The Fascination of Chelsea: South of the King’s Road

By G. E. MITTON (1902). Edited by Sir Walter Besant.

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Article · Chelsea · SW10 · Contributed by The Underground Map
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2018


By G. E. MITTON (1902). Edited by Sir Walter Besant.

Chelsea may be roughly divided into two great triangles, having a common side in the King’s Road. Allusion has now been made to all the southern half, and there remains the northern, which is not nearly so interesting. Beginning at the west end where the last part finished, we find, bordering the railway, St. Mark’s College and Schools. The house of the Principal is Stanley House, the oldest remaining in the parish. There has been some confusion between this and Milman House, as both were the property of Sir Robert Stanley, the former coming into his possession by his marriage with the daughter of Sir Arthur Gorges. The Stanley monument in More’s chapel will be also recalled in this connection. Stanley House as it now stands was built in 1691, and is not at all picturesque. The original building, which preceded it, was known as Brickills, and was leased by Lady Stanley from her mother, Lady Elizabeth Gorges. In 1637, when Lady Gorges died, she left the house and grounds to her daughter by will, and the Stanleys lived there until 1691, when the last male descendant died. At this time the present house was built. The Arundels occupied it first, and after them Admiral Sir Charles Wager, and then the Countess of Strathmore. It was purchased from her by a Mr. Lochee, who kept a military academy here. Among the later residents were Sir William Hamilton, who built a large hall to contain the original casts of the Elgin Marbles. These casts form a frieze round the room, and detached fragments are hung separately. This room alone in the house is not panelled. The panelling of the others was for many years covered with paper, which has been gradually removed. The drawing-room door, which faces the entrance in the hall, is very finely carved. The house and grounds were bought from Sir W. Hamilton in 1840 by the National Society, at the instigation of Mr. G. F. Mathison, whose untiring efforts resulted in the foundation of St. Mark’s College for the training of school-masters. The first Principal was the Rev. Derwent Coleridge, son of S. T. Coleridge. His daughter Christabel has given a charming account of the early days of St. Mark’s in a little book published in the Jubilee year. In the early part of 1841 ten students were residents in the college. The chapel was opened two years later, in May, 1843.

The Chapel has always been famous for its music and singing. It was among the first of the London churches to have a choral service. The students now number 120, and a large majority of these take Holy Orders. The grounds are kept in beautiful order, and the great elms which overshadow the green lawns must be contemporary with the house.

The King’s Road was so named in honour of Charles II., and it was notorious in its early days for footpads and robbers. In the eighteenth century the Earl of Peterborough was stopped in it by highwaymen, one of whom was discovered to be a student of the Temple, who lived "by play, sharping, and a little on the highway." There was an attempt made at first to keep the road for the use of the Royal Family, and later on, those who had the privilege of using it had metal tickets given to them, and it was not opened for public traffic until 1830.

At no part of its length can King’s Road claim to show any fine vista, and at the west end the buildings are particularly poor and squalid. In Park Walk stands Park Chapel, an old-fashioned church with a gallery in no particular style of architecture. It was founded in 1718, and in it General Gordon received the Holy Communion before he left for Khartoum. Park Walk is marked on Hamilton’s Survey as Lovers’ Walk, and forms the western boundary of the ancient Lord Wharton’s Park, which extended from the King’s Road to Fulham Road and contained forty acres. Faulkner says that it was part of the estate purchased by Sir Thomas More. There was an attempt made in 1721 to encourage the manufacture of raw silk; for this purpose the park was planted with mulberry-trees. The scheme, however, failed. The park is now thickly covered with houses; its eastern side was bounded by the "Road to the Cross Tree"—in other words, to what was called the Queen’s Elm. This name still survives in a public-house at the north corner of what is now Church Street. It was derived from a tradition that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth stood here to shelter from a shower under a great elm-tree, accompanied by her courtier Lord Burleigh. The tree is mentioned in the parish books in 1586. At the top of Church Street, near the Fulham Road, there is a high stone wall enclosing the Jews’ Burial-ground. The graves lie in long rows, but are not divided according to sex as with the Moravians. Overlooking the burial-ground is the Hospital for Women founded in 1871. It is a red-brick building with ornate stone facing. Beyond it is the Consumption Hospital, which is only an off-shoot of the main building over the road in the borough of Kensington. Arthur Street (formerly Charles Street), a few yards further on, leads us into the South Parade, which forms the northern side of Trafalgar Square. The square is wide, with a garden in the centre. At the south-western corner it is adjacent to Carlyle Square, which faces the King’s Road.

