The Fascination of Chelsea

The Fascination of Chelsea was a book published in 1902..

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Article · Chelsea · SW3 ·
The Fascination of Chelsea was a book published in 1902.

It was written by Geraldine E. Mitton. It was part of the "Fascination of London" series edited by Walter Besant and published posthumously in 1902 following his death the previous year.

The original publishers were Adam & Charles Black (London).

The Spectator published the following contemporary review: "The Fascination of London : Chelsea. By G. E. Mitten. Edited by Sir W. Besant. (A. and C. Black. ls. 6d. net.)—This volitme, one of four on the same scale and with substantially the same author; ship, Mr. Mitten collaborating with Sir W. Besant, or having his work supervised by him, is an earnest of the great work on the Metropolis which Sir W. Besant contemplated. Each parish was to be perambulated and made the subject of a small book, Chelsea being chosen as a specimen, with . Hampstead, Westminster, and the Strand district. This is a very pleasant little book, the work of.a competent observer, who knows what to look for and how to deal with what be finds. Of course there are omissions. Perhaps one might say that the Chelsea of this little book is too exclusively genteel. There is a riverside population of whom much that is curious might be told. Possibly we are to have a special volume dealing with the Thames. There is a useful map."



The name Chelsea, according to Faulkner and Lysons, only began to be used in the early part of the eighteenth century. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the place was known as Chelsey, and before that time as Chelceth or Chelchith. The very earliest record is in a charter of King Edward the Confessor, where it is spelt Cealchyth. In Doomsday Book it is noted as Cercehede and Chelched. The word is derived variously. Newcourt ascribes it to the Saxon word ceald, or cele, signifying cold, combined with the Saxon hyth, or hyd, a port or haven. Norden believes it to be due to the word "chesel" (ceosol, or cesol), a bank "which the sea casteth up of sand or pebble-stones, thereof called Cheselsey, briefly Chelsey, as is Chelsey (Winchelsea?) in Sussex." Skinner agrees with him substantially, deriving the principal part of the word from banks of sand, and the ea or ey from land situated near the water; yet he admits it is written in ancient records Cealchyth—"chalky haven." Lysons asserts that if local circumstances allowed it he would have derived it from "hills of chalk." Yet, as there is neither hill nor chalk in the parish, this derivation cannot be regarded as satisfactory. The difficulty of the more generally received interpretation—viz., shelves of gravel near the water—is that the ancient spelling of the name did undoubtedly end in hith or heth, and not in ea or ey.


The dividing line which separated the old parish of Chelsea from the City of Westminster was determined by a brook called the Westbourne, which took its rise near West End in Hampstead. It flowed through Bayswater and into Hyde Park. It supplied the water of the Serpentine, which we owe to the fondness of Queen Caroline for landscape gardening. This well-known piece of water was afterwards supplied from the Chelsea waterworks. The Westbourne stream then crossed Knightsbridge, and from this point formed the eastern boundary of St. Luke’s parish, Chelsea. The only vestige of the rivulet now remaining is to be seen at its southern extremity, where, having become a mere sewer, it empties itself into the Thames about 300 yards above the bridge. The name survives in Westbourne Park and Westbourne Street. The boundary line of the present borough of Chelsea is slightly different; it follows the eastern side of Lowndes Square, and thence goes down Lowndes Street, Chesham Street, and zigzags through Eaton Place and Terrace, Cliveden Place, and Westbourne Street, breaking off from the last-named at Whitaker Street, thence down Holbein Place, a bit of Pimlico, and Bridge Road to the river.

In a map of Chelsea made in 1664 by James Hamilton, the course of the original rivulet is clearly shown. The northern boundary of Chelsea begins at Knightsbridge. The north-western, that between Chelsea and Kensington, runs down Basil and Walton Streets, and turns into the Fulham Road at its junction with the Marlborough Road. It follows the course of the Fulham Road to Stamford Bridge, near Chelsea Station. The western boundary, as well as the eastern, had its origin in a stream which rose to the north-west of Notting Hill. Its site is now occupied by the railway-line (West London extension); the boundary runs on the western side of this until it joins an arm of Chelsea Creek, from which point the Creek forms the dividing line to the river.

The parish of Chelsea, thus defined, is roughly triangular in shape, and is divided by the King’s Road into two nearly equal triangles.

An outlying piece of land at Kensal Town belonged to Chelsea parish, but is not included in the borough.

The population in 1801 was 12,079. In the year 1902 (the latest return) it is reckoned at 73,842.

Bowack, in an account of Chelsea in 1705, estimates the inhabited houses at 300; they are now computed at 8,641.


The first recorded instance of the mention of Chelsea is about 785, when Pope Adrian sent legates to England for the purpose of reforming the religion, and they held a synod at Cealchythe.

In the reign of Edward the Confessor Thurstan gave Chilchelle or Chilcheya, which he held of the King, to Westminster Abbey. This gift was confirmed by a charter which is in the Saxon language, and is still preserved in the British Museum. Gervace, Abbot of Westminster, natural son of King Stephen, aliened the Manor of Chelchithe; he bestowed it upon his mother, Dameta, to be held by her in fee, paying annually to the church at Westminster the sum of L4. In Edward III.’s reign one Robert de Heyle leased the Manor of Chelsith to the Abbot and Convent of Westminster during his own lifetime, for which they were to make certain payments: "L20 per annum, to provide him daily with two white loaves, two flagons of convent ale, and once a year a robe of Esquier’s silk." The manor at that time was valued at L25 16s. 6d. The Dean and Chapter of Westminster hold among their records several court rolls of the Manor of Chelsea during the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II. With the exception that one Simon Bayle seems to have been lessee of the Manor House in 1455, we know nothing definite of it until the reign of Henry VII., after which the records are tolerably clear. It was then held by Sir Reginald Bray, and from him it descended to his niece Margaret, who married Lord Sandys. Lord Sandys gave or sold it to Henry VIII., and it formed part of the jointure of Queen Catherine Parr, who resided there for some time with her fourth husband, Lord Seymour.

Afterwards it appears to have been granted to the Duke of Northumberland, who was beheaded in 1553 for his attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. The Duchess of Northumberland held it for her life, and at her death it was granted to John Caryl, who only held it for a few months before parting with it to John Bassett, "notwithstanding which," says Lysons, "Lady Anne of Cleves, in the account of her funeral, is said to have died at the King and Quene’s majestys’ Place of Chelsey beside London in the same year."

Queen Elizabeth gave it to the Earl of Somerset’s widow for life, and at her death it was granted to John Stanhope, afterwards first Lord Stanhope, subject to a yearly rent-charge. It is probable that he soon surrendered it, for we find it shortly after granted by Queen Elizabeth to Katherine, Lady Howard, wife of the Lord Admiral. Then it was held by the Howards for several generations, confirmed by successive grants, firstly to Margaret, Countess of Nottingham, and then to James Howard, son of the Earl of Nottingham, who had the right to hold it for forty years after the decease of his mother. She, however, survived him, and in 1639 James, Duke of Hamilton, purchased her interest in it, and entered into possession. He only held it until the time of the Commonwealth, when it was seized and sold; but it seems that the purchasers, Thomas Smithby and Robert Austin, only bought it to hold in trust for the heirs of Hamilton, for in 1657 Anne, daughter and coheiress of the Duke of Hamilton, and her husband, Lord Douglas, sold it to Charles Cheyne. He bought it with part of the large dower brought him by his wife, Lady Jane Cheyne, as is recorded on her tombstone in Chelsea Church. Sir Hans Sloane in 1712 purchased it from the then Lord Cheyne. He left two daughters, who married respectively Lord Cadogan and George Stanley. As the Stanleys died out in the second generation, their share reverted by will to the Cadogans, in whom it is still vested.

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Licence

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Spy’s Club
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Spicer Street
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Source: Roding Valley tube station - Wikipedia

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Prince Albert Originally called the Albert Tavern, the Prince Albert public house is a three storey building dating from 1866-68.
The Fascination of Chelsea The Fascination of Chelsea was a book published in 1902.

Adair House, SW3 Adair House is a block on Adair House.
Albert Bridge House, SW11 Albert Bridge House is sited on Albert Bridge Road.
Albion Riverside, SW11 Albion Riverside is a road in the SW11 postcode area
Alpha Place, SW3 Alpha Place was probably so called because it was the first turning to be built out of the old lane now named Flood Street.
Anhalt Road, SW11 Anhalt Road is one of the streets of London in the SW11 postal area.
Argyle House, SW3 Argyle House is located on King’s Road.
Battersea Bridge, SW11 Battersea Bridge connects Battersea and Chelsea with the first bridge dating from 1771.
Bramerton Street, SW3 Bramerton Street is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Cadogan Pier, SW3 Cadogan Pier is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Carlyle Square, SW3 Carlyle Square was named in honour of the writer Thomas Carlyle in 1872.
Carlyle’s House, SW3 Carlyle’s House is a block on Cheyne Row.
Carriage Drive North, SW3 Carriage Drive North is a road in the SW11 postcode area
Caversham Street, SW3 Caversham Street is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Chelsea Bridge, SW3 Terrace Walk is a pathway within Battersea Park.
Chelsea Embankment, SW3 Chelsea Embankment is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Chelsea Manor Gardens, SW3 Chelsea Manor Gardens is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Chelsea Towers, SW3 Chelsea Towers are named blocks in Chelsea.
Chesil Court, SW3 Chesil Court can be found on Chelsea Manor Street.
Cheyne Court, SW3 Cheyne Court is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Cheyne Mews, SW3 Cheyne Mews is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Cheyne Place, SW3 Cheyne Place is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Cheyne Row, SW3 Cheyne Row is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Cheyne Walk, SW3 Cheyne Walk is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Christchurch Street, SW3 Christchurch Street is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Christchurch Terrace, SW3 Christchurch Terrace is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Clover Mews, SW3 Clover Mews is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Cottage Place, SW11 Cottage Place appears on 1900 mapping.
Danvers Street, SW3 Sir John Danvers (died 1655) introduced Italian gardens to England in his mansion Danvers House whose grounds spread from the river to the Kings Road.
Dilke Street, SW3 Dilke Street is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Dyson Building, SW11 Dyson Building is a building on Howie Street.
Elcho Street, SW11 Elcho Street is one of the streets of London in the SW11 postal area.
Embankment Gardens, SW3 Embankment Gardens is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Flood Street, SW3 Flood Street commemorates Luke Thomas Flood (d.1860) a major Chelsea land owner and a benefactor of the poor.
Flood Walk, SW3 Flood Walk is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Ford’s Place, SW11 Ford’s Place - a meandering little road - appears on 1900 mapping.
Glebe Place, SW3 Glebe Place was built over a former road called Cooks Ground.
Great Eastern Wharf, SW11 Great Eastern Wharf is one of the streets of London in the SW11 postal area.
Grove Cottages, SW3 Grove Cottages is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Grove House, SW3 Grove House is a block on Grove Cottages.
Hester Road, SW11 Hester Road is one of the streets of London in the SW11 postal area.
Justice Walk, SW3 Justice Walk links Old Church Street and Lawrence Street.
Lawrence Street, SW3 Lawrence Street is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Lordship Place, SW3 This is a street in the SW3 postcode area
Margaretta Terrace, SW3 Margaretta Terrace is a location in London.
Morgan’s Walk, SW11 Morgan’s Walk incorporated Little Europa Street (Little Europa Place) after 1936.
Oakley Gardens, SW3 Oakley Gardens is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Oakley Street, SW3 Oakley Street arrived in 1830 following the demolition of Chelsea Manor House in 1822.
Ormonde Gate, SW3 Ormonde Gate is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Paradise Walk, SW3 Paradise Walk is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Paultons Street, SW3 Paultons Street is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Paveley Drive, SW11 Paveley Drive is one of the streets of London in the SW11 postal area.
Petyt Place, SW3 Petyt Place is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Phene Street, SW3 Phene Street is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Pier House, SW3 Pier House is a block on Cheyne Walk.
Porters Lodge, SW3 Porters Lodge is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Queens House, SW3 Queens House is a block on Cheyne Walk.
Radstock Street, SW11 Radstock Street is one of the streets of London in the SW11 postal area.
Ramsay Mews, SW3 Ramsay Mews is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Ransomes Dock Business Centre, SW11 Ransomes Dock Business Centre is a block on Parkgate Road.
Ransomes Dock, SW11 Ransomes Dock is a development in Battersea.
Redburn Street, SW3 Redburn Street is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Redesdale Street, SW3 Redesdale Street is a location in London.
Resedale Street, SW3 Resedale Street is a location in London.
Riverside, SW11 A street within the SW11 postcode
Robinson Street, SW3 Robinson Street is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Rosetti Studios, SW3 Rosetti Studios is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Rossetti Studios, SW3 Rossetti Studios is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Royal Hospital Road, SW3 Royal Hospital Road is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Shelley Court, SW3 Shelley Court is a block on Tite Street.
St Loo Avenue, SW3 St Loo Avenue was named after William St Loo, the third husband of Bess of Hardwick.
St Mary Le Park Court, SW11 St Mary Le Park Court is a block on Albert Bridge Road.
Swan Walk, SW3 Swan Walk is a road in the SW3 postcode area
Terrace Walk, SW11 Maple Leaf Walk is a walkway within Battersea Park.
Terrace Walk, SW3 Terrace Walk is a road in the SW3 postcode area
The Court House, SW3 The Court House is located on Justice Walk.
The Courtyard, SW3 The Courtyard is one of the streets of London in the SW3 postal area.
Tite Street, SW3 Tite Street crosses Royal Hospital Road.
Upper Cheyne Row, SW3 Upper Cheyne Row is a road in the SW3 postcode area
West Road, SW3 West Road is a road in the SW3 postcode area

Prince Albert Originally called the Albert Tavern, the Prince Albert public house is a three storey building dating from 1866-68.

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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.

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Petworth Street sign
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Royal Hospital, Chelsea
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In the neighbourhood...

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Albert Bridge opened in 1873 and was immediately designated as a dangerous structure. It was noticed early on that vibrations could threaten the structural integrity of the bridge.
Credit: The Underground Map

Battersea Bridge (1860s) James Hedderly was a photographer active in Chelsea before the building of the Embankment and afterwards. This is a view taken from the tower of Chelsea Old Church. It shows the tangle of closely-packed houses and wharves between Cheyne Walk and Beaufort Street before the embankment. Beyond are the larger houses of Lindsey Row and the trees of Cremorne Gardens.
Credit: James Hedderly

Tite Street, SW3 (1955) Playing in the street wasn’t an activity confined to Chelsea’s mean streets as this view of Tite Street shows. Baseball is being played here. In spotted dressed and suit trousers, the young (possibly American) boys and girls look dashing as they frolic around under the sun peaking through the trees. Tite Street was formerly home to Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler.
Credit: John Bignell

Rosenau Road, SW11 Schloss Rosenau is a castle, formerly in Saxe-Coburg, now lying in Bavaria. Schