the architectural establishment of the day.
“During 1934-6 one of the houses at the western end of King’s Parade, no.292, was used as a showroom by John Fowler, the famous interior decorator and joint founder of Colefax & Fowler. This was just after he had left Peter Jones where he worked in the specialist paint section. It was conveniently located, just opposite Argyll House where Lady Sibyl Colefax was then living.” [From Inigo Jones to Peter Jones]
And back on the south side:
William Joyce, Lord “Haw-Haw”, lived at 77 Flood Street, 37 Bramerton Street, and 44 Jubilee Place. In 1924 he headed “Biff Boy” at Mosley’s Chelsea HQ. [See Haw-Haw, the tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce by Nigel Farndale]
At the Clylie Jessop Art Gallery of 271 Kings Road there was a sale of artwork to support the Oz trail, where David Hockney sold nude prints of the three: Richard Neville, who got 12 months, Felix Dennis, 9 months, and Jim Anderson, 15 months. Wedgwood had one of their workshops nearby.
This is the site of the Gateway Club, see notes.
Take a detour down Bramerton Street to:
This is one of the oldest streets in London and is named after Sir Thomas Lawrence who owned one of the manor houses in 1583. In no.16 John Gay, writer of ‘The Beggars Opera’ lived from 1712-4, and Tobias Smollett lived from 1750-62.
Back onto Kings Road, past:
S. Borris, the Sandwich Shop at 251 Kings Road, was run for 35 years by Joe & Terry Heade, who had bought it from Mr. Borris. It closed in 2004 after serving, among others, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, John Wayne, Judy Garland, Christine Keeler, Boy George, and Billy Connolly.
Opposite, on the north side, is:
Previously Oakley Square, the name of this square was changed in 1872 in honour of Thomas Carlyle – unusual, as he was still alive at the time. First conceived in 1830, in 1840 two terraces of three houses each were built facing each other in a style of Robert Adam. But recession struck, the terrace idea was abandoned, and instead the current semi-detached houses date from 1862. The Sitwells lived at no.2. Alfred Whitehead lived at no.17 and it was here that Bertrand Russell had his meetings with Lady Ottoline Morrell. He and Whitehead were co-writing ‘Principa Mathematica’ at the time. Whitehead then moved to 12 Elm Park Gardens in 1917 and back to 14 Carlyle Square in 1921. The Thorndicks lived at no.6 from 1921. The spy Kim Philby lived at 18 Carlyle Square from 1944 with his wife Aileen and their four children until his defection to Moscow in 1963.
Continue past the:
The present building dates from 1869 and was built on the site of an earlier 17th century pub called The Rose & Crown. The art gallery on Old Church Street is part of this old pub.
On to the cross street:
The pub ‘The Pigs Ear’, half way down on the left at no.35, used to be called ‘The Black Lion’ and is one of the oldest pubs around. ‘Notes on Chelsea Pubs’ states that the present Black Lion is the modern version of a much illustrated and delightfully picturesque 17th century inn [Blunt]. The old house had the usual accompaniment of a tea garden and a bowling green. It was rebuilt in 1860, renamed the ‘Front Page’ in 1986, and renamed again in 1998.
Mineralogists Percy & Winifred Botley had their shop at 30 Old Church Street from 1931-82. Customers included Gary Cooper, the King of Sweden.
Sir John Betjemin lived at 53 Old Church Street when he was young, from 1917-24, before the family moved to 29 Radnor Walk: “ I am always annoyed by improvements.”
Jonathan Swift lived at the rectory on Church Lane in 1725.
Petyte House was built as a school in 1603, rebuilt in 1703 by William Petyte, and bombed in 1941.
Pink Floyd’s first record was recorded at Sound Techniques recording studio at 46a Old Church Street.
At the very end, by Chelsea Old Church, was the site of “White Horse” pub, which is reputed to have been visited by King Henry VIII. It was rebuilt in 1840 and painted by Elizabeth Gulston. For details of the Church and area please see the Embankment Walk.
On the corner is:
The Essoldo, 281 Kings Road, opened on the site of an ice rink on the corner of Old Church Street. The Kings Picture House, on the corner of Church Street, opened on 5th October 1911. The prices were 2/- and 1/- for the dress circle, fauteuils at 6d, and seats, using a separate entrance at 3d.
South, on the left, is:
In 1566 the landowner the Marquis of Winchester gave this land to the Church for a rectory. The house is early Georgian with later additions, recently extensively rebuilt and extended. It has a two-acre garden. Rectors of the Old Church include Gerald Wellesley, brother of the Duke of Wellington, Charles Kingsley, father of Charles and Henry Kingsley, and Gerald Blunt, father of Reginald the local historian.
The sporting painter John Sartorius (1775-1830) lived at no.155.
The Chelsea Arts Club at 143, initially at 181 Kings Road, was founded by Walter Sickert, George Clausen, and Whistler. The first Arts Club Ball was held in the Albert Hall in 1908, and was finally banned in 1959.
Katherine Mansfield lived at 141A Old Church Street.
William de Morgan lived at 127, which was in fact two houses converted by him into one.
117 Old Church Street was designed in 1914 by Halsey Ralph Ricardo (1854-1928) for his daughter and her husband, the artist Maresco Pearce, as a wedding present.
No.123 was built in 1894 for Felix Moschelis.
In 1885 the owner of 125-129 Old Church Street was prosecuted for running a high-class brothel for members of the Army and Navy and other West End gentleman’s clubs. It was also claimed that it operated as a clearinghouse for the white slave trade.
The two exceptional modern movement buildings are nos.64 & 66. No.64 was designed by Eric Mendelsohn and Serg Chermayeff. Serg Chermayeff was born in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, and also designed the De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill. No.66 was designed by Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry for the playwright Benn Levy and his wife Constance Cummings. He said, “I paid for it from the profits of a film script I didn’t want to write in 1936. The architect Gropius was a refugee who needed a job. Builders were idle. The plot of land was for sale. I didn’t want to build an old house, if you see what I mean, so I built a new one.” [From ‘Night & Day in Chelsea’ by Alan Brien in Lilliput]
H. Haworth lived in Upper Church Street in 1825 where he had an unrivalled Museum of Entymology and Natural History featuring 40,000 insects and 20,000 dried plants.
Alexander Stephens lived in Park House, Upper Church Street, from 1757 to 1821.
The Landscape painter Philip Reinagle RA lived in the street in the 1820’s, as did the animal portrait painter W.H. Davis.
Constance Cummings lived at no.66 from 1947-67, and Anthony Goss the artist lived at no.137 from 1948-68.
Number 149 used to be an asylum for women.
The Secret Intelligence Service used no.111 in the 1950’s to train Baltic émigrés to be intelligence agents.
Also living here were Felix Moscheles the painter, Mr. de Morgan the novelist, and Mr. Bernard Partridge the Punch cartoonist.
Returning to the Kings Road and turning right to the next street:
The Vale consisted of cottages when Whistler lived here. In 1888 the newly weds William and Evelyn de Morgan had a cottage here, as did Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon, publishers of The Dial and founders of the Vale Press [See separate article]. In his book ‘A Road Book to Old Chelsea’ published in 1914, G.B. Stuart noted “But the newly planned Avenue of the Vale, with its antennae of new streets in every direction, has cost us Church Street as we have loved it since childhood; c’est magnifique, this new tasteful suburb of old Chelsea, but it is not the homely purlieu that we, and dean swift, used to know.”
With a detour north to:
A.A. Milne lived first at 11 Mallord Street and then at 13 Mallord Street (1925-29). Christopher Robin was born there in 1920 and Winnie the Pooh was published in 1926, followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. Pooh Bear came from Harrods.
In 1914 Augustus John had Robert van Hoff design him a house at 28 Mallord Street as a copy of Rembrandt’s studio house in Amsterdam. In 1935 he moved to 49 Glebe Place, and then from 1940-58 he lived at 33 Tite Street.
South of The Vale is:
Set out in 1836, this is the best preserved example of a late Georgian Square. Each of its three sides is a symmetrical terrace, with projecting houses at each end and a central section of taller houses with an attic storey. An example of Palace Fronted Terrace, it is a uniform terrace articulated with centre and end houses breaking forward and embellished with pediments. It is looked after by the Sloane-Stanley Estate Trustees.
On the death of Sir Hans Sloane, who had no son, part of his estate passed to his eldest daughter, Sarah, who was wife of George Stanley of Paultons, Hampshire. The other part went to his younger daughter Elizabeth, who had married the Welshman Charles Cadogan of Oakley.
To the south is Danvers Street where Jonathan Swift lived in 1711, and Alexander Fleming of Penicillin fame lived at no.20a from 1929-58. It was named after Danvers House.
West of the Vale on the north side is:
The terrace opposite Kings Parade, Beaufort Terrace, was demolished and replaced by the Bluebird Garage. It was designed by Robert Sharp and built in 1923 as the largest and most modern garage in Europe.
Petrol was 1/5 a gallon. The buildings on either side had segregated waiting and writing rooms for ladies, owner drivers, and chauffeurs.
Donald Campbell, the holder of land speed records, named his cars after this garage. In the 1950’s it became an ambulance station, and in 1997 Sir Terence Conran converted it into a Gastrodome.
Note that the oldest shops are 229-235.
The next cross street is
The street was laid out on the site of Sir Thomas More’s house and estate. Following his demise in 1535, the house had a number of owners before being purchased in 1682 by Henry Somerset, later Duke of Beaufort, hence the name. It remained in that family until 1737 when it was purchased, now derelict, by Sir Hans Sloane. He demolished the house in 1740. From 1751-70 the estate was occupied by Count Nicolaus Zinzendorf and the Moravian Brotherhood who occupied Lindsey House.
They planned to create a community, called Sharon, but ran out of money. The land was then sold off as building plots and Beaufort Street came into existence. It is a busy area of land. In the late 1940’s Marchesa Luisa Casati lived at 32 Beaufort Street (1881-1957), a wealthy model for Augustus John, Jacob Epstien, Man Ray and Cecil Beaton, and was buried in Brompton cemetery.
Five hefty blocks of flats were built here in red brick in 1903-4 by Joseph & Smithem. They were constructed in order to provide 261 self-contained tenements, with eight bathrooms and a drying room in one of the basements.
On the corner is the site of:
This was built in the 1890’s. Between 1975 and 1978 John Lydon of the Sex Pistols met and played here, calling it a flagship boozer. It was converted into a bar and it is currently being re-developed.
Up Beaufort Street is:
The development of this group of houses started in 1916 in the style of the Garden City Movement.
Alfred Munnings, a well-known painter of horses and a strident anti-modernist, lived at 96 Chelsea Park Gardens from 1920-59. He was a rather poor president of the Royal Academy from 1944-49, having beaten Augustus John to the post.
Back on the Kings Road and continuing west:
These were set up as housing for the working classes in 1885 by Catherine Baroness Courtney of Penwith who lived in Cheyne Walk. The 60 flats were designed “in a rural style” by Elijah Hoole, who also designed Hereford House in Old Church Street for Octavia Hill who was very active in the 1860’s building blocks for the poor with money from John Ruskin. It was bought by developers in the 1980’s and is now known as The Portico.
The restaurant on the corner of Park Walk used to be “The Man in the Moon” pub which dated back to 1726, but it was rebuilt in 1891 and converted in 2003. It was the centre for punk in 1977.
On the south side of the Kings Road and just beyond the ‘kink’ is:
This was opened in 1726 and named after Sir W. Milman (d.1713) who owned a house nearby. The first modern Ice Rink, the Glaciarium, was opened in the street under canvas in 1876.
The custard-coloured tower, no.355, was built as council flats in 1969, and revamped by Fitch & co. in 1988.
Behind a cream-coloured wall and a large wooden door is:
The Moravians were a Protestant sect founded in Bohemia by John Huss in the 1400’s, a precursor to the Protestant Reformation. One of its leaders in 1751, Count Zinzendorf, bought Lindsey House as a centre for them in England, converting the stables into a Chapel and burial ground, both of which exist today. He sold it in 1770.
The burials include James Hutton, pioneer of the movement, James Gilray, father of the caricaturist, Benjamin Latrobe, architect of the Capitol in Washington, Nunal, an unbaptised Esquimau Indian, and Captain James Fraser, explorer of the west coast of Canada and who crossed the Atlantic 56 times. Also buried there is Minister Petrus Bohler (d.1775) to whom John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, attributed his conversion. Wesley preached in Old Church in 1775.
The pub next door, now a restaurant, used to be ‘The Globe’.
The north side, with its fast clock, is home to some definitive boutiques:
Hung on You 1966 Michael Rainey
Mr. Freedom 1968
Let it Rock 1971
Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren [Malcolm Edwards aka Talcy Malcy]
Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die 1972
Swastika & upside down crucifix Seditionaries 1977
With, further on:
Granny Takes a Trip 1966
Between the two is the rather elegant:
The estate stretches from Limerston Street west via Horbury Street and Shalcomb Street to Langton Street. It was designed very much as a respectable middle class development in the 1850’s, in contrast to, at the time, the Latin Quarter image of Cheyne Walk.
The restaurant on the corner of Limerston Street was ‘The Stanley’ pub.
To the south side is a pub called:
King Charles is the reputed originator of The Worlds End. His coach broke an axel there and, on seeing the muddy fields on one side and the sand bank on the other, he exclaimed, “Odds blood, it would have to happen at the worlds end!” It was a noted house of entertainment in the reign of King Charles II when access was by river.
By the time the dramatist William Congreve wrote “Love for Love” in 1695, The Worlds End had a tea garden, which he described as “a resort of doubtful repute.”
Mrs Forsight said, “I suppose you would not go alone to the Worlds End,” and Mrs. Frail added, “The Worlds End! What, do you mean to banter me?”
The current pub was rebuilt in 1897 by John Bowden of the Royal Chelsea Brewery. It replaced an 1860 building, which in turn replaced a building dating back to at least 1670.
In 1792 there was a plan to burn an effigy of Tom Paine at The Worlds End, he had recently been indicted following publication of the Rights of Man and had fled to France.
Diana Dors had a flat in The Worlds End in 1949, when she was known as “Swinging Dors”. For their New Year Party in 1950 she and Dandy Kim had a party at the Cross Keys pub, and drove around in a powder blue Cadillac. By 1963 she was living in Elystan Place.
The area around The Worlds End, including the Guinness Trust buildings, was badly damaged in the war and completely redeveloped from 1967-77 by Eric Lyons as a “1970 style council community”, with echoes of social engineering. In 1973 Christine Keller was a tenant. The neighbouring Cremorne Estate was built in the 1950’s.
See ‘World’s End, a Memoir of a Blitz Childhood’ by Donald James Wheal.
St. Johns Church, Worlds End Passage by Newton & Belling, was demolished after the war.
The next cross street is Edith Grove, followed by, from the south Tedema Road and going north:
John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, tried to drive once and drove straight under a lorry on Gunter Grove, in Chelsea, where he lived riotously during the punk era in 1975, when he was invited by McLaren to join the Sex Pistols.
Malcolm McLaren opened the SEX shop on the Kings Road.
A detour south down Tadema Road leads to:
Named after the “lots” of ground belonging to the manor over which parishioners had grazing rights from 13th August until sowing time.
The Power Station was built in 1905 by an American, Charles Tyson Yerkes, whose company owned a number of tube lines including the District, Bakerloo, Central and Piccadilly Lines. He deeded the power to run the trains. The architect was a fellow American James Russell Chapman.
And the site of:
The site was originally Chelsea Farm, which was bought by a supporter of the Methodist Movement, Selina The Countess of Huntingdon, who built a house there. It was purchased by Viscount Cremorne in 1778. His wife Lady Cremorne, was the great, great grand daughter of William Penn. She died in 1825.
In 1832 it was bought by the self-styled Baron de Beaufain, who opened it as a sporting club. This failed and it was sold in 1842 to Renton Nicholson, who opened a successful pleasure and entertainment park, including an American Bowling saloon. A feature was Balloon ascents, and Montgolfier performed there.
In 1874 a Vincent de Groof jumped from a balloon at 500 feet with only very large wings, and he was killed as he landed in Sidney Street. Another balloonist snagged the steeple of St. Luke’s Church, killing the pilot.
Returning up Lots Road, opposite is:
Stanley House, by Stanley Bridge, was originally built before 1625 and called Brickhills. It was built by Sir Arthur Georges, a friend of the poet Edmund Spenser and a cousin of Sir Walter Raleigh. He died in 1625 and the property went to his daughter, the wife of Sir Robert Stanley.
It was rebuilt in 1691. It was owned by William Hamilton, British Envoy at the court of Naples and husband of Lady Hamilton of Nelson fame. He accompanied Lord Elgin to Greece and the casts of some of the treasures they brought back could be seen set into the walls of the house. Later in 1840 it became the residence of the principal of St Marks College. This training college for Church of England teachers was visited by Leo Tolstoy on 12th March 1861. Essays prepared for him by the pupils can be seen in the Tolstoy museum in Moscow.
The house was renovated in 2002 at a cost of £10 million and it has a copy of the Elgin Marbles in a frieze around the dinning room walls.
Originally the College of St. Mark and St. John, this was established in 1840 by the National Society for the Education of the Poor as one of the first teacher training colleges.
Byzantine in style, it was designed by Edward Blore and built in 1842-7. The octagon building and neo-Norman chapel on the Fulham Road were built in 1843. Two neo-Georgian blocks on the Kings Road were added in 1910 and 1923. The entire complex is now converted into flats.
“That the Lord of the Manor ought to mend Stanbrigge, leading to Fulham Marsh.” [From Old Chelsea Place Names by Charles Aldridge in Chelsea Misc I]
The first record of a bridge over Chelsea Creek was in 1448. The bridge was rebuilt in 1717, 1826 and finally in 1908. The creek, also called Counters Creek or Billingwell Ditch, was canalised in 1828 from Counters Bridge on High Street Kensington to the Thames. The scheme was a financial failure and was bought by a railway company, Birmingham, Bristol and Thames Junction, who built the railway along the canal.
To the south is the site of:
This was built 1655-60 and, reputed to be the dallying place for Nell Gwynne and Charles II, the king could come by boat and avoid the gaze of vulgar citizenry. It later served successively as a gunpowder factory, clothing store and canteen for soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars, before becoming a staff house for the gas company in 1824. The gas company named their two small green shunting engines Nell Gwynne and Charles 2 after the legend.
The 22 bus will take one back to Sloane Square; or continue west along the New Kings Road to Putney and the River.
History of Chelsea, Notes For Antiquarian Enthusiasts
“Every street and corner of Chelsea, almost every foot of ground, is historic.” - Alfred Beaver in “Memorials of Old Chelsea”, 1892.
The earliest record of “Chelsea” goes back to Anglo-Saxon times when it was called “Chelcehithe” and “Cealchythe” by Offa, King of the Mercians, at a synodal council in 785. In the Domesday Book the Normans, with their Italian scribes, transcribed this to both “Cerchede” and “Chelched”. Papal letters of 1290 refer to a church at Chelchuthe.
Sir Thomas More referred to it as “Chelsith” and by the Sixteenth Century it became “Chelseye”. Ben Jonson in ‘The Forest’ mentions “the sands of Chelsey fields”. Phonetically it can now sound, in certain quarters, like “Chelseah”.
Etymologically it is thought to derive from “chesel”, a mixture of sand and pebbles, which was found along the foreshore; q.v. Chesil Beach in Dorset and Winchelsea on the coast of Sussex. Others argue that it is derived from the Saxon for wharf or haven, Cals Hythe or Chalk-hyth.
Evidence of early man has been found throughout the Thames valley, which itself dates to around 450,000 BC when an early ice sheet pushed it down. Previously it flowed through the Vale of St. Albans as a tributary of the Rhine. Evidence includes stone implements from the early, middle and late stone age, during the warm periods between the five ice ages (420,000; 350,000; 250,000; 150,000 and 20,000 BC). Ecologically the land on which Chelsea now rests alternated between tundra and dense wildwood.
Around 3,500 BC evidence of pottery appears, together with seasonal meeting places. The inhabitants were still hunter gatherers but by 1500 BC they were becoming increasingly settled, with outlines and post holes of round houses, bronze tools and agriculture from 900 BC having been found [Emmer and Spelt, wheat, barley, rye and beans].
During this period the wild cattle the Auroch became extinct through over-hunting. Also there is extensive evidence of drowned forests in the Thames, resulting from sea levels rising and land sinking.
Julius Caesar invaded in 54 BC but it was not until 42 AD that, under Claudius, the Romans invaded and stayed until 410 AD.
The first historical reference to Chelsea was in a charter of AD 785 signed by King Offa of Mercia. Egfrith Coenwulf (787-821) is recorded as living in Chelsea and so it is likely that the Mercian Royal family owned land here. Historians believe that the King had a palace on Cheyne Walk. It is claimed that in 898 King Alfred convened a meeting in Chelsea with, among others, Aethelred of Mercia and his sister Aethelflaed, concerning the re-founding of London after the Danish Wars.
The archaeologist Michael Webber claims that the timbers visible on the foreshore of the River Thames at low tide between Battersea Bridge and the houseboats are from a Saxon fish trap of Offa’s time.
He has found Neolithic axe heads and a wooden club, dating from 3540 BC t0 3360 BC, together with traces of a submerged forest, in the mud of the foreshore that dates from 12,000 years ago.
The interesting point is that he has evidence that the level of the River has risen some 22 feet (7 metres) in this period, thus explaining the importance of the Thames Barrier. The question is whether this is due to a rise in sea level through global warming or a tectonic fall in the height of the land. Incidentally the sea level has risen by 30 metres in the last 10,000 years at Winchelsea Beach, and is currently rising at 6 mm a year. In Venice the sea is rising at a rate of 2.4 mm a year.
Returning to King Offa, his daughter was supposed to marry a son of King Charlemagne but the plans fell through – possibly the start of England’s tortuous relationship with Europe. If the dynastic marriage had gone ahead history could have been very different - for example the conquest of 1066 may well have not occurred.
Edward the Confessor, the last English King, granted a manor in “Cealchythe” to the Abbey of Westminster in 1042, which they kept until at least the reign of Stephen a hundred years later.
The Normans centred themselves at Westminster, and so Chelsea reverted to a small village around the church. The rest of the area was known as East Field and West Field, separated by Church Lane, with the north-east part of the parish being called Blacklands.
There are vague indications that nobility and gentry had country estates in Chelsea, including Edmund, brother of King Edward I, and in 1369, Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. In 1345, during the reign of Edward III, there is a record of Richard de Heyle as lord of “Chelsith”, together with a vineyard. By the reign of Henry VII, the first Tudor king, the Manor was in the possession of Sir Reginald Bray.
In the Sixteenth Century the area became popular with courtiers and royal officials, who needed suitable residences near Whitehall and the Palace of Westminster, some 2.5 miles by river downstream.
Address, name and year opened
11 Kings Road, Buzzy’s Bistro, 1962
33 Kings Road, Don Luigi, 1966
74 Kings Road, Chelsea Kitchen, 1966-2007
91 Kings Road, The Unity Restaurant, 1950’s
95 Kings Road, Marco Polo, 1961
124 Kings Road, Magic Carpet Inn, 1950’s
128 Kings Road, Fantasie Coffee bar, 1955
138a Kings Road, Alexanders Restaurant, 1955
172 Kings Road, Choys, 1956-today
235 Kings Road, 235, 1965
257 Kings Road, Café Jazz Hot, 1961
312 Kings Road, Chelsea Grill, 1962
355 Kings Road, Orrery, 1958
The Fulham Road was the main highway west when the Kings Road was, up until 1830, a private road.
“Between Kings Road and Fulham Road stretched formerly a great open heath reaching from Sidney Street to Sloane Square, notorious for footpads and highwaymen.” -The British Architect 1892 [Chelsea Scraps 1-270, 1897]
This heath was replaced by market gardens to serve the growing city of London, then by suburban villas, followed by terraced row houses, and finally mansion blocks. Incidentally the first mention of the Fulham road was in 1372.
South Kensington is, in fact, two stations in one. The glazed arcade with the white terracotta entrance was for the Metropolitan and District Railway, designed by George Sherrin and dating from 1868. The south side with its classic oxblood terracotta entrance was for the Piccadilly line, designed by Leslie Green in 1906. This line, together with the Bakerloo and Northern Lines, was owned at the time by the Chicago tycoon Charles Tyson Yerkes, and was known as the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway.
In 1974 the two stations were combined. See ‘The Underground Stations of Leslie Green’ by David Leboff.
Proceed down Pelham Street to the corner of Fulham Road and Sloane Avenue, where on the right is:
The Michelin Building was built by Francoise Espinasse of Clermont-Ferrand in 1909-1911. Pevsner describes it as the “piece de resistance, a highly idiosyncratic and colourful three-dimensional advertisement for the famous tyre company, somewhere between art nouveau and art deco.” The exuberantly decorated “marmo” tiles are by Hennebique, and the charming pictorial panels are designed by the poster artist Ernest Montaut.
On the other corner of Sloane Avenue was the ‘Admiral Keppel’ public house at no.77, previously known as the ‘Cow and Calf’. The original building dated from 1790, was rebuilt in 1856, and was demolished sometime after 1958 for shops with flats above. Keppel Street changed its name to Sloane Avenue.
West along Fulham Road and on the north side:
The crescent was laid out by Basevi for the Smiths Charity estate in the 1840’s. The charity was initially set up in 1628 by Henry Smith to raise money to pay the ransom for seamen held by the Barbary pirates. The charity was sold to the Wellcome Trust in 1995 for £280 million. Ian Nairn in his book ‘Nairn’s London’ describes the crescent, “It makes a perfect urban unit, formal but not rigid, self-contained but not sealed up.” Cecil Beaton lived at 8 Pelham Place from 1935-74.
‘The Stag’ pub was opposite until it was demolished in the 1930’s for the current blocks of flats.
West and opposite Sidney Place is:
This was named in 1865 after the large village pond. Now it is the site of Onslow Dwellings, 1950’s flats. The pond was part of Chelsea Common, spreading over 37 acres and encompassed by Fulham Road, Sidney Street, Cale Street, Elystan Street, and Draycott Avenue. This common land was, according to observers at the time, as agreeable as Clapham Common. Incidentally Charles I reviewed his troops on the common.
The Cadogans enclosed the land in 1790 and there they built low-grade houses, of which a few survive. These houses became slums and were replaced by early examples of social housing supported by private benefactors. For example The Samuel Lewis Housing Trust buildings were built in 1915 and The Sutton Trust buildings were built in 1912, designed by E.C.P. Monson.
Sidney Hall was built in 1908 by the Chelsea Temperance Society. It now houses the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness. Pond House was built in 1905 by Joseph & Smithem, with distinctive art nouveau railings.
West and on the left is:
Here is St. Luke’s Church. In his ‘Illustrated Historical Handbook of Chelsea’, 1900, Reginald Blunt noted that one of the few interesting graves was that of Dr. John M’Loed who wrote ‘The Voyage of H.M.S. Alcesta to the Yellow Sea’.
The Brompton and National Heart & Chest Hospital, designed by Watkins Gray International and built in 1986-9, was described by Pevsner as “a long, deadening brick frontage quite out of tune with the scale of this part of Chelsea.”
Opposite and through an arch is:
The painter John Singer Sargent had a studio here from 1895, where he worked for the next twenty years rather than in his house on Tite Street. Here he worked on the murals for the Boston Public Library.
It was originally built in 1850 as a single studio and foundry for Baron Carlo Marochetti who lived behind at 34 Onslow Square. A sculptor, he collaborated with Sir Edwin Landseer on the lions for Trafalgar Square. On his death in 1867 the studio was divided up into fifteen separate studios, as they are today.
Artists who have had studios there include William Linnell, Edward Poynter, Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, who reportedly had an affaire with a daughter of Queen Victoria, and his pupil Alfred Gilbert. He sculpted the iconic Eros in Piccadilly Circus, the Shaftsbury Memorial, Angel of Christian Charity, in 1895. Incidentally the model was an Italian boy called Colarossi.
The bar ‘PJ’s’ used to be The Cranley Arms pub.
The large building on the south side (the left) is:
This was founded in 1861 by William Marsden. It was the first hospital in the world designed specifically for cancer patients. From 1851-61 it was on the corner of Fulham Road and Hollywood Road, and it had 26 beds. Initially called the Cancer Hospital, it was named the Royal Cancer Hospital in 1936 and then the Royal Marsden in 1954.
On the right is Sumner Place, with a detour north to:
William Cecil Lord Burleigh (1520-1598) had recently acquired Brompton Hall, where Onslow Square now is, when he sheltered with Queen Elizabeth under the elm tree [see Queens Elm below]. William Cecil’s son, Robert Cecil (1563-1612), became the first Earl of Salisbury. Reverend Scott thought that the hall used to be where the tube station now is. [Little Chelsea by Rev. Walter Scott 1940]
The existing square, founded in 1845, was developed by Sir Charles Freake to the designs of George Basevi. Onslow Gardens were also built by Freake in 1865. The entire area was owned by the charitable Smith’s Estate, and all of the streets are named after trustees of the charity.
On the 23rd May 1940 the neo-nazi MP for Peebles Captain Archibald Henry Maule Ramsey was arrested on the steps of his house, 24 Onslow Square. Founder of the Right Club, he was involved in spying for the Germans with Anna Volkov and Tyler Kent from the US embassy, stealing correspondence between Churchill and Roosevelt. Ramsey spent the war in Brixton Prison, but he was never charged or tried. The Right Club met above the Russian Tea room at 50 Harrington Road, run by Anna Volkov and her family. The author of spy stories Len Deighton witnessed the arrest of Volkov as his mother worked at the tearoom.
William Thackarey lived at 36, and Bonar Law lived at 24 Onslow Gardens. St Pauls, Onslow Square was built in 1859 to the designs of James Edmeston.
Returning to the Fulham Road, on the right is:
The foundation stone of The Hospital For Consumption and Diseases of the Chest at Brompton was laid on 11th June 1844. Built in the Tudor style and designed by F.H. Francis, it has patterned red-and-blue brickwork and dressing of Caen stone. The hospital was founded by a solicitor, Philip Rose, who was a resident of Hans Place. Charles Dickens contributed to the charitable foundation. The Chapel was designed by the eccentric Gothic Revivalist Edward Buckton Lamb and it was completed in 1850. An extension was opened on the other side of the road in 1882, with a subway connecting the two buildings. The building was converted into luxury flats in 2004 and called ‘The Bromptons’.
Opposite The Bromptons is the Brompton Hospital South Block, built in 1880. Adjacent to this is the Cancer Research Centre. Previously it was the Chelsea Hospital for Women, established in 1871, but this subsequently moved to Dovehouse Street. The bar opposite called Cactus Blue used to be the ‘The Rose’ pub.
Further west and on the south side, behind a brick wall, is:
The burial ground was opened in either 1813 [Blunt] or 1816 [George Bryan’s ‘Chelsea in Olden Times and Present Times’, 1869], and it closed before the end of the century. Blunt wrote that the two hands joined at the thumb, which figure on many of the tombstones, denote the family of Cohen. There used to be an entrance building with an inscription of Psalm No.16 in 1869, but it had gone by 1900. Bryan included an anecdote told to him by Rev. Owen, vicar of St. Jude’s Church, Chelsea, about a Hebrew friend who gave a toast thus: “The Queen of the Jews and of no other nation.” His explanation was “‘J(or I).E.W.S.’ makes Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland, and J.E.W.S. spells ‘Jews’, and makes Victoria ‘Queen of the Jews, and of no other nation’”.
On the left and going south is:
Details of this are given in the Kings Road walk. Old Church Street north of the Kings Road used to be known as Duke’s Walk.
On the right, going north, is:
Formally Salad Lane and renamed in 1826, Selwood Terrace is the site of Selwood Nursery where Narcissus Luttrell bred pear trees. The nursery was owned in the 1780’s by a Frenchman named Mr. Rubergall, introducing salads to London. On the opposite corner of Salad Lane, William Curtis (1746-99), a celebrated botanist, entomologist and ornithologist, established his famous botanical garden in 1789, moving from Bermondsey Street. He was a founder of the Royal Horticultural Society and the Botanical Magazine. His portrait by Joseph Wright of Derby hangs in the RHS in Vincent Square [See Kensington by Geoffrey Evans and Hamish Hamilton, 1975]. It was also called Swan Lane after the pub on the corner with Old Brompton Road.
It is reported that at the end of the 18th century half of all the vegetables sold at Covent Garden were grown in the nurseries and market gardens in the Chelsea area. The most famous nursery in the area was the Brompton Park Nursery which was founded in the 1680’s by George London and Henry Wise. In 1690 it employed 22 people. The Victoria & Albert Museum now stands on the site. The Diarist Evelyn referred to the area as having a “noble assembly of trees and evergreens.” The Brompton Stock is in memory of these nurseries.
Selwood Terrace, Selwood Place and Elm Place are late Georgian, having been built in 1824-6. Their primness contrasts with the lively quoins, balconies and shaped dormers of Neville Terrace, opposite, which was built in 1863 some forty years later. The owner of the Georgian development was Samuel Ware, who built Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly, in 1819. The neo-Georgian Regency Terrace of 1960-4 was built by Raymond J. Sargent.
Rev Scott mentions a tradition that a forester’s lodge was on the site of Selwood Place at the time of Henry VIII. He also mentions that emigrants from the French Revolution settled in Selwood terrace. One of these was Abbe Voyaeux de Prenous, a “clerge non-assermente” who narrowly escaped France in 1793, avoiding capture by the “gens d’armes”. He lived in the Queens Elm area for 40 years where he was a “missioner”, setting up a catholic chapel in Lower George Street, Chelsea. He became an honorary Canon of St Denis in Paris [The Tabet, 12th December 1840/ Chelsea Scraps no.5].
The novelist Charles Dickens stayed at 11 Selwood Terrace prior to marrying Catherine Hogarth at St Luke’s, Sidney Street, on 2nd April 1836.
This was built in 1825-7 by local builder James Ardin. In her book “Chelsea Bird”, 1964, Virginia Ironside noted that, “Young married mothers tripped along in expensive slacks with their shopping baskets to the King’s Road, and I thought how nice it would be to be one of them, rich and silly and happy with another baby every year, nannies, gossips with other wives over lunch, and drinks in the Anglesea on Sunday mornings.”
It was named after The Duke of Anglesea who famously lost his leg at the Battle of Waterloo. There was a tradition at the time for senior officers to give to soldiers who had fought closely with them a small gift of money, sufficient to open a pub. The grateful recipient would often name the pub after his benefactor. It is rumoured that the initial planning for the Great Train Robbery took place in this pub.
Returning to the Fulham Road, on the south corner of Old Church Street there used to be:
G.B. Stuart in his book on Chelsea wrote in 1914, “Even as I write, the hammers of the housebreakers are busy on the walls of The Queens Elm public house, an ugly structure enough which no one can regret for itself, though with the passing of its existence as a house of refreshment one fears its Elizabethan legend may disappear also.” Here under an elm the Queen ‘stood up’ for shelter in a storm of rain with Lord Burleigh, who inherited the Dacre property in Chelsea and Brompton, and was probably conducting her majesty to one or other of his newly acquired properties. Elizabeth was fond of paying surprise visits to her subjects, and on one occasion when she went to Beaufort House unexpectedly, in its owner’s absence she was unrecognised and refused admittance. Under the elm at the corner of Church Street and Fulham Road legend says that she and her great minister talked of umbrellas, which about this time were first introduced from the east, but were not yet in general, even royal, use. “As I passed the old public house, the stucco frontage of which was falling in clouds of dust to the ground, I saw for the first time a beautiful pitched and red-tiled roof disclosed at the back of the building. It, too, may be gone to-morrow, but I like to think I have caught a glimpse of the roof that sheltered Queen Bess.”
‘The Queens Tree’ tavern was recorded in parish records in 1586 and 1667. Other names include ‘The Cross Tree’, ‘The Nine Elms’, and ‘The High Elm’ by Sir Hans Sloane in 1727 [Blunt].
Richard Edmonds notes that, “Until 1847,” says Rev. Scott in his monograph ‘Little Chelsea’, “there was a toll house and gates across the Fulham Road at this spot, a round white house in the middle of the road with white bars on either side.”
The landlord of the pub in the seventies, Sean Treacy, published a book, ‘A Smell of Broken Glass’, published by Tom Stacey on 1973.
The pub was closed in the 1980’s and it is now shops, with a flower stall in front.
Further along there used to be:
A famous nightclub in the mid 1950’s was at 261 Fulham Road, run by J.T. Walker. Its phone number was FLAxman 8672.
On the right is:
The severe and tall red brick houses date from 1884. St Peter’s Church was built by Sir Charles Freak in 1868, twenty years earlier. The two essentials for a property developer at the time were to first build a church and a public house. There was a recession in the 1870’s which delayed the development. The church is now the Armenian Church.
Nos.2-10 were built by C.A. Daw & Sons in 1886, and nos.50-70 were built in 1890-3.
On the left, the south side, is:
The existing development was laid out in 1885 by George Godwin who, with his brother Henry Godwin, “experienced, as well as contributed to, the vast development of Brompton and South Kensington as it was transformed into one of the main elite residential areas of the capital.” [From Anthony King in ‘Architectural History’, published in 1976] The houses were built in 1894 in gault brick. The parkside buildings were demolished in the mid-1960’s and replaced by blocks of flats in a policy of scrap and rebuild.
Vladimir Nabokov moved to Elm Park Gardens with his family in 1918, fleeing Lenin’s Russia. Joyce Grenfell lived at 34 Elm Park Gardens from 1956-79 after leaving Chelsea. Other post-war residents included Laurie Lee, who drank at the Queens Elm with Dylan Thomas, the sculptress Elizabeth Frink, and the painter John Bratby – the painter of ‘The Kitchen Sink School’, who did a painting of Elm Park Gardens in 1955. [See the article on Elm Park Gardens by the poet Laurie Lee in ‘A Place called Chelsea’, edited by John Gullick.]
A more distinguished resident was the First Viscount Morley (1838-1923). An author and statesman, he was Secretary of State for India.
Also in Elm Park Gardens, scenes from the cult film ‘The Party’s Over’, directed by Guy Hamilton and starring Oliver Reed, were shot. [md]
The author’s grandparents lived at 68 in the late 1930’s.
At the south end of Elm Park Gardens is:
Numbers 74 and 78 were designed in 1883 by J.P. Seddon for Henry Pilleau and P. Williams, both landscape painters. Number 76, again designed by Seddon, was for Paul and Isabel Naftel and their daughter Maud.
A bit of historical background:
This consisted of 32 acres north of the Kings Road, between Park Walk and Upper Church Street. It formed part of the estate of Sir Thomas More and was called “Sand Hills”. It was enclosed by a brick wall in 1625 by the Lord Treasure Cranfield and renamed Chelsea Park [Bryan]. In the 1680’s it was leased to John Thorley, an innkeeper. Subsequently it was owned by Lord Wharton, Thomas Wharton, Marquis of Wharton (1648-1715), who lived at Danvers House, now Paulton Square. Wharton’s claim to fame was as the reputed author of ‘Lilliburlero’, the famous anti-Jacobite song celebrating the flight of James II with “scatter the papishes” [Blunt].
In 1718 the park was leased by The Raw Silk Company, who planted 2,000 mulberry trees. The idea of silkworms was that of John Appletree, supported by Henry Barham, a surgeon who had practised in Jamaica and settled in Chelsea in 1716. He issued 10,000 shares at £5 each, and it is reported that the transactions took place at the Marine Coffee Shop in Exchange Alley in the City. “A sample of the satin,” writes Ralph Thoresby in 1723, “lately made in Chelsea of English silkworms for the Princess of Wales was very rich and beautiful.” [Blunt] However the Company crashed in 1724, partly due to Sir Robert Walpole’s free trade policy. They also planted both White and Black mulberries, when the white one is the only one that silkworms will eat. The collapse of the South Sea Bubble in 1720 did not help either.
Mulberry Walk, off Old Church Street, is named after these mulberry trees, of which a few survive for example in the gardens behind Elm Park Gardens and in Elm Park Road.
Croker writes that Walpole, in his ‘Catalogue of Engravers’, tells us that James Christopher Le Bon, a Fleming by birth and a mezzotint-engraver, set up in 1732 a project for copying the Raphael cartoons in tapestry. Houses were built and looms erected in the mulberry grounds at Chelsea. But nothing came of it.
The Park was sold to Richard Manningham in 1724 and in 1727 the park was sold off in plots. A Dr. Bloomfield, surgeon to the Queen’s household, built a large house in the Park fronting onto the Fulham Road, referred to as The Mansion House. It was demolished around 1876 and replaced in 1884 by a large detached Victorian house known as Elm Park House. This in turn was demolished by Chelsea Borough Council and replaced by the current tower block, which the Council had acquired by compulsory purchase orders in 1945 for the entire Elm Park Gardens Estate.
Proceeding west along Fulham Road, on the left is:
The northern extension of Beaufort Street from the Kings Road occurred in the late 1880’s with the demolition of Camera Square, while the section south of the Kings Road dates from 1766. Chelsea Park Dwellings were built in 1885 for the poor, and the rather “unsightly” [Survey of London] Elm Park Parade, 134-140, in 1888. The suburban villas of Chelsea Park gardens were built in the 1920’s by E.F.M. Elms & Sydney Jupp in the style of Norman Shaw and the Garden Suburb Movement.
The famous painter of horses Sir Alfred Munnings lived at 96 Chelsea Park Gardens. He was most critical of modern art and the “foolish daubers” Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso. The cartoonist Oliver Preston lives in the garret flat.
And on the right is:
Originally called Thistle Grove, Drayton Gardens passes north through what used to be the wastelands of Brompton Heath, a wild and desolate place mainly visited for snipe shooting. Rev Scott quotes Besant as describing the place as, “The dreary heath that no man might cross with impunity after dark.”
The houses in the southern part date from 1810, while the mansion blocks to the north (49, 51 & 53) by J. Norton are dated 1894-97, and 59 is dated somewhat later in 1904. The elegant palace-style terraces at the north end are designed by the architect John Blore, with the even numbers dating from 1846-63 and the odd numbers dating from 1859-63.
The famous art cinema The Paris Pullman was at number 65, and it was built in 1910 as the Radium Picture House. It re-opened on 4th November 1955 as The Paris Pullman. It was demolished in 1983.
In the adjacent Thistle Grove Lane lived for many years John Burke, whose genealogical inquiries allowed him to publish ‘The Peerage’ [Croker]. Also living there were J.P. Warde, an actor who died in 1840, and the comedian Benjamin Webster.
There was a skating rink at the south end of Roland Gardens in 1879.
Returning to the Fulham Road, the next section is:
The first reference to Little Chelsea is, according to The Survey of London, in 1618 as “Lylle Cheley”. However, prior to that records show that in 1599 the land to the north of the Fulham Road was sold by Sir Robert Cecil to the Earl of Lincoln. It was then sold to Sir Michael Warton in 1651, who owned it until at least 1725. The architect Henry Holland sold part of the land in 1786.
Richard Edmonds in his book ‘Chelsea - From Five Fields to Worlds End’, published in 1956, noted that in May 1663 Pepys recorded in his diary, “so walked to Little Chelsea, and very merry.”
A month later a notable Frenchman of science, de Monconys, described a visit to the home of his fellow scientist Robert Boyle; “L’après dinée je fus-a dues milles de Londres en carosse pour cinq chelins à un village nomme le petit Chelse.” Robert Boyle (1627-91), of Boyle’s Law fame, had a house in Little Chelsea to the north of Fulham Lane in 1661. The diarist John Evelyn describes a visit to the house amid the chaos of, “glasses, potts, chymical and mathematical instruments, books and bundles of papers, which did so fill and crowd his bed-chamber that there was but just room for a few chairs.” [From Richard Edmond’s Book] The same house was the birthplace of Charles Boyle, the fourth Earl of Orrery (1676-1731), after whom the Orrery was named. Again according to the Survey of London in 1666, there were seven houses in Little Chelsea of a size that warranted the payment of the hearth tax. Little Chelsea was distinct and separate from Chelsea from 1650 to 1840, when it became absorbed into Greater Chelsea [Chelsea Scraps 1-270, 1897]. Little Chelsea Street was recorded in 1671. Little Chelsea is recorded in Hamilton’s map of 1664, updated in 1717. The Connoisseur Club, just off the Fulham Road in the 1980’s smelled of “sweat, money and sex”.
On the corner of Drayton gardens and Fulham Road is:
This was built by J. Stanley Beard & Clare in 1930 as The Forum Cinema with, according to Pevsner, “a prominent bowed foyer articulated by giant order Corinthian columns and Olympiad bronze torches,” designed by the architect H.A. Yapp.
Followed by what was:
Closed in 1971, this is now an estate agent. The existing building was built in 1849 but there are records of an alehouse there from 1768 with a bowling green and a skittle ground behind, where there is now Cavaye Place.
Then, on the south side, is:
Callow Street was named in 1861 after the family of a publican who established a building company in the 1840’s and was employed by Lord Cadogan to build new streets on his estate [Street names from: Kensington & Chelsea Names by B.R. Curle & Mrs. P.K. Pratt, K&C Libraries] – Cavaye Place (1937), formerly Clifton Place, Chelsea Grove, was named after the former Lord Mayor of Kensington, Major general W.F. Cavaye, in 1907.
The sheer glass office block, built in 1972 by Turner, Lansdown, Holt & Partners, is a harsh interruption of the surrounding brick and stucco terraces built in 1847. These in turn replaced eight weather-boarded cottages called Bowling Green Row, built in 1793.
Further on, and on the south side (left) is:
A non-conformist church, Park Chapel was built in Park Walk in 1718 by Sir Richard Manningham, the chief male-midwife of his day [acoucheur]. In Mitton’s book on Chelsea, published in 1902, it was reported that General Gordon received Holy Communion in the chapel before his ill-fated journey to Khartoum. His brother Sir Henry Gordon was a chapel warden and lived in Elm Park Road. The Chapel and its associated school was demolished in 1913 and replaced by St. Andrews Parish Church.
Chelsea Park, in which the chapel was situated, was leased by Manningham from William Sloane on 31st May 1724, following the collapse of the silk project. Soon after this date four Georgian houses were built at the north end of Park Walk, adjacent to the Goat in Boots pub. According to the Survey of London in 1913, “No.5 Park Walk retains its stair and panelled hall, and is the best preserved of the group.” And the Rev Scott says that they are, “excellent examples of the period, the fabric of the houses are mostly original and are worthy of examination.” No.3 was demolished to make way for the new and enlarged pub. The library has a reference to a picture of 5-11 Park Walk in 1725 with shop fronts inserted, but unfortunately the illustration has disappeared.
The rest of the houses on the east side of Lover’s Walk were built in the latter part of the 18th century. The present name, Park Walk, dates from 1886. In 1869 George Bryan describes the Walk thus: “After dark from its retirement and seclusion the area was dangerous for persons passing that way, it has degenerated into Tupenny Walk.”
The school at the south end is a typical Victorian Boarding School, red brick with expanses of windows and oversized gables, built after the famous 1870 Education Act to the designs of E.R. Robson.
At the Royal Court’s Theatre Scenic Workshop in Park Walk, scenes from Tony Richardson’s 1960 film ‘A Taste of Honey’ with Rita Tushingham were shot [md].
Francis Aliamet, a good engraver and the brother of the better known Jacques Aliamet, gives his address in 1763 as “near the chapel, Chelsea” which was probably Park Chapel [Croker].
The gloriously named Man in the Moon pub at the end of Park Walk dates back to 1769, but the Edwardian interior was sadly gutted in 2003. Progress!
William Donaldson, compiler of The Henry Root Letters and much else besides, lived at 139 Elm Park Mansions, Park Walk.
On the corner is:
This was originally a coaching inn on Fulham Lane, the turnpike from London to the South West. It was owned in 1671 by the Hon. Thomas Wharton and known as The Goat. He sold it to Sir Hans Sloane in 1713 as The Goat in Boots. Its name is said to derive from the Dutch ‘Mercurius is der Goden Boode’ which means ‘Mercury is the messenger of the gods’. Mercury was a sign used by inns where post horses were kept, and “de goden boode” was very freely translated into “goat in boots”. Thea Holme in her book on Chelsea said that, “the original figure of the god’s messenger is believed to have been ingeniously transformed by the artist George Morland (1763-1804) into the figure of a goat in top boots, with cutlass and spurs.” A crude copy of Morland’s painted sign on the side of the building is all, alas, that remains of the original goat in boots. Morland was frequently in a state of financial embarrassment, and painted several signs in payment for his drinks, his own epitaph on himself being, “here lies a drunken dog”. He painted the sign for the now long gone Cricketers pub [From Chelsea by Thea Holme, Hamish Hamilton, 1972; see also Blunt and Croker].
The current pub was built in 1888 by Messrs Turtle and Appelton from the designs and under the supervision of Mr T.H. Smith.
And opposite is:
Behind the houses on the west side are situated 27 studios - Bolton Studios, which were developed in 1883-8 by the sculptor Charles Bacon. Artists who have lived there include Theodore Roussel, Thomas Kennington, and Maurice Greiffenhagen. The church steeple in the distance is of St Mary The Boltons.
Further along is:
The existing building now housing the health club was built in 1902 by Frederick Humpherson, replacing three cottages built there in 1789. According to Betty Elzea in the Chelsea Society Report (2005), Thomas Crapper had his yard there in the late 1940’s. It was named Holmes Place in 1838, which some claim is after the local builder and landowner Jeffrey Holmes.
The site of a pub since at least 1760, the current building was erected in the 1860’s with the front dating from 1890 by H.I. Newton. Previously known as The Kings Arms, it was owned in 1904 by a Mr Henry H. Finch, which may be the source of its other name. In late 2007 it was “re-done-up” and renamed The Kings Arms.
In 1966 Ian Nairn noted in his book ‘Nairn’s London’ that, “Thirty years ago it was one of the favourite and most fashionable pubs of artistic Chelsea. In more recent times it has dropped into relative obscurity, but it retains something of its old décor, with its bare wood floor, Victorian advertising mirrors and general ruggedness.”
The pub is mentioned in Joan Wyndham’s book ‘Love is Blue’, “ Petya and I saw This Gun For Hire at the Forum cinema. Afterwards we strolled down the Fulham Road and as we were passing the Servite Church a terrific storm broke, with pink lightning forking over the rooftops… The storm was abating. We went down the road to Finch’s pub where he made me very drunk on double whiskies - it must have been about then that I suddenly decided I would like to sleep with him.”
And what used to be:
One of the first wine bars in England, this was at 198 Fulham Road from 1970-83.
Between Park Walk and the hospital there was in the 17th century a large mansion owned by Sir John Cope MP, who died there in 1721. His son, Sir John Cope, was defeated at Prestonpans in the Forty-Five and who was mocked by the Jacobites in their song “Hey, Johnnie Cope, are ye wauking yet?” The house was subsequently occupied by Duffield, owner of the infamous Chelsea Academies, a private mad house for persons of consequence. One of the patients was Alexander Cruden (d.1770), author of a biblical concordance. [See monograph ‘Little Chelsea’ by Rev W.S. Scott, 1940]
The alehouse The Three Jolly Butchers was next door from the 1740’s.
According to Croker, Manor Hall stood on the north side of the road in 1860, occupied by St. Philip’s Orphanage. Previously it had been a ladies’ boarding school where Miss Bartolozzi and Madame Vestris were educated.
Further west, on the left is:
Previously known as Chelsea Village and George Street, the attractive pairs of linked villas date from the 1850’s. There was a thriving ‘Life Class’ for artists in Limerston Street in the 1880’s.
With, on the right, north side:
The road and typical terraced houses date from 1861-6. In her book ‘Love is Blue’ about her life during the second World War, Joan Wyndham mentions having a flat in Redcliffe Road: “Subra was there too, Annie’s boyfriend, looking exotic and oriental in his red scarf, and little Gerald Wilde who used to paint in my studio in Redcliffe Road, with his long raggedy overcoat, prehensile nose and wild roving eyes.” She also reports meeting Dylan Thomas who had a flat in the Road:
“‘Pretty WAAF’, he breathed lasciviously, edging into a bar stool beside me. ‘What is your name?’
I said I was Joan, and what was his?
‘I’m Dylan Thomas, and I’m fucking skint’ he said. ‘Be a nice girl and buy me a drink.’”
Dylan Thomas lived at 5 Redcliffe Road before moving to 3 Wentworth Studios, Manresa Road in 1942.
The artists Edward Bawden lived at no.52, known then as Holbien Studios, from 1929-33, and Eric Ravilious from 1930-31.
Next on the right is:
This is one of the earliest and most unchanged parts of Little Chelsea. There is a record of Sir John Griffin having a house here in 1650. The impressive house, 1-3 Seymour Walk, was built by a Mr Mayoss in 1793, and it was for much of its life a Girls’ Acadamy, from 1821 until 1939. For part of this time it was an asylum for destitute females. The house next door, no.3a, called St. Dunstans Studios, was built in 1904 by C.H.B. Quennell. A Mr Omar Ramsden, who made the cross and candlesticks for St Mary’s Church, lived there. The rest of the houses in the cul-de-sac represent an interesting progression of one hundred and fifty years of domestic architecture, from 1810 to 1964. On the west side: no.5: 1829, nos.7-11: post-war, nos.11-27: 1810, nos.29-47: 1889, nos.49-53: 1964. On the east side: nos.22-58: 1810, nos.14-20: 1839, nos.10-12: 1845, nos.6-8: 1855, nos.2: 1845. [Source: Survey of London]
The artist Mary Moser RA lived in Seymour Walk in the 18th century. The Somerset Arms public house was on the west corner, initially built in 1794, rebuilt in 1881, still open in 1983 but now replaced by a pizza restaurant. Seymour Walk was previously called Seymour Place and Seymour Terrace.
According to Croker at no.36 Seymour Place Madame Riego, the widow of the unfortunate patriot General Riego “the restorer and martyr of Spanish freedom”, expired on 19th June 1824 aged 25.
According to Max Decharne [md] Iggy Pop and The Stooges rehearsed in “The Hole” in Seymour Walk.
The large modern building on the left is:
The site was originally that of Shaftsbury House, built in 1635, which first belonged to the Rt. Hon. Sir James Smith (d.1681), and was then bought and rebuilt in 1700 by Anthony Ashley Cooper, the third Earl of Shaftsbury and a close friend of Addison (who lived at Sands End House) and John Locke. He wrote ‘Essays of Human Understanding’ in the summerhouse in 1690.
Suffering from asthma, he sold it in 1710 to the bibliophile Narcissus Luttrell who lived there until his death in 1732. He is buried in Chelsea Old Church. His diary for December 1722 reads, “Down to the Magpie in Chelsey where there was a meeting of Justices, we settled and chose new surveyors of the highways. We dined there at 3 and broke up about 5.” Sir Walter Scott acknowledged Luttrell’s library in his preface to the works of Dryden.
The house was purchased by the Parish of St George Hanover Square in 1787 and became part of a St George’s workhouse. At that time a parish was responsible for its poor but did not necessarily have to care for them in their own parish, moving them “down the road and out of sight”. In 1848 it had 400 infant and aged poor. It was rebuilt in 1858 as St Georges Union Workhouse.
In 1878 a major new hospital was built next to the workhouse, designed by Saxon Snell and called St. George’s Union Infirmary. It was renamed St. Stephens Hospital in 1924 [See ‘The Hospital in Little Chelsea’ by C.M. Howgrave-Graham & L.J. Martin]. In this book the authors mention an interesting story: “The death on 23rd February 1920 of Annie Elizabeth Crook, who had been admitted to the infirmary a few days previously from the next door workhouse with cardiac failure, highlights a connection, if somewhat tenuous, between the infirmary and Jack the Ripper. Recent researches, Jack the Ripper by Stephen Knight, show that Annie Crook had in the early 1880’s entered into a clandestine ceremony of marriage with Prince Albert Victor (1864-92), otherwise known as Prince Eddy the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII and Alexandra. This union resulted in the early birth of a daughter who was born in a Marylebone Workhouse. Eddy died prematurely, and Annie became ill shortly after his death and was admitted to various workhouses and hospitals. It is said that certain of the witnesses to the marriage ceremony were later to become victims of Jack the Ripper and that they were permanently silenced to cover up yet another example of Prince Eddy’s scandalous behaviour.”
At St Stephens Hospital on 3rd August 1963, Stephen Ward, a key player in the Profumo affair, died of an overdose on Nembutal [md].
The hospital was replaced in 1963 by Sheppard Robson with the new Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, which was opened by the Queen in 1993. Was she aware of her family’s connection with the site?
In the hospital’s chapel there is ‘The Resurrection’ by Veronese (1528-1588). It was acquired by the Trustees of Westminster Hospital in 1950 for £9,000. It was originally bought in Venice in 1767 by Sir James Wright, who sold it in 1771 to the Earl of Lonsdale, who in turn sold it at auction in 1947.
[In 1636 Sir Francis Kynaston moved his Museum Minervae from London to Little Chelsea. He had a school for the sons of noblemen; he was a cupbearer to Charles I but resigned as he trembled so much.]
And opposite are:
Built in 1971 by Ian Fraser & Associates as “rather stark modernist dwellings over shops.” [Pevsner] Previously the site held Marsden’s original Cancer Hospital, built as a villa called Hollywood Lodge in 1820 and converted into the hospital in 1850, where it stayed for 10 years. This was demolished and replaced in 1869 by shops.
Next on the right and going north is:
According to the Survey of London, there are records in the 1660’s of a sizeable brick house, owned by Henry Middleton, to the immediate west of what is now Hollywood Road and Tesco on the Fulham Road. The family were extensive landowners in the area as well as in Barbados and the southern states of America – Henry was a governor of South Carolina. His son William Middleton (1710-1775) owned a large house to the east where Redcliffe Road now runs, but his son sold the house in 1776 as he lived in Charlston. Incidentally his cousin Arthur Middleton was one of the signatories of ‘The Declaration of Independence’.
Returning to Henry Middleton’s house in the 1770’s, a certain Louis Lochee opened a Military Academy in what is believed to be the same house. The Rev Scott called it Bolton House. Lochee built fortifications in the grounds and it was from there that in 1784 an ascent was made by two balloonists, Blanchard and Sheldon. They reached Romsey in Hampshire. The event was commemorated in the sign of the Hollywood pub, since removed. Lochee died in mysterious circumstances when involved in an independence movement to liberate Brabant from the Austrians. His death was recorded in The Gentleman’s Magazine in June 1791: “At Lisle, in Flanders, Lewis Lochee Esq., late Lieutenant Colonel of the Belgic Lion, and former keeper of the Royal Military Academy in Chelsea.” In 1892 the house, Hollywood House, was owned by a Captain Nesbit.
The Famous Bistro Vino restaurant was owned by Mr. Eddows.
Cathcart Road was named in 1865 after the great Crimea War hero Lord Cathcart. Brompton Road goes back to 1294 and Broome Farm, Tregunter Road goes back to 1852, named after Tregunter home of the Gunter family between Talgarth and Brecon in Wales.
It is recorded that Clair Bloom and Rod Steiger lived at 14 Fawcett Street.
Morton Edwards, secretary of the Society of Sculptors, had built a studio house at 16 Hollywood Road, opening to the rear of 27 Cathcart Road. It was built by Corbett and McClymont in a naïve Romanesque style with two ground level shops. Edward Hughs leased it in 1891.
Proceed up and left into Fawcett Street, and then fight into:
A certain James Gunter acquired the leasehold of the land owned by Louis Lochee in 1784. He was a successful Mayfair confectioner with a shop in Berkeley Square. The company currently trades as Payne & Gunter, caterers. His son Robert steadily purchased plots and, in 1836, the freehold. By 1850 he had assembled some 93 acres. It was his two sons, Robert and James, who, on their return from the Crimean War, started the major development programme, starting with The Boltons. Much of the estate was sold in 1917. Sir Ronald Gunter, the last baronet, died in 1980 with no sons.
The architects were the brothers George and Henry Godwin. They started with St Mary’s Church in 1849, at a cost of £3,000. The Boltons were built between 1850-60, Oakfield Street in the 1860’s, The Hollywood pub in 1865, and the Redcliffe Mansions in Redcliffe Square in the 1870’s. Most of the 1,100 houses in the area were built, to the Godwin designs, by the builders William Corbett and Alexander McClymont. They went spectacularly bankrupt in 1875, to the degree of £1.5 million, partially due to the cost of building St Lukes, Redcliffe Square.
George Godwin (1813-1888) was mainly known for being an editor from 1844-88 of the influential magazine The Builder, The Illustrated Weekly Magazine for Architects, Engineer, Archaeologist, Constructor and Art Lover. [See George Godwin by Anthony King in Architectural History 1976 Vol. 19] He is not to be confused with the glamorous architect and theatre designer Edward William Godwin (1833-1886) who designed Whistler’s White House in Tite Street and had an affair with the actress Ellen Terry.
The Boltons were named in 1852 after the Bolton family who owned land in the area. In his book ‘Walks in London’, 1878, Augustus Hare noted that The Boltons, “was very popular with artists and where forty years ago six brace of partridge were seen to rise,” and, “the country aspect of the Boltons was described in Lord Lytton’s novel ‘Godolphin’.”
The founders of Harvey Nichols, the famous Knightsbridge shop, lived in the Boltons in the 1850’s - James Nichols at no.10 and Mrs Benjamin Harvey at no.5. Incidentally the current building dates from 1889, designed by C.W. Stephens who also designed Claridges Hotel [Source: Survey of London Vol. XLV].
In 1964 Judy Garland rented a house in Bolton Gardens, and she died in 1969 in 4 Cadogan Lane [md].
This rapid change in the nature of the area is exemplified by William Gaunt in his book Kensington & Chelsea, where he quotes Crofton Croker from his book ‘A Walk from London to Fulham’ published in 1860. “Now is Brompton all built or being built over, which makes the precise locality of crescents and rows puzzling to old gentlemen. Its heath is gone and its grove represented by a few dead trunks and some unhealthy looking trees which stand by the roadside, their branches lopped and their growth restrained by order of the district surveyor.”
Further north in the Boltons is Bousfield School, built in 1954-6 by Chamberlin Powell & Bon for the LCC. Pevsner’s view is of “a notable example of the low, colourful, child-scaled school, built after the war as a reaction against the old inner London three deckers.”
Returning to Fulham Road and turning west, there used to be:
In the 1650’s four houses were built facing the Fulham Road between Hollywood Road and what is now Redcliffe Gardens - the Palmer-Verney House, where the Servite School playground now is. In 1680 John Verney married Ralph Parmer’s daughter Elizabeth and lived in the house. He commuted from this house to his merchant’s office in the City but had an unpleasant choice of transport: “by land tis unsafe for rogues, and by water tis cold besides a good walk in ye dirt and dark from Greate to Little Chelsey.” [Survey of London] His son Ralph became Lord Fermanagh in 1717 and Earl of Verney in 1720, and died in Little Chelsea in 1752. The house, though much changed, was only demolished in 1962 and the gates still survive.
Mulberry House was where Barker Street now runs. Records also show that in 1681 a Nicholas Staggins, master of the Kings Musick, had a house at 264 Fulham Lane. The Servite Church, built in 1874, now stands on the site. Heckfield Lodge was Burleigh House School from 1835-65 according to the Rev Scott. Netherton Grove: The New English Art Club met at the studio of the artist Fred Brown.
On the right, with the traffic coming down, is:
This prestigious N-S Boulevard of the Gunter Estate was begun in 1841, consisting of very large semi-detached houses of stock brick with rich Italianate stucco dressings. Redcliffe Square became a cohesive group of tall elegantly dressed brick villas designed by George & Henry Godwin in 1869-76. “These demonstrate the disintegration of the Italianate tradition. Each house boasts an elaborate porch with red granite columns and stiff leaf capitals, continuous iron balustrades, keystones, and cornice consoles display an eclectic mixture of Gothic detail, abstract lozenges and bevelled panels.” [Nikolaus Pevsner, London.]
It was named in 1869 after the Redcliffe area of Bristol where the estate architects had done previous work. Edith Grove was named in 1878 after Edith, one of the three daughters of Robert Gunter. Formerly Honey Lane, Finborough Road was named after Finborough Hall near Stowmarket in 1867, the country residence of the Pettiward Family, the owners of the area.
Little Chelsea had, in 1765, its own gibbet where a Chelsea pensioner was hanged for the murder of a man named Knight. The Rev Scott records that the body hung there for several years, and was referred to as a tassel. The gallows stood on the south side of Fulham Lane opposite the end of Walnut Tree Walk, now Redcliffe Gardens.
At the other end of Redcliffe Gardens, at the junction of Old Brompton Road, there was a car crash involving the Guinness heir Tara Guinness on 18th December 1966, which inspired John Lennon, a friend, to write the song ‘A Day in the Life’, which included the lines: “I read the news today, about a lucky man who made the grade. He blew his mind out in his car. He did not know the lights had changed.” This is according to Roger George Clark in his book ‘Chelsea Today’ and ‘The Kings Road’ by Max Decharne.
The Café des Artiste opened at 266 Fulham Road in 1960 [md]. The building dates from 1868 but it was extensively remodelled in 1960 following a fire.
In October 1962 the Rolling Stones were living in some squalor in 102 Edith Grove, and they played at The Wetherby Arms at 500 Kings Road [md].
South extension of Redcliffe Gardens:
Edith Grove: The artist Allen Jones of ladies’ legs fame lived at 16 Edith Grove from 1966-76. The street was named, in 1878, after Edith, one of the three daughters of Robert Gunter, the landowner.
Gunter Grove: Virtually all of the buildings on the entire west side had garden studios, very popular in the 1890’s. The sculptor Alfred Drury had a studio here. The pub ‘The Gunter Arms’ on the corner is currently closed.
Ifield Road: Formerly this was Honey Lane and a path from Holland House in Kensington to the River. Tony Blair rented a basement flat at 92 Ifield Road in 1975.
Proceed west, and on the right is:
Founded as the West London and Westminster Cemetery in 1837 and consecrated in 1840, this was sold to the government in 1852. The central octagonal chapel and colonnades were designed by Benjamin Baud. [For details of those buried at the cemetery see ‘50 Notable People - A selection with accessible and legible monuments’ by Robert Stephenson of The Friends of Brompton Cemetery.]
Beyond the cemetery is an attractive parade of early Victorian terrace houses with a central pediment and arched windows on the first floor. They would have been built some 25 years before the houses in Redcliffe Gardens.
And opposite there used to be:
This was located between Fulham Road and Kings Road, Gunter Grove and Hortensia Road. It was founded in 1808 by Joseph Knight and John Perry, and they sold it in 1853 to John Veitch. [See separate article] In 1914 it was sold for development. Currently there is a petrol station on part of the site.
Further west, on the south side, is:
The College was set up in 1841 as The National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principle of the Established Church. They bought the adjacent Stanley House as the residence for the Principal and built the school including the Octagon. Leo Tolstoy visited the college on 12th March 1861. Essays prepared for him by pupils can be seen in the Tolstoy museum in Moscow. In 2002 the site was jointly developed by European Land and Northacre, making 275 apartments and 14 houses, and named Kings Chelsea. Northacre were responsible for The Bromptons, Earls Terrace and Observatory Gardens.
Behind this is:
The house was originally built some time before 1625 by Sir Arthur George, a friend of the poet Edmund Spenser and a cousin of Sir Walter Raleigh. On his death in 1625, the property went to his daughter, the wife of Sir Robert Stanley. William Hamilton, British envoy at the court of Naples and husband of Lady Hamilton, bought the house in 1815. He accompanied Lord Elgin to Greece. He added a large picture gallery on the east side, which contained a series of casts from the Elgin marbles fixed around a frieze. The house was renovated in 2002 at a cost of £10 million.
Further west on the north side is:
The houses here were originally canal-side cottages dating from 1846-50. The Kensington Canal dated from 1828 when Counter’s Creek, a former tidal estuary of the Thames, was made navigable. By 1836 it failed and was sold to the LNW & GWR railway in 1859 and filled in. Previously called St. Marks Road in 1874, it was renamed Billings Road in 1939 after the proprietor of the medicinal springs Billings Well that were nearby, or after a stream Billing Well Dyche which dates from 1475. [Kensington & Chelsea Street Names by B.R. Curle & Mrs. P.K. Pratt. K&C Libraries]
The Fox and Pheasant pub is one of the few remaining pubs in the area to have a traditional split bar – a public bar and a saloon bar. Blatantly class-based, the beer was cheaper in the public bar, and the saloon bar had a carpet. In 1904 it was not a pub but a “beer retailer” run by a Mrs Jane Myes, and in 1946 it was still a beer retailer run by Arthur Tomkinson. It only became a pub in 1972.
The bar on the corner was The Black Bull pub, which is currently closed.
First referred to as Samfordbregge in 1410, then Sandford Bridge, Little Chelsea Bridge in 1582, and finally Stamford Bridge in 1635. It was rebuilt in 1762, 1828 and 1860. The Chelsea Creek was canalised and called Kensington Canal. This was in turn replaced by a railway line.
Beyond the bridge, on the left, are the new complexes of the famous:
This was founded in May 1905 by two contractors, Gus and Joe Mears. The prospectus was issued by ‘The Chelsea Football and Athletic Company Limited’. In that year they leased the current site from the old London Athletic Club which was built on the site of Jacques Poupart’s market garden, dating from 1770’s. It joined the league in 1905.
Further on, and behind a high wall, are:
This collection of 30 Italianate-styled artist studios in the shadow of the “shed end” of the Chelsea Football ground was transformed in the 1930’s by an Italian sculptor Mario Maneti and his glamorous Russian wife, and model Bushka from two late Victorian houses. Painters who lived and worked there include Pietro Annigoni (1910-88), who painted the Queen twice, and the portrait painter Aubrey Davidson-Houston (1906-95). An earlier resident of the area was William Holman Hunt who painted his iconic ‘The Light of the World’ there.
Just before this is a classic 1960’s block of flats called the West London Studios. The bar restaurant opposite, the Hook, used to be ‘The Rising Sun’ pub.
Then there is:
Further on again there are the:
In 1885 Whistler, Sickert and the Greaves Brothers had studios here. In 1913 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and his wife Sophie rented a studio here, at £26 per annum. Henri died in the First World War.
This is situated in a Twenty-First Century mini mall.
Including Chelsea’s 'A Town of Palaces' and Daniel Defoe’s 'A Tour Through England & Wales' 1724-1726.
Start at Sloane Square and go down Lower Sloane Street to the crossroads.
There are two detours; firstly straight on down Chelsea Bridge Road, passing on the left:
These were built in 1960-66 to the ‘designs’ of Tripe & Wakeham, and they were sold for redevelopment in 2005. The previous barracks were built in 1861 to the designs of George Moore.
And at the end is:
The first bridge, a suspension bridge, was built in 1858 by Thomas Page. The second bridge was built in 1934 by Rendel, Palmer & Tritton, and opened in 1937 by the Prime Minister of Canada. The original excavations of the site revealed Roman and British weapons, giving support to the rumour that Julius Caesar crossed at a ford here. More recently people have claimed to have forded the river here at low tide. The museum of London has a miniature chalk head found on the foreshore by Chelsea Bridge.
The second small detour is left at the crossroads into Pimlico Road to:
“Pray, are not the fine buns sold here in our town, was it not R-r-r-r-rare Chelsea Buns. I bought one on my Walk.” - Dean Swift in ‘Journal to Stella’, 1712.
The famous ‘Chelsea Bun’ was sold from a shop in what is now Bloomfield Terrace. It was run for three generations by the Hand Family and much visited by George II. It was demolished in 1840. The old Chelsea Bun House, Strombolo House, Jews Row (now Pimlico Road), was demolished in 1839 to be replaced by the New Bun House, which lasted until the early 20th century. [Please see the poem which refers to Chelsea Buns at the end of this section]
Returning, the main route is right along Royal Hospital Road to, on the left:
“Pleasantly seated on a plane of gravel overlooking the meadows and the River Thames.” – Wren.
The magnificent Royal Hospital was built between 1682-9 by Sir Christopher Wren, with the assistance of his pupil Hawksmore. It was built in response to the Sun King Louis XVI’s ‘Les Invalides’ in Paris, rather than Nell Gwyn’s special pleading. The bronze statue of Charles II by Grinling Gibbons was erected on Oak Apple Day, 29th May 1676. It is decorated with oak leaves to commemorate his escape in an oak tree during the Civil War. Inside there is a Van Dyke picture of Charles I and one by Lely of Charles II. The Duke of Wellington lay in state here in 1852.
Previously the site was occupied by a Theological College for the study of polemic divinity, built by James I in 1611. It was called “Controversy College” by Laud. In 1651 it became a prison for Scottish Covenanters and Dutch prisoners of War following the passing of the Navigation Acts in 1651. Evelyn in his diary of 8th February 1665 noted, “I visited our prisoners at Chelsey College, and to examine how the Martial & Suttlers behaved themselves. These were Prisoners taken in the Warr. They only complain’d that their bread was too fine. I din’d at Sir Hen. Herberts Master of the Revells.” It was demolished in 1682.
The Hospital was bombed three times: on 16th February 1918, 16th April 1941, and 3rd January 1945.
Sir Robert Walpole had a house nearby, Yarborough House, from 1714 until his death in 1745, after which it became an infirmary for the hospital. This was remodelled by Sir John Soane in 1810. The plans, submitted in 1809, also show a Drying Ground next to the carriageway and an Airing Ground south of the stables. Soane followed this with the stables in 1814-17, which still survive today, the Physicians House in 1819, the Surgeons House in 1821, and West Guard House in 1822, previously the Smoke House. The infirmary was destroyed by bombs in 1941, and The National Army Museum was built on the site.
The famous picture by Wilkie of news of the victory at Waterloo with the Royal Hospital in the background was painted outside the Royal Hospital Tavern on Jews Row, which was demolished in 1896. [Chelsea Scraps 1-270, 1897]
Burton Court was landscaped by the famous nurserymen London & Wise with gravel, grass and lime trees. The Royal Hospital Road cut across it in 1845.
“A rascal of a Frenchman shot my nose off.” A cartoon of fresh arrivals at Chelsea by Giles Grinagain in 1802 refers to close engagements under the command of the Marquis of Granby.
On the east side of the hospital, now gardens and a park, is the site of:
These pleasure gardens were opened on 5th April 1742 by Sir William Robinson and John Lacy, patentee of Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and they were finally closed in 1805, lasting all of 65 years. The central attraction was the Rotunda, a wooden structure 185 feet in diameter, of similar size to the Reading Room of the British Museum, designed by William Jones, with strong references to the Pantheon in Rome – an “all weather facility” in today’s jargon. It had a purpose-built canal with gondolas and a working model of Mount Etna. The gardens suffered actual earth tremors in 1750, adversely influencing trade.
In 1744 Horace Walpole was going “every night constantly to Ranelagh, which has totally beat Vauxhall.” On 29th of June 1764 Mozart played there. He was living with his family at Ebury Street at the time, and here he composed K16 and K19. In June 1749 it featured a scandalous show with Elizabeth Chudleigh playing Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon. It closed in 1826 and the land returned to the Royal Hospital. Beau Brummel, the inventor of the 3-piece suite, was a frequent visitor in the 1790’s. Ranelagh was painted by Canaletto. In 1770 the admission price was 3/6 including tea and coffee, and there was an armed guard to escort visitors back to Mayfair. There were 4,622 admissions to the firework display on 7th June 1790. The pavilion in the gardens was designed by Sir John Soane in 1824, and the gardens were laid out in 1860 by John Gibson.
[See ‘Inns & Taverns of Old London Part IV, Pleasure Gardens’ by Henry C. Shelley. Site: Researching Historic Buildings in the British Isles.]
Incidentally Hyde Park was used for hunting deer until 1768.
This was built in 1690 by Richard Jones, Earl of Ranelagh, a favourite of Charles II, using money embezzled from the Royal Hospital contract. He was dismissed in 1702 for gross fraud to the sum of £72,000. The house was, according to Defoe, “a little palace, I had almost called it paradise.”
Continue west along Royal Hospital Road, past the site of:
This was built in 1707 between the Royal Hospital and Physic garden for John Vaughan, Earl of Carberry, who made his fortune from slavery and was, according to Pepys, “one of the lewdest fellows of the age.” It became a school in 1816, a hospital in 1866, and a new wing was added in 1870 when Tite Street was built in its gardens. It is now apartments.
Walpole House, nearby, was built in 1690 and improved for Sir Robert Walpole by Sir John Vanbrugh.
Continue on to, on the left:
“Alongside the artistic squalor, we have the curious contrast of artistic splendour in a blazing brand-new quarter, of which the sacred centre is Tite Street.” – Benjamin Ellis Martin in ‘Old Chelsea’, 1899.
Tite Street was named after Sir William Tite, chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works who laid out the street during the construction of the Embankment. Previously it was the site of Gough House [see above].
On the left, going down, the following are of note:
No.29, the site of Canwell House by Godwin in 1879, now St. Wilfrid’s old people’s home.
Nos.33&31, The Studios, by R.W. Edis in 1878-80. Whistler lived there in 1881 and John Sergant, “I hate doing Paughtraits,” bought it in 1885, and he acquired no.31 in 1901. It is currently owned by the artist Julian Barrow.
No.35, the site of The White House built by E.W. Godwin in 1877 for Whistler who had to leave it following his bankruptcy and departure to Venice. Sadly it was demolished in the 1960’s and replaced by a faux Georgian building.
No.39, an interesting if fortress-like modern building adding interesting, if unwanted, contrast to the streetscape.
And on the right, going down, the following are of note:
He moved here in 1881. After his marriage in 1884 he moved to 16 Tite Street until 1895, when the scandal resulted in his incarceration in Reading Jail. On his release he went to France.
No.44, Keates House, by Godwin in 1878 for Frank Miles, a wealthy West Country vicar’s son and a seascape painter. He died in a lunatic asylum in 1891.
No. 46, The Tower House, by Godwin in 1884.
No.58 Chelsea Lodge, on the corner of Dilke Street, replaces a building by Godwin in 1878 for the Hon. Archibald Stuart Wortley. It was purchased by The Hon. Slingsby Bethell and then, in 1899, by Edwin Abbey RA.
At More House, Tite Street, lived Felix Lancaster “The Squire of Chelsea” (d.1990) whose sister Marie-Jaqueline wrote the biography of Brian Howard, the high camp poet who “ended up in the works of others”.
The road now changes its name to Cheyne Place, formerly:
The houses were built in the 16th and 17th centuries, but all were demolished by 1906. Reginald Blunt, the founder of The Chelsea Society, was so annoyed that he wrote a book about Paradise Row. It was entitled “Paradise Row or a Broken Piece of Chelsea” and published by Macmillan & Co. in 1906.
Hortense Mancini, the Duchesse of Mazarine, niece of Cardinal Mazarin, and mistress of Charles II, retired there with Sr. de St. Egremont. John Evelyn noted, “It was a story all the world knew”.
Ormond House was built in 1664 by the first Duke of Ormond on the corner of what is now Royal Hospital Road and Smith Street. In 1777 it became a maritime school.
Further down, on the left, is:
This consists of Eighteenth Century buildings. Mary Astell, a proto-feminist, lived in Swan Walk in 1694 when she wrote, “A serious proposal to ladies for their advancement of their true and greatest interest.” The walk used to lead down to The Swan, a famous riverside pub frequented by Samuel Pepys.
From here access can be gained to:
“The Physick garden wherein grows
The Love - feast tea for all the house.”
- Poem by Moravian Brethren.
Created on 26th July 1673 on land owned by Charles Cheyne, initially as a barge house for the Worshipfull Company of Apothecaries, the gardens were rather an afterthought. The land was given freehold to the Company in 1722 by Sir Hans Sloane at a nominal rent of £5 per annum. The first four cedars were planted there in 1683, presented by Sir Joseph Banks and bought over from Leiden by John Watts. Two were cut down in 1771. One died in 1874 and the last survived until 1904. An article in The Sketch of 8th September 1897 noted that, “While tea was still a new thing in England, specimens of the strange plant where shown in the Chelsea Physick garden,” and Horace Walpole, in a letter to Sir Horace Mann in 1743, says, “For the tea trees, now I am in town myself, if possible you shall have some seeds.” And Evelyn in his diary refers to, “many rare annuals, the tree bearing Jesuits bark has done much wonders in quartan agues.” Carl Von Linne, Linnaeus, visited it in 1736. It has the oldest rock garden in the country. It was converted into a trust in the 1980’s after the threat of development. Dr. Nathaniel Ward invented the Wardian Case in 1829, enabling the rubber plant to be transported from South America to Malaya. The plant artist G.D. Ehret (1708-1770) and friend of Sir Hans Sloane was the husband of Philip Miller’s sister-in-law. Miller (1722-1770) was head gardener at the Physic garden during its formative period. He was succeeded by William Forsyth, of forsythia fame.
The road now reaches the River Thames and the Embankment. A diversion east along the embankment:
The Embankment on the north bank of the Thames was built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette following the “Great Stink” of 1858, or, as Disraeli said, “A stygian pool reeking with ineffable and unbearable horror.” The Victoria and Albert sections were completed and opened in 1870, with Chelsea Embankment opening in 1874.
“The embankment offers one of the most interesting arrays in inner London of grand urban houses in the Queen Ann style; tall individualistic designs in red brick, some of the first to challenge the supremacy of the earlier uniform stucco terraces of Belgravia and Kensington.” – Pevsner.
No.18 Cheyne House, designed by Norman Shaw (1827-1912) in 1875-7, was converted into flats in 1989.
No.17 Swan House, designed by Norman Shaw in 1876, is a fine example of Queen Ann Revival with an ‘Old English’ device of a jettied first floor and three oriels. “The whole design is amazingly original and graceful.” - Pevsner. Shaw also designed the Albert Hall Mansions in 1879 and Bedford Park, London’s first garden suburb.
No.16 designed by A.Croft.
No.15 Delahay House, designed by Shaw.
No.13 Garden Corner of 1878-80, designed by I’Anson and refurbished inside in 1906 by C.F.A. Voysey - one of his best.
No.12 designed by Hungerford Pollen in 1877.
Nos.9-11 designed by Shaw.
No.8 Clock House, designed by Shaw.
No.7 designed by Phene Spears in 1878/9 for Sir Robert Collier, Baron Monkswell.
Nos.4-6 built in 1877 by E.W. Godwin as a speculative development, in the Queen Ann style, for Gillow & Co.
No.3 River House, rear secular work, built in 1876 by George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907).
Nos.2 designed by Warren in 1894, in a “Wrenaissance” style.
No.1 designed by Warren in 1913, in a “Wrenaissance” style.
Returning to the corner of Cheyne Place and Flood Street, head west along Cheyne Walk, which runs parallel to the Embankment:
This was named after the Cheyne family who held the manor from 1657 to 1712.
No.1 – This was rebuilt in 1887, incorporating items from other houses demolished in the area.
No.2 – This was built in 1717 as part of Sir Hans Sloane’s ribbon development. It was refronted in 1879. John Barrymore lived there in 1924-5.
No.3 – This was built in 1717. Admiral Henry Smith, founder of the Royal Geographic Society, lived there from 1788 to 1865. Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg bought it in 1969 for £50,000.
No.4 – This was built in 1718. George Eliot briefly lived here before her death 19 days later, as did the painters Dyce and Maclise.
No.5 – This was built in 1718. A wealthy miserly eccentric lived there and gave £500,000 to Queen Victoria on his death. Her Uncle Leopold noted that this was, “good news, because one never knew what might happen to Royalty, which was already much diminished on the Continent.” The iron gate and railings may have come from Lindsey House.
No.6 – This was built in 1718. Joseph Danvers lived there, as did Dr. Dominiceti, who operated Dr. Dominiceti’s Baths in Cheyne Walk in the 1760’s. Admiral W.H. Smythe FRS lived there in the 1840’s and 50’s.
Nos.7-12 – These were built in the Queen Ann style in the 1880’s.
No.10 – David Lloyd George lived here 1924-5.
No.14 – Bertrand Russell lived here from 1902-4 whilst writing ‘The Principles of Mathematics’. At the time he noted, “This place is singularly beautiful.” In 1921 after his second marriage to Dora at Chelsea Registary Office, he lived in no.31 Sidney Street. The building itself is a 20th century neo-Georgian rebuild.
No.15 – The Chelsea painter Cecil G. Lawson lived here in 1869. His father was William Lawson and his brother was Francis Lawson.
Nos.16-34 were built in 1708 by Thomas Huton [Pevsner claims that no.16 was built in 1717 by John Witt] on land leased from Lord Cheyne, and they backed onto the gardens of Shrewsbury House.
No.16 – Now called Tudor House, it was built sometime before 1692, allegedly for the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, whom he married in 1662. The gateway to the house still has her initials on it, and formerly was surmounted by a crown and sceptre. In fact the RC stands for an apothecary called Richard Chapman, the first owner. It was called Queens House in 1892. A painting of her by Lely hangs in the Council Chamber of The Royal Hospital. The District of Queens in New York is named in honour of her after the British seized control of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in 1664. It was recently reported that the black president of Queens had removed her picture from the wall of the town hall, claiming her family had profited from slavery, and had managed to defeat plans for a statue of her near the UN building.
It is thought that the house was designed by a pupil of Wren.
In 1862 Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) moved in with George Meredith, the novelist, and Swinburn. His wife Elizabeth Siddal died of an overdose of laudanum. Rosetti painted her as Beatrice, Dante’s lover. There is a monument to Rossetti in the Embankment Gardens, with a fountain by J.P. Seddon and a bust by Maddox-Brown, instigated by Holman Hunt in 1887. He was photographed in the gardens of the house in 1863 by Lewis Carroll and the Rev C.L. Dodgson. It is claimed that Rosetti’s pet wombat was the original dormouse in Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
It is said that Catherine Parr haunted this house, being, “quite a nuisance on the stairs,” the house being built on the site of the second manor House [Chelsea scraps 1-270 1897].
Rossetti on the Thames: “Wan Water, wandering water wettering.”
No.18 – Don Saltero’s coffee house was where 18 Cheyne Walk now is. It was opened in 1695 by James Salter, valet to Sir Hans Sloane and named by Vice Admiral Munden. It featured a museum or “knackatory” of objects he obtained from that great collector and co-founder of the British Museum Sir Hans Sloane. It was visited by, among others, Dr. Johnson, the poet Joseph Addison, the essayist Richard Steele who mentions its “punch” [Tatler, 28th June 1700] and Benjamin Franklin, who mentions coming to Chelsea “to see the college and Don Saltero’s curiosities.” Joseph Addison had a country house just over Chelsea Creek on the Fulham side and Jonathan Swift in his ‘Journal to Stella’ noted that in 1710, “We dined at a country house near Chelsea, where Mr Addison often retires.” Addison later married Lady Warwick of Holland House in 1716. Dr Johnson noted that it was, “a match that resembles the marriage in which the sultan gives his daughter a man to be her slave.”
[For the poem first published on 22nd June 1723 please see notes at end.]
Nos.19-26 – These were built in 1759-65. Wyndhan Lewis lived at no.21 from 1935-6, and Bram Stoker lived here when he wrote Dracula in 1896. His next novel ‘Miss Betty’ was set in 18th Century Cheyne Walk.
Between nos. 23 & 24 there is Cheyne Mews, with a sign on the wall regarding King Henry VIII’s Manor House.
Nos. 27-30 – These make up a pleasing semicircular parade which used to balance the Pier Hotel opposite.
This was laid out in 1860 through the grounds of the Manor House, which was demolished in 1758, and adjacent to Winchester House, which was demolished in 1828. The Pier Hotel, facing Cadogan Steam Boat Pier and owned by Goldings, was demolished in the 1960’s.
The statue ‘Boy on a Dolphin’ is by David Wynne. His other work includes Dancer with Bird, 1975, in Cadogan Square, and Dancers, 1971, in Cadogan Place.
The other major house in the area, The Manor House, in what is now Chelsea Manor Street, was acquired in 1536 by Henry VIII from either William Baron Sandys of The Vyne or Sir Reginald Bray, in exchange for an estate at Mottisfont near Romsey, dated 14th July, anno 28 Henry VIII. The estate had recently been sequestrated from the Church and is still referred to as Mottisfont Abbey. The Manor of Chelcheya was originally given, according to George Bryan’s book on Chelsea published in 1869, to the Abbott of Westminster by Edward The Confessor. It is recorded thus in the Domesday Book of 1086. He built a new house initially for Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry’s second wife Ann Boleyn, who was executed that year. Elizabeth, the future queen, was 4 years old when she moved in.
The Wriothesleys Chronicle reported that, “The 20th day of Maie, 1536, the King was marred secretlie in Chelsey in Middlesex to one Jane Seymour”. The marriage lasted all of one year before she died. Her son, the future ill-fated Edward VI, also lived at the manor house when young. Jane Seymour had two brothers: Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector, governing as regent for the young King Edward VI, his sister’s son; and Thomas Seymour, Lord High Admiral. In the year 1538 the same Chronicle reported that, “The image of Our Lady of Wallsingham with all the jewells that honge about them.... and they were burnt at Chelsey by my Lord Privy seal, Cromwell, because people should use noe more idolatry into them.”
Katherine Parr, Henry’s sixth and last wife, lived there after his death in 1547. She wrote in that year, “By what means the time is so well abbreviated I know not, except weeks be shorter in Chelsey, than in other places.” She moved out following her riotous affair and adventurous marriage in 1548. A letter written by “Kateryn the Quene” to Seymour went thus, “When it shall be your pleasure to repair hither, ye must take some pain to come early in the morning, that ye may be gone again by seven o’clock and so I suppose ye may come without suspect. I pray you let me have knowledge over night at what hour ye will come, that my porteress may wait at the gate to the fields for you.”
Thomas Seymour was executed for high treason in 1549, and the death warrant was signed by his brother Edward Seymour. It was found that he had ambitions to marry Elizabeth and his plot was discovered. It was said of him that, “there died a man with much wit and very little judgement.”
Finally Anne of Cleves, unkindly referred to as the “Mare of Flanders”, and Henry’s fourth wife of just six months duration, lived there until her death in 1557.
On her ascension to the throne in 1558, Elizabeth I used the house to accommodate Ann Seymour, the Duchess of Somerset, widow of Edward Seymour, Lord Protector, until her death in 1587.
The next tenant in 1610 was Lord Howard of Effingham, later Earl of Nottingham, who had, in 1588, defeated the Spanish Armada. On 10th January 1600 the Sidney papers note, “Her Majesty dined at Chelsea at my Lord of Nottingham.”
During the reign of Charles I it was owned by the Duke of Hamilton, until his death at the Battle of Worcester in the Civil War.
The pleasant red brick Manor house, illustrated in Hamilton’s map, was then bought by Charles Cheyne and Lady Jane Cavendish in 1655. Charles II made Charles Cheyne into Lord Cheyne in 1681.
The house was sold by their son William Lord Cheyne to Sir Hans Sloane in 1712. Sir Hans Sloane was physician to Queen Anne, George I and George II, and is credited, while on a visit to Jamaica in 1687, with the invention of milk chocolate. He followed Sir Isaac Newton as President of The Royal Society and gave land for the Physic Garden, operated by The Apothecaries Company. He was referred to as the father of Natural History and his collection formed part of the initial collection of the British Museum.
In 1717 Sloane’s second daughter Elizabeth married Charles Cadogan, the second Baron, who inherited three-quarters of Sloane’s estate on his death – some 270 acres. It has remained in the same family ever since as the Cadogan Estate, which owns some 94 acres of Chelsea with 4,000 flats and 700 houses. Sloane’s elder daughter Sarah married George Stanley of Paultons, who inherited the balance of the estate, the Sloane Stanley Estate.
The Manor House itself was demolished in 1755, two years after Sloane’s death. A sign in Cheyne Mews states that 19-26 Cheyne Walk were built on the site of the Manor House in 1759-65, and a sign on Cheyne Studios in Cheyne Gardens points to a boundary wall of the Manor.
Winchester House was built in the mid-Seventeenth Century by James, Duke of Hamilton. It then became the palace for the Bishops of Winchester until the end of the Eighteenth Century. The house was demolished and replaced by the Pier Hotel, twelve houses in Oakley Street, five shops (including Margie’s Smithy and Thurston’s Billiard Factory), and the famous Blue Cockatoo Restaurant. Its visitors’ book between the wars reads like an artistic “who’s who” of the period; Eric Gill signed it in 1927. The whole site was sold by the Cadogan Estates in 1962 to Wates, who built the current Pier House, the blocks of flats, a showroom, and the statue of ‘A Boy on a Dolphin’.
The houses on Cheyne Row were started in 1708 in the gardens of the big house, and it was one of the earliest terrace developments. St Leonards terrace followed in 1765, and then Smith Street in 1794-1807. The essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle, the sage of Chelsea, lived in Cheyne Row from 1832 till his death fifty years later. A statue of him by Sir Edgar Boehm can be found in the Embankment Gardens. Incidentally Boehm’s studio was in Sidney Mews, off Fulham Road, where he died following a visit from Princess Louise, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria. It is alleged that they had been long-term lovers.
This was built in 1841 to handle the steamboat traffic, which departed every 15 minutes for the one-hour journey to London Bridge.
This was designed in 1873 by Roland Mason Ordish, who also designed the roof of St Pancras Station and a bridge in Prague. It was strengthened and modernised by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in 1884 during the construction of the Embankment. It was strengthened again in 1973 following a campaign to save it, led by John Betjeman. Most of the bridges were bought out of private ownership in the 1870’s by the Metropolitan Board of Works, and Albert Bridge was freed in 1879. Thomas Blood, the Irish Jewel thief, lay in wait in the reeds near where the bridge now is in order to shoot King Charles II as he swam by. Scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘A Clockwork Orange’ were shot in the pedestrian underpass under Albert Bridge where Alex, the Droog, is beaten up by tramps in revenge.
No.37 is the site of the ‘Magpie and Stump’ pub where Colonel Despard’s plot to kill King George III and rob the Tower of London was hatched. The house on the site was designed by Ashbee and “deplorably” demolished in 1968 for a block of “lumpish” flats, according to Pevsner.
Nos.38-39 consist of houses built in 1898-9 by Charles Robert Ashbee (1863-1942), a friend of Frank Lloyd Wright. No.39 was “built as a studio house for Miss Clara Christian [a still life painter], is of red brick, with narrow, evenly spaced Queen Ann windows, the rhythm quickening on the rough cast second floor. No.38, in masterly contrast, the windows are spaced more widely, above a bold arched basement entrance, and are crowned by a memorably austere roughcast gable.” – Pevsner.
No.42 – Here Lutyens built a house called London House, which was reviewed in Country Life on 14th January 1933. His client was Guy Liddell with his eccentric wife the Hon. Calypso Baring, who had the walls papered with copies of The Times. Guy Liddell was MI5’s director of counter espionage during the war and deputy director general of MI5 from 1947-52. He has been accused of being “the most successful mole of all” by John Costello’s ‘Mask of Treachery’ (1988) and Richard Deacon’s ‘The greatest Treason: The bazaar story of Hollis, Liddell and Mountbatten’ (1989) [See ‘The Guy Liddell Diaries Vol. I’, 1939-42, edited by Nigel West]. It has since been replaced by a block of flats, as have nos.43-45.
Shrewsbury House was built in 1519 by George Earl of Shrewsbury, a friend of King Henry VIII and a privy councillor. He was the grandfather of the Sixth Earl, who married the famous Bess of Hardwick. She built Chatsworth House, which is still in the hands of her descendant the Duke of Devonshire. The house, at one time a girls’ school and wallpaper factory, was demolished in 1810. In 1933 Sir Edwin Lutyens built a house on the site, 42 Cheyne Walk, for G.M. Liddell. It was in turn demolished and replaced by a block of flats.
Nos.46-48 were built in 1711 and are the site of Three Tuns pub. Mick Jagger was living at no.48 Cheyne Walk in May 1969 with Marianne Faithfull when he was busted by the police for drugs. He was found guilty but has always claimed that he was framed by the police Det. Sgt. Robin Constable. The monument to Carlyle in the gardens is by Boehm. No.49 is the site of the Feathers pub.
A detour north up:
Great Cheyne Row, nos.16-34, was developed on the gardens of the Feathers pub in 1708 by Elbrow Glentworthy as one of the first terraces in Chelsea. It was named after the Lord of the Manor, Viscount Cheyne.
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), The Sage of Chelsea, lived at 24 Cheyne Row (was no.5) for 50 years from 1834. He was visited by John Stewart Mill, Tennyson, Ruskin, and Leigh Hunt who lived at 10 Upper Cheyne Row, and sent him “kind unpractical messages”. Carlyle described his house thus: “It is a remnant of genuine old dutch-looking Chelsea, looking out mainly on trees. We might see at half a mile distance Bolingbrokes Battersea.” - Charles Marriott in the Evening Standard, 12th September 1910 [Chelsea scraps].
A statue to him by Sir Edgar Boehm was set up in 1882 in Embankment Gardens. The Evening Standard reported, in 1908, that Rodin had made a sculpture of Whistler to be placed next to Carlyle. It was of a muse holding a medallion featuring a bust relief of Whistler. [Chelsea Scraps 5, 778]
Boehm was also responsible for the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington at Hyde Park Corner and Lord Napier of Magdala in Queens Gate.
Thomas Carlyle frequented the old Six Bells pub on the Kings Road. His wife did not allow smoking in the house, except on the roof.
Lawrence House, also known as Monmouth House, was built in the 1950’s at the top of what is now Laurence Street. The famous Chelsea Pottery with its anchor sign operated nearby from 1736-84. In 1714 it was rebuilt by the Duchess of Monmouth, the widow of Charles II’s illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth who had led the notorious Monmouth rebellion in 1685 against James II, the younger brother of Charles II, for which he was executed. Her secretary John Grey wrote ‘The Beggar’s Opera’.
The house was demolished in 1835. The novelist Tobias Smollett lived there from 1753, since the climate was regarded as beneficial for his sick daughter. A review of Tobias Smollett by Jeremy Lewis noted that, “Smollett tried to cocoon himself within a circle of fellow hacks whom he entertained in his Chelsea house.”
The porch remained, opposite Justice Walk, until 1892 at least. Incidentally Alfred Beaver in his book of that year described Justice Walk as, “This squalid passage was once a pleasant thoroughfare, planted with an avenue of lime trees.”
The site of the pottery was at the top of Lawrence Street. Chelsea Porcelain was founded by a Flemish Huguenot goldsmith named Nicholas Sprimont in 1745, financed by Sir Everard Falkner in his garden of Monmouth House, now the north end of Lawrence Street. By the 1760’s it was rivalling Sevre but by the end of the decade it was purchased by William Duesbury and became “Chelsea-Derby” ware. It was demolished in 1784.
Its mark was a red anchor and it specialised in figurines, birds, and “objets de vertu” or “toys/exquisite trifles” such as snuff boxes, scent bottles and pill cases. It was situated in Lawrence Street at the corner with Justice Walk. It was described by a French visitor as “La veritable porcelaine de Shellsea.” [Chelsea Scraps 1-270, 1897] [Elizabeth Adams, “Chelsea Porcelain”, BM Press] [See Red Anchor Close.] A breakaway factory made the famous “girl on a swing”. A service of Chelsea Porcelain was given by The King to the Duke of Meckleburg at a cost of £1,200. King George III had a coffee pot of Chelsea China on board the Royal Yacht.
Further down Lawrence was the Cross Keys Pub, now a restaurant. An old print shows it overlooking the river. In January 1920 the rather eccentric landlady, Mrs. Frances Buxton, was found murdered. The motive was believed to be robbery. [The Times, 19.1.1920]
A further detour into:
This used to be known as Little Cheyne Row. The houses were built in 1710-15 in the gardens of the old Winchester House. Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), the son of an American lawyer who had to leave in 1775 as he had supported the union, lived at no.22. Leigh published both Byron and Shelley in 1822 and moved to Chelsea in 1833.
Greville Wynne, the English spy held by the Russians, lived in no.19 and was a regular at the Cross Keys pub. He was approached by GRU officer Oleg Penkovsky in Moscow in 1961 and handled him until his arrest in Budapest in 1962. Following imprisonment, he was released as a wrecked man in 1964 [From ‘A spy’s London’ by Roy Berkeley]. [See Nigel West’s ‘Seven Spies Who Changed the World’.]
The potter William de Morgan lived at no.30 in 1872, then moved to The Vale, and finally to 127 Old Church Street.
The Church was built in 1905 to the designs of Edward Goldie, and it contains the vertebrae of Sir Thomas More, originally from Brugges.
No.50 was the site of a pub - The Kings Head and Eight Bells – but is now converted into a Brasserie. The original pub burnt down in the 1880’s.
These were built on the site of the Three Cricketers Pub and Thames Coffee House in 1886. Henry James lived there in 1913 whilst becoming a British Citizen, having previously stayed with Rosetti in 1869. “This Chelsea perch, this haven of sage and seagull, proved, even after a brief experiment, just the thing for me.” - Henry James. T.S. Eliot lived there in 1915-50, where he taught the young John Betjemin. Ian Fleming wrote his first Bond book ‘Casino Royale’ in Carlyle Mansions in 1952, the year he married Ann, the recently divorced Lady Rothermere [See John Pearson’s ‘The Life of Ian Fleming’]. Erskin Childers and Somerset Maugham also lived there.
William Holman Hunt lived in no.59 in 1850-3. Holman Hunt painted ‘The Light of the World’ on the first floor of the fifth house in the row east of Chelsea Old Church. According to a letter in the Daily Mail in 1910 he had, “a humble first floor room over a small shop run by a Mrs Bradshaw, to whom the painter was most kind.” He coined the term Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The Cheyne Hospital for Children, built in 1888 by Beazley & Burrows in an “overblown Queen Ann style” according to Pevsner, is now converted into flats.
The painter Whistler lived here between 1863-78, firstly at 101 Cheyne Walk, and then at 96 Cheyne Walk, where he painted the famous picture of his mother ‘Arrangements in Grey and Black’ which is now in the Louvre. He then moved to Tite Street, but in 1893 he moved back to Cheyne Walk, this time to no.74, a house designed by C.R. Ashbee and on the site of ‘The Magpie and Stump’ which had burnt down in 1886. He died there in 1903. The famous libel case where he sued Ruskin for his criticism “Flinging a pot of paint in the publics face” refers to his painting of fireworks at Cremourn Gardens, entitled ‘Nocturn in Black and Gold, falling rockets’ [see details at end of section].
Nos.62-63 were built in 1686 by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Nicholas Sprimont of the Chelsea Pottery lived at no.63 in 1755-6, near the Old Church. It was bombed and then restored, as was the church. No.64 Petyt Hall is part of the church.
Chelsea Old Church was founded in 1316 in reign of Edward I, rebuilt in 1667, then bombed in 1942 and rebuilt again. There is a tomb dated 1669 of Lady Jane Cheyne, daughter of Duke of Newcastle, and wife of Charles Cheyne Viscount Newhaven. Chained books given by Sir Hans Sloane in 1712 include the ‘vinegar bible’ - so called because in one verse vineyard is spelt vinegar. Full details of this most interesting church can be found in the guidebook available in the church.
The seated statue of Sir Thomas More was made by L. Cubitt Bevis in 1969.
Cross Old Church Street and continue into:
Described as “the most beautiful spot in Old Chelsea,” by Sir William Orpen in a letter to the Times in 1927.
The Lombard Café & Restaurant used to be on the corner of Old Church Street, but it was demolished in the 1930’s. Other lost buildings include no.68 (The Rising Sun Pub, conveniently opposite the church); no.72 (originally built by Ashbee in 1896-8 as studio houses, the sculptor Jacob Epstien lived here and his sculpture marks the site where it stood before it was bombed in 1941, and eighteen of his carvings are on the façade of the BMA building on the Strand but were defaced in the 1930’s when it was used by the Southern Rhodesia Government); no.74 (designed by Ashbee for himself and his bride, the place where Whistler died, finally destroyed in the war); no.75 (again designed by Ashbee in 1901 for Mrs William Hunt, an art collector).
New houses were built but were subsequently bombed by a parachute mine on 17th April 1941. The houses were replaced in 1961. The gardens were built in 1965 to the designs of Peter Shepheard. The building of the embankment entailed the loss of Lombard and Duke Streets, between Old Church Street and Beaufort Street, and included The Adam & Eve Pub, Alldins Coal Wharf, and Arch House.
Originally the area was the site of a large house built in 1580’s for the Bishop of London. In 1879 it was subdivided as Lombard Terrace with an arch punched through to make way for Lombard Street. It was demolished in 1930. The name Roper is after William and Mary Roper who were given the land by Thomas More in 1521 as a marriage gift.
The site of Danvers House was behind Roper Gardens. It was built in 1622 by Sir John Danvers, who signed Charles I’s death warrant in 1649. It was an early example of the Italian renaissance style and it is thought that Inigo Jones was involved with it. The poet Dr. John Donne of “no man is an island” fame stayed there, whilst the Dean of St. Paul’s also stayed there to escape the plague in 1625. He preached the sermon at the funeral of Lady Danvers, who was some 20 years older than Sir John, at Chelsea Old Church in 1627. Isaak Walton, his biographer and the author of ‘The Compleat Angler’, was at the funeral. The house was bought by Hon. Thomas Wharton, a leading Whig of the day and owner of Chelsea Park, who was renowned in his youth as “the greatest rake in Britain.”
The house was demolished in 1716 and its famous Italianate gardens were converted in the 1830’s into Paulton Square, with its late Georgian style terraced houses.
Cross Danvers Street to, in front of you:
The oldest house in Chelsea is in fact an import. Crosby Hall, Danvers Street, was originally built in 1422 at Bishopsgate for a wealthy merchant named Sir John Crosby [seventy years before the discovery of America]. On his death it was let to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who became Richard III in 1483. He was killed at the battle of Bosworth in 1485. Sir Thomas More owned the building before he moved to Chelsea. Shakespeare has Richard, Duke of Gloucester say, in the play Richard III (I.2. line 212), “And presently repair to Crosby Hall.” It was moved, stone by stone, to its present site in 1910 to make way for a bank, and in the First World War it housed Belgian refugees. The American writer Henry James, who was living in nearby Carlyle Mansions, helped these refugees and subsequently wrote ‘Refugees in Chelsea’, which was printed privately in 1920. The White Hart pub was on part of the site. One of Chelsea’s famous old riverside pubs, The Adam and Eve, was torn down when they made the Embankment, and the road opposite Crosby Hall thunders over its foundations.
Continue along Cheyne Walk, which now forms part of the Embankment, past an apartment block More Gardens, to:
This was laid out in 1766 on the site of Beaufort House.
The history of the area becomes much clearer after one of the great houses of Chelsea was built in 1524 by Sir Thomas More. In fact he adapted an existing 15th century building. He was the author of ‘Utopia’ in 1510 and Lord Chancellor to King Henry VIII, replacing Cardinal Wolsey. In 1520 he attended the Field of the Cloth of Gold outside Calais when Henry met Francis I of France. He was executed in 1535 for refusing to accept Henry’s break from Rome, and was canonised in 1935. The quintessential English actor Kenneth More was a direct descendent. The epitaph over his tomb in the Church has a word omitted and runs, “Furibus qitem et homiadus…………Molestus” which translates, “Scourge of thieves, murderers and……….” The omitted word is thought to be “heretics”, since More bound heretics to a tree in his garden and had them flogged, and the tree was referred to as the “Judas Tree”.
Sir Thomas More was the main character in Robert Bolt’s play ‘A Man for All Seasons’, played by Paul Scofield. The artist Hans Holbein is said to have stayed three years in this house, and his drawing of Sir Thomas More and family is in the National Portrait Gallery. He also designed the renaissance capitals in 1528 for More’s chapel in the church. Erasmus, the Dutch scholar and priest and leading humanist of the renaissance era, was a regular visitor. He wrote of More, “There is not a man living so affectionate to his children, he loveth his old wife as well as if she was a young maid.”
The house itself was situated south of the Kings Road, where Beaufort Street now runs, and it was described by Erasmus as “not mean nor invidiously grand, but comfortable.” The area to the north was the park to the house. It was often referred to as Sand Hills and, after being enclosed by a wall in 1625 by the Lord Treasurer Cranfield, it became Chelsea Park. The eastern side of the park was bordered by what is now Old Church Street and previously Church Lane, an extension of Church Street south of the King’s Road. This street was the original “High Street” of Chelsea. The western side of the estate was bordered by what is now Park Walk, previously Lover’s Walk. [See Kip’s view of Beaufort House printed in 1699, with current street pattern superimposed.]
The house was forfeited to the King and in 1538 rented to the French Ambassador. It was then acquired by William Paulet, Marquis of Winchester, who died in 1572. The house was then acquired, in 1596, by Sir Robert Cecil, son of William Cecil Baron Burghley, later the Earl of Salisbury, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth I. In a much quoted incident Sir Robert, whilst walking with the Queen, sheltered from a shower of rain under an elm tree in the grounds of the estate. She gratefully declared, “Let this henceforth be called the Queen’s Tree.” In parish records of 1667 a tavern called The Queen’s Tree is mentioned, from which The Queen’s Elm evolved. After only a few years and major alterations, he sold it to Henry, Earl of Lincoln, who in turn sold it to Sir Robert Stanley.
By the reign of Charles I it was known as Buckingham House, being owned by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. A report in 1626 noted that, “yesterday at Chelsey House the Duke feasted the King and Queen.”
It was sequestrated by Cromwell during the Commonwealth or republic when a Mr Whitelock lived there and was sent by Parliament as ambassador to Sweden. He purchased his pardon after the restoration in 1660, truth and reconciliation old style.
After the restoration of Charles II, the house was purchased by the Duke of Beaufort, hence its name. John Evelun in his diary entry of 3rd September 1683 noted, “I went (together with my wife etc.) to Chelsey, to see my charge, the daughters and children of my deare friends V. Countesse Mordaunt; After dinner I walked to survey what had ben don as to repairs etc. by the Duke of Beaufort upon his late purchased house at Chelsey, of which I had once the selling of for the Countess of Bristol; I found he had made great alterations, but might have built a better house with the materials & that Cost.”
Chelsea Park appears to have been owned by Lord Wharton, who lived at Danvers House from the 1670’s until 1714 and is the reputed author of ‘Lilliburlero’, the famous anti-Jacobite song which was said to have “sung a King out of three kingdoms”, referring to the precipitous flight of James II in 1688.
Ralph Palmer writes in a letter to his nephew Lord Fermanagh, dated 3rd December 1705 from Little Chelsea, that, “My Lord Wharton’s great stable in Church Lane, Chelsey, is converted into a playhouse where we have all been to see great things. A fine scaramouch performed by the Duke of Southampton’s servants.”
In 1737 the house was bought by Sir Hans Sloane for £2,500 and sadly demolished, there being no listing at the time. It was replaced by Beaufort Street, which was begun in 1766. The only surviving element is the gate designed by Inigo Jones and now at Chiswick House, evincing, “O gate, how cam’st thou here,” from the poet Alexander Pope, famous for: “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
On the left is:
The first bridge was built of wood with sixteen timber piers in 1771 by Earl Spencer, designed by Henry Holland. It replaced a horse ferry, mentioned in 1292 as, “a passage of the Thames at Cenlee,” and mentioned by Norden in 1592. It was the first bridge to have oil lamps in 1799, and electric lamps in 1824. It was closed in 1883 and demolished in 1887. The new cast iron bridge, designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, was opened by Lord Roseberry on 31st July 1890. Battersea is derived from Beaduric’s Eye or Island.
Nos.91-92, Belle View Lodge and House, were built in 1717. Charles Condor lived there in 1904. Pevsner claims that nos.91-100 “belong to the best Chelsea has to offer.” No.93 was built in 1777. Elizabeth Gaskell was born there on 29th September 1810, but moved soon after her mother died. Nos.96-100 Lindsey House is the last of the Chelsea Palaces. John Wesley says about Lindsay House, “The country house in Chelsea is a palace for a prince; truly they are wise in their generation.” [Press report 25th August 1898, Chelsea scraps 1-270, 1897]
The only house remaining from this time is Lindsey House on Cheyne Walk. It was built in 1639 by Sir Theodore Turquet de Mayerne, a Swiss court physician to Henry IV of Navarre, Louise XIII of France, and James I and Charles I in England.
Originally it was the farmhouse for More’s house. According to a report in The Daily Mail in 1896 the house was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in 1674 for The Earl of Lindsey. It appears on Kip’s View of 1699, to the left of Beaufort House. Count Zinzendorf purchased and renovated the house in 1750 for the Moravian Society but sold it twenty years later. The stables of Beaufort House were converted into the Moravian Chapel, which still exists behind a high wall, and the gardens which also still exist became the burial ground. James Gillray, the father of the famous caricaturist, was sexton there for 40 years and is buried there. In 1770 it was converted into five separate dwellings, and remains today as Lindsey Row.
Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, both engineers, lived there, as did Joseph Bramah the inventor of the lock. The artist John Martin, who specialised in large apocalyptic paintings, lived there with his eccentric brother William Martin, who claimed to have discovered the secret of perpetual motion. Finally the American painter James Abbott McNiell Whistler lived there from 1866-79, his rooms overlooking Old Battersea Bridge which he frequently painted.
The House was divided in 1775. Whistler lived at no.96 from 1876-1879 where he painted ‘The Artist’s Mother’, which is now in the Louvre. The local artist Walter Greaves painted a picture of his friend Whistler in his Lindsey House Studio in 1871. It was the home of Paul Channon MP and here in July 1972 the British Government held clandestine talks with the IRA, including Gerry Adams, to negotiate a ceasefire but failed. The Brunels, father and son, lived at no.98, as did the painter John “Mad” Martin who painted the Last Judgement series.
No.104 was the home of Charles Greaves, his two sons and his daughter Alice, known as Tinnie. Whistler took the two Greaves brothers, Henry and Walter, under his wing, gave them painting lessons, and allowed Walter to use his studio. It was only discovered in 1974 that some paintings, previously attributed to Whistler, were in fact by Walter Greaves. When Whistler went bankrupt his mistress, Mary Woods, whom he had refused to marry, went off with 80 canvases. They in turn rowed him out into the river to sketch, just as their father, Charles Greaves, had rowed Turner across to St. Mary’s Church so he could paint from the west facing oriel window over the west door, still known as Turner’s window. They also looked after the artist John Martin, waking him up when storms appeared. Hillair Belloc lived there from 1901 to 1905.
Cross Millman Street to:
This was built in 1600 to the southwest of Beaufort House, and sold in 1662 to Josias Priest as a girls’ boarding school, where Purcell performed the first performance of Dido & Aeneas. Sir W. Millman bought it in 1697 and replaced it with cottages in 1726 (Millman Row), which was then replaced in 1952 by council housing.
Continue west along Cheyne Walk to:
Nos.107,108 – Home of John Tweed, sculptor.
No. 109 – From 1898 to 1942, the artist Philip Wilson Steer (1860-1942) lived here. Shy and eccentric, he went shopping with a large cat. Sickert, on hearing he had been hit by a car, sent a telegram, “Do be careful, I have no desire to be the greatest living painter.” [From ‘London’s Riverside’ by Suzanne Ebel & Doreen Impey] Cecil King the Newspaper proprietor also lived there.
Cross Riley Street:
No.114 – This used to be the Kings Arms pub.
No.117 – This used to be a pub called The Aquatic Number.
Nos.118-119 – Turner’s House. This is where the famous painter Turner lived from 1846 until his death on 19th December 1851. His last four paintings for the Royal Academy were painted there. He was known locally as Mr Booth, Admiral or Puggy Booth. He lived with his housekeeper Hannah Danby and survived happily on rum and milk. It is reported that in 1851 an increasingly eccentric Turner visited his old friend David Roberts, and then disappeared, only to be found by his housekeeper living with his Margate landlady Caroline Booth. She lived there from 1846-67 [Chelsea scraps 1-270, 1897]. That part of Cheyne Walk was 6/7 Davis Place until 1870, and was then referred to as Queen Ann Street, while the house known as The Admiral’s Lookout. In 1895 there were plans to make the house a museum of art featuring Turner’s “relics”, and subscriptions were invited but it came to nothing. The Illustrated London News of 5th October 1895 said with regards to Turner’s House that, “the vandals are busy, Humboldt’s house disappeared the other day.” [op cit] Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame) and his brother Peter lived in the house when they were children.
The Chelsea Reach Improvement, which extended the embankment over the mud of Chelsea Foreshore from Battersea Bridge to Lots Road in 1897, was opposed by (among others) Alma Tadema, q.v. Tadema Road, Sir Walter Besant, C.R. Ashbee, Reginald Blunt, Sir Edward J. Poynter, and John Phene, to no avail. However houseboats are still moored on the reach.
Cross Blantyre Street and pass the massive 1970’s red brick development. For details please see the Kings Road walk. On the left side of the road, just beyond the Chelsea Yacht and Boat Company building, are some public gardens:
These were created in 1982. The wrought iron gateway stood on the Kings Road entrance to Lord Cremourne’s and, from 1843-77, the pleasure gardens. [See Cremorne Gardens Entertainments 1831-77, British Museum National Library Folio Volume]
Cremourne House was built in 1620. In 1796 the local historian Thomas Faulkner wrote, “I was present at a stag hunt in Chelsea. The animal swam across from Battersea, and made for Lord Cremorne’s grounds. He ran along the waterside and turned up Church Lane.” It was owned between 1813-24 by Philadelphia Hannah, Lady Cremorne, who was the great great grand daughter of William Penn, founder of the State of Pennsylvania. In 1830 it was purchased by Charles Randon de Berenger, Baron de Beaufain, as a Sporting Club, the forerunner of the Hurlingham Club. By 1845 the grounds had been converted into a pleasure garden, Cremorne Gardens, similar in style to Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens. It was closed down in 1877 for disreputability. All that remains are the rather elegant iron gates. The Lots Road power station, reported to be the world’s longest serving power station and soon to be converted into flats, occupies the gardens.
This was built in 1747. In 1786 it was owned by Lady Mary Coke, who had an affair with the Duke of York, brother of George III. Walpole unkindly referred to her as, “Mary a la Coque”. The Balloon Tavern was opened in the gardens in 1862.
As a diversion, proceed west along Lots Road past the Power Station to the new development of:
This was built in the 1980’s by P&O, designed by the architect Ray Moxley.
To return, go north up Lots Road to the Kings Road and take buses to Sloane Square (11 & 22).
Born in America but settled first in Paris, where he became a friend of Count Robert de Montesquiou (the model for Des Essientes in Huysman’s ‘A Rebours’). He moved to London in 1860, first to Bermondsey and then in 1863 to 7 Lindsey Row near Battersea Bridge. During this period he did a drawing ‘Battersea - A view from Lindsey House’, which is in The Huntarian Museum, Glasgow. In 1867 he moved to 2 Lindsey Row, now 36 Cheyne Walk, where he stayed until 1878. Here he painted ‘Portrait of Painter’s Mother’ (1871) when his mother was staying with him to avoid The American Civil War. The painting was purchased by the Louvre in 1891.
During this period he painted a series of Nocturnes inspired by the Thames, and which in turn influenced Claude Debussy’s music. Huysman described them as “dream landscapes.” These nocturnes include:
Nocturne in Blue & Gold – Old Battersea Bridge, Tate.
Nocturne in Blue & Silver – Private Collection USA.
Nocturne in Blue & Silver – Cremorne Lights, Tate.
Nocturne in Grey & Gold – Chelsea Snow, Fogg Museum Harvard.
Nocturne in Black & Gold – Falling Rockets, exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in May 1877, which induced Ruskin to write the letter that led to the court case and bankruptcy in 1879. In 1878 he moved into The White House, 35 Tite Street, which had been designed for him by E.W. Godwin. However his bankruptcy forced him to sell it. In 1881 he lived at 13 Tite Street.
‘Cremourne Gardens’ (1875) now at the Met in NY, features fashionable ladies in the pleasure gardens. He painted Thomas Carlyle in 1872, now in the Glasgow Art Gallery.
During this period he developed a reputation as a fashionable dandy and dilettante, a social butterfly, very unlike the usual idea of a struggling artist. In 1888 he married Beatrix Godwin, the wealthy widow of his friend E.W. Godwin, the architect. They lived at 2 The Vale. They also lived at 454 Fulham Road and finally at nos.74 Cheyne Walk, where he died. He was buried in Chiswick Old Cemetery. [From Whistler by Pierre Cabanne]
Oscar Wilde, after an aside by Whistler, said, “Ah, I wish I’d said that.”
Whistler: “You will, Oscar, you will.”
The poem below was first published on Saturday 22nd June in 1723, and a copy can be found pasted in Volume Two of Chelsea Miscellany.
Fifty years to Chelsea Great
From Bodmin on the Irish main
I strolled, with maggots in my pate
Where, much improved, they still remain.
Through various employs I’ve past,
A scraper, virtues projector,
Tooth drawer, trimmer, and at last
I’m now a gimcrack whim-collector.
Monsters of all sorts, here are seen
Strange things in nature as they grow so,
Some relicks of the Sheba Queen
And fragments of the fam’d Bob Cruso,
Knick-knacks too dangle round the wall,
Some in glass cases, some on shelf,
But, what’s rarest sight of all
Your humble servant shews himself.
On this my chiefest hope depends.
Now, if you will cause and pause
In journals pray direct your friends
To my museum coffee house.
And, in requital for the timely favour
I’ll, gratis, bleed, draw teeth, and be your shaver,
Nay, then your pate may with my noodle tally
And you shine bright as I do-marry shall ye
Freely consult my revelation Molly,
Nor shall one jealous thought create a huff
For she has tought me manners long enough.’
The version below of an old song was sung at Bexhill at Christmas 1898 by an old man, eighty years of age, who said that he had learned it from his father. It was taken down at the time by Mr Henry Young, son of Mr. Henry Young of Trafalgar Square Chelsea. A handwritten version appears in Volume Two of Chelsea Miscellany.
'As I went to Chelsea one day
I met a pretty fair maid on the highway
I asked to salute her, but this was her tune:
Why can’t you be easy and leave me alone?
I say my sweet creature
I’m not in for fun,
If you come to the bun house
I’ll buy you a bun.
Oh no! she replied,
I’ve money enough of my own
To buy half a hundred,
So leave me alone.
I followed her, I followed her field after field
After persuading I brought her to yield
Next day I was wed, and she altered her tune
For she teases me now if I leave her alone.'