This is a most picturesque little square with a country-like profusion of trees in its green garden. On the eastern side the road through Trafalgar Square runs on under the name of Manresa Road. This is lined with studios, and abounds in artists and sculptors.

In Manresa Road are the Chelsea Public Library and the Polytechnic for South-west London north of the river. The latter cannot be claimed exclusively by Chelsea, and therefore is not described in detail. The library was opened temporarily in 1887, and by 1891 the new building was ready. The librarian is Mr. J. H. Quinn, who has been there since the inauguration. The rooms have, since the opening, been greatly improved, and the library is now exceptionally interesting. On the ground-floor is a gallery open from 3 to 9 p.m. every week-day, except Wednesday, when the time of opening is two hours later. Here there is a collection of water-colour paintings and old prints illustrative of old Chelsea, and anyone who has taken any interest in the magnificent old mansions that made Chelsea a village of palaces will be well advised to go to see what these buildings were actually like. In the gallery also are cases containing the Keats collection, deposited by Sir Charles Dilke during his lifetime, but at his death to go to Hampstead, on account of the poet’s connection with that place. Here are to be seen the editions of Shakespeare and Bacon annotated by Keats’ own hands, and his love-letters; also a letter from his publishers, abusing him furiously, which shows how much the contemporary judgment of the poems differed from that of posterity.

The reference-room in the library upstairs is exceptionally fine, and especial care has been taken to make the local topographical department as rich as possible. Among the volumes of the greatest value are Bowack’s "Middlesex," which formerly belonged to Lord Brabourne; Faulkner’s two-volume edition of "Chelsea," which has been "grangerized," and is illustrated by innumerable portraits, letters, views, etc., and in the process has been expanded into four large quarto volumes. There is also the original manuscript of Faulkner’s account of the Royal Military Asylum and the Royal College and Hospital, with all the author’s corrections.

Manresa Road runs into the King’s Road, and after the next turning eastward there is an old burial-ground, given to the parish by Sir Hans Sloane, and consecrated 1736. Cipriani, the engraver, a foundation member of the Royal Academy, is buried here, and there is a monument erected to his memory by his friend and contemporary, Bartolozzi. When the Sydney Street burial-ground was opened in 1810, this was used for interment no more. Chelsea Workhouse stands just behind it, and the old women use the burial-ground for exercise. It is a quaint sight to see them through the tall iron railings wandering about dressed in their bright red-and-black check shawls, blue cotton dresses, and white frilled caps. The workhouse was begun in 1787, but has been largely added to since then. The Guardians’ offices adjoin the burial-ground, and on the opposite side of the street, a little further eastward, is the Town Hall, with a row of urns surmounting its parapet. The borough Councillors have their offices here.

Further on is Sydney Street, formerly Robert Street, running out of the King’s Road on the north side. Here stands St. Luke’s Church. The foundation-stone of this building was laid in 1820, and it was consecrated in 1824. For many years previously a discussion concerning the desirability of further church accommodation had been going on. The church was built on the old burial-ground, and the tombstones which were removed in the course of erection are placed in long rows round a low wall. The building is of Bath stone, and has flying buttresses and a high square tower. In the interior it presents the greatest possible contrast to the old church. Here there is great height, the arches are pointed, the stonework light. The spire is 142 feet high, and the interior 130 feet long by 60 broad. From the interior vault of the roof to the pavement the height is 60 feet. Over the Communion-table is "The Entombment of Christ," an oil-painting by J. Northcote, R.A. To the north of the church lies Pond Place, a remembrance of the time when a "pond and pits" stood on Chelsea Common hereabouts.

Not far from the top of Sydney Street, in the Fulham Road, is the Cancer Hospital, founded by William Marsden, M.D., in 1851. It was only on a small scale at first, but public donations and subscriptions now enable 100 patients to receive all the care and treatment necessary to alleviate their terrible infliction, and more than 1,500 are treated as out-patients. The chief fact about the hospital is that it is absolutely free. The disease itself is the passport of admittance. In this respect there is only one other hospital in London like it, and that is the Royal Free Hospital in Gray’s Inn Road, which was founded by the same benefactor. The small chapel attached, in which there is daily service, was built about ten years ago, and consecrated by the Bishop of London. There is almost an acre of garden. Following the Fulham Road eastwards, we come to Marlborough Road. There is a tradition that the Duke of Marlborough at one time occupied a house here, but there seems to be no truth in it whatever.

Cale Street was named after one Judith Cale, who was a benefactor to the parish. South of it we have Jubilee Place, recalling the jubilee of George III., and Markham Street and Markham Square. At the corner of the former is an old house still called the Box Farm, and bearing the date 1686. In Markham Square is a large Congregational chapel, opened in 1860.

Cadogan Street contains St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, almshouses, school and cemetery. The actual fabric of this church was founded in 1879, but the mission of which it is the development began in 1812, and was at first established on the opposite side of the road. The building is of stone, and is in the Early English style, from designs by J. Bentley. Two oil-paintings on the pillars at the entrance to the chancel are by Westlake. There is also a large oil-painting over the altar. A statue to the memory of the founder of the mission, the Abbe Voyaux de Franous, stands in the northern aisle, and a small chapel on the southern side has a magnificent carved stone altarpiece by the younger Pugin, supposed to have been executed from a design by his father.

Halsey Street and Moore Street lead northward into Milner Terrace, in which stands the modern church of St. Simon Zelotes. We now get back into the aristocratic part of Chelsea in Lennox Gardens, which open out of Milner Terrace.

At the west end of Pont Street stands the Church of St. Columba, opened 1884. Here the services are conducted according to the use of the Established Church of Scotland in London. The building, which is of red brick with stone dressings, is in the style of the thirteenth century. It was opened in 1884, and seats about 800 people. The pillars in the interior are of granite, and the pulpit of carved Aubigne stone. There are several stained-glass windows. The architect was Mr. Granderson.

Pont Street is built entirely of red brick, the houses being in a modernized seventeenth century style. From Pont Street opens out Cadogan Square. This square is very modern, and stands on part of the site of Princes’ Cricket-ground.

Hans Place deserves more special mention. "L. E. L." (Letitia Elizabeth Landon), the poetess who was "dying for a little love," spent the greater part of her life here. She was born at No. 25, and educated at No. 22, both of which have now disappeared. Shelley stayed here for a short time, and Miss Mitford was educated at a school (No. 2) which turned out several literary pupils. Hans Place was laid out in 1777 by a Mr. Holland, who built a great house called the Pavilion, as a model for the Prince of Wales’s Pavilion at Brighton; it was pulled down in 1879. The grounds comprised twenty-one acres of land, and contained a large piece of ornamental water. To the west of Hans Place, in Walton Street, is St. Saviour’s Church, founded in 1839. A handsome chancel was added in 1890, and opened by the Bishop of London. At the same time a new organ was added. The chief feature of interest is a fine oak screen, on which the carving represents the nine orders of angels.

On the east is Pavilion Road: the derivation of the name is obvious. It runs parallel to the whole length of Sloane Street. Sloane Street itself is exactly a mile long from the square to Knightsbridge. The Church of Holy Trinity, just above the square, is in an unusual style of architecture; its two tall towers of red brick faced with stone add an imposing detail to the architecture of the street. The first church was consecrated in 1830, but pulled down in 1889 and replaced by the present one, due to the generosity of Earl Cadogan. The architect was F. R. Sedding, F.R.I.B.A. Within, the building is very light and high, and all the fittings are exquisitely finished. The pulpit is of marble with inlaid panels. The east window is very fine, and the stained glass was designed by Burne-Jones, R.A., and supplied by Morris. The wrought-iron gates and brass panels on the chancel stalls are worth notice, also the graceful figure supporting the lectern, which is the work of H. H. Armstead, R.A. The handsome organ screen of iron, gilded over, and oxidized copper is a memorial gift, and the frontal picture on the chapel altar is by Reynolds Stephens.

East of Sloane Street is the aristocratic Lowndes Square, of which the name is evidently derived from a former owner, for on a map of Chelsea, 1741-45, this spot is marked "Lowndes, Esq." Cadogan Place lies a little further south, and is open to Sloane Street on one side. Chelsea House, Earl Cadogan’s town residence, is in the north-east corner, and is marked by its stone facing in contrast with its brick neighbours. Below Cadogan Place is a network of little, unimportant streets. Byron stayed in Sloane Terrace with his mother in 1799, when he came to London for medical advice about his foot. The Court theatre in the square has been erected within the last thirty years. Sloane Gardens runs parallel to Lower Sloane Street, and behind is Holbein Place, from which we started on our perambulations. We have now made a complete circuit through Chelsea, looking into every street and commenting on every building or site of importance in the parish.

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VIEW THE CHELSEA AREA IN THE 1750s
The 1750 Rocque map is bounded by Sudbury (NW), Snaresbrook (NE), Eltham (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1750 map does not display.

VIEW THE CHELSEA AREA IN THE 1800s
The 1800 mapping is bounded by Stanmore (NW), Woodford (NE), Bromley (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1800 map does not display.

VIEW THE CHELSEA AREA IN THE 1830s
The 1830 mapping is bounded by West Hampstead (NW), Hackney (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Chelsea (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1830 map does not display.

VIEW THE CHELSEA AREA IN THE 1860s
The 1860 mapping is bounded by Brent Cross (NW), Stratford (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Hammermith (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1860 map does not display.

VIEW THE CHELSEA AREA IN THE 1900s
The 1900 mapping covers all of the London area.

 

Chelsea

Chelsea is an affluent area, bounded to the south by the River Thames.

Its eastern boundary was once defined by the River Westbourne, which is now in a pipe above Sloane Square tube station. The modern eastern boundary is Chelsea Bridge Road and the lower half of Sloane Street, including Sloane Square, along with parts of Belgravia. To the north and northwest, the area fades into Knightsbridge and South Kensington, but it is safe to say that the area north of King’s Road as far northwest as Fulham Road is part of Chelsea.

The word Chelsea originates from the Old English term for chalk and landing place on the river. The first record of the Manor of Chelsea precedes the Domesday Book and records the fact that Thurstan, governor of the King’s Palace during the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042–1066), gave the land to the Abbot and Convent of Westminster. Abbot Gervace subsequently assigned the manor to his mother, and it passed into private ownership. The modern-day Chelsea hosted the Synod of Chelsea in 787 AD.

Chelsea once had a reputation for the manufacture of Chelsea buns (made from a long strip of sweet dough tightly coiled, with currants trapped between the layers, and topped with sugar).

King Henry VIII acquired the manor of Chelsea from Lord Sandys in 1536; Chelsea Manor Street is still extant. Two of King Henry’s wives, Catherine Parr and Anne of Cleves, lived in the Manor House; Princess Elizabeth – the future Queen Elizabeth I – resided there; and Thomas More lived more or less next door at Beaufort House. In 1609 James I established a theological college on the site of the future Chelsea Royal Hospital, which Charles II founded in 1682.

By 1694, Chelsea – always a popular location for the wealthy, and once described as ’a village of palaces’ – had a population of 3000. Even so, Chelsea remained rural and served London to the east as a market garden, a trade that continued until the 19th-century development boom which caused the final absorption of the district into the metropolis.

Chelsea shone, brightly but briefly, in the 1960s Swinging London period and the early 1970s. The Swinging Sixties was defined on King’s Road, which runs the length of the area. The Western end of Chelsea featured boutiques Granny Takes a Trip and The Sweet Shop, the latter of which sold medieval silk velvet caftans, tabards and floor cushions, with many of the cultural cognoscenti of the time being customers, including Keith Richards, Twiggy and many others.

The exclusivity of Chelsea as a result of its high property prices has historically resulted in the term Sloane Ranger to be used to describe its residents. From 2011, Channel 4 broadcast a reality television show called Made in Chelsea, documenting the ’glitzy’ lives of several young people living in Chelsea. Moreover, Chelsea is home to one of the largest communities of Americans living outside of the United States, with 6.53% of Chelsea-residents being born in the United States.

OTHER LOCATIONS NEAR HERE
Adrian Mews · Albert Bridge · Alpha Place · Althea Street · Ann Lane · Ashburnham Community School · Ashcombe Street · Battersea Bridge · Battersea Bridge · Beaufort Street · Beaufort Street · Bolton Gardens Mews · Bramerton Street · Bull’s Gardens · Burton Court · Byam Street · Bywater Street · Cadogan Gate S.W 1 · Callow Street · Cameron House School · Carlyle Square · Cathcart Road · Cavalry Square · Caversham Street · Chapel Walk · Charles II Place · Chelsea · Chelsea Community Hospital School · Chelsea Academy · Chelsea Bridge · Chelsea Embankment · Chelsea Embankment · Chelsea Manor Gardens · Chelsea Open Air Nursery School · Chelsea Square · Cheyne Children’s Centre · Cheyne Mews · Cheyne Walk · Christ Church CofE Primary School · Circle n6 · Clover Mews · Coleherne House · Coleherne Mews · Courtyard AP Academy · Cremorne Gardens · Cresswell Gardens · Damer Terrace · Danube Street · Danvers Street · De Morgan Road · Donne Place · Draycott Terrace · Dudmaston Mews · East Road · East Road · East Terrace · Ebury Bridge Road · Edith Terrace · Egerton Crescent · Elm Park Lane · Elm Park Road · Elm Place · Elswick Street · Embankment Gardens · Evelyn Gardens · Farrier Walk · Foulis Terrace · Franklins Row · Frederick Hugh House · Garden House School · Gatliff Road · Glenrosa Street · Goodwin’s Field · Grosvenor Road · Grove Cottages · Gurney Road · Hamble Street · Harcourt Terrace · Hasker Street · Hilary Close · Hill House International Junior School · Holly Mews · Hollywood Mews · Holmead Road · Imperial Crescent · Imperial Crescent · Institute of Cancer Research · Justice Walk · Kensington and Chelsea College · Kilkie Street · King’s Road · King’s Road · Knightsbridge School · L’Ecole des Petits School · Langford Primary School · Langford Road · Lennox Gardens Mews · Limerston Street · Lindrop Street · Lordship Place · Lots Road · Marlborough Primary School · Marlborough Street · Milborne Grove · Milmans Street · Moore Street · Moravian Place · Mulberry Walk · Oratory Roman Catholic Primary School · Ormonde Gate · Owen Close · Park Walk Primary School · Park Walk · Paultons Street · Pearscroft Court · Petyt Place · Petyward · Pont Street Mews · Priory Walk · Querrin Street · Ralston Street · Ramsay Mews · Ranelagh Gardens · Ray’s Playhouse Ltd. · Redburn Street · Redcliffe Gardens · Redcliffe Mews · Redcliffe Road · Redcliffe School · Redcliffe Square · Rich Lane · Riley Street · Rosemoor Street · Royal Avenue · Saint Thomas More Language College · Sands End · Servite RC Primary School · Seymour Walk · Shawfield Street · Slaidburn Street · Sloane Court West · South Parade · South Walk · Sprimont Place · St Catherine’s Mews · St. Leonard’s Terrace · St. Loo Avenue · Stamford Gate · Sussex House School · Swan Walk · Tadema Road · Tedworth Gardens · Terrace Walk · The Boltons · The Boltons · The Fascination of Chelsea: North of the King’s Road · The Fascination of Chelsea: Ranelagh Gardens · The Fascination of Chelsea: The Royal Hospital · The Hampshire School · The Little Boltons · Tregunter Road · Trident Place · Upper Cheyne Row · Upper Whistler Walk · Violet Melchett Children’s Centre · Walnut Tree Walk · Walton Street · Wandon Road · West Road · West Road · West Road · Westgate Terrace · Wharfedale Street · Whitehead’s Grove · Whitehead’s Grove · World’s End Passage ·
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Maps


Central London, south west (1901) FREE DOWNLOAD
Central London, south west.
Stanford's Geographical Establishment. London : Edward Stanford, 26 & 27, Cockspur St., Charing Cross, S.W. (1901)

Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1843) FREE DOWNLOAD
Engraved map. Hand coloured.
Chapman and Hall, London

Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1836) FREE DOWNLOAD
Engraved map. Hand coloured. Insets: A view of the Tower from London Bridge -- A view of London from Copenhagen Fields. Includes views of facades of 25 structures "A comparison of the principal buildings of London."
Chapman and Hall, London

Environs of London (1832) FREE DOWNLOAD
Engraved map. Hand coloured. Relief shown by hachures. A circle shows "Extent of the twopenny post delivery."
Chapman and Hall, London

London Underground Map (1921).  FREE DOWNLOAD
London Underground map from 1921.
London Transport

The Environs of London (1865).  FREE DOWNLOAD
Prime meridian replaced with "Miles from the General Post Office." Relief shown by hachures. Map printed in black and white.
Published By J. H. Colton. No. 172 William St. New York

London Underground Map (1908).  FREE DOWNLOAD
London Underground map from 1908.
London Transport

Ordnance Survey of the London region (1939) FREE DOWNLOAD
Ordnance Survey colour map of the environs of London 1:10,560 scale
Ordnance Survey. Crown Copyright 1939.

Outer London (1901) FREE DOWNLOAD
Outer London shown in red, City of London in yellow. Relief shown by hachures.
Stanford's Geographical Establishment. London : Edward Stanford, 26 & 27, Cockspur St., Charing Cross, S.W. (1901)
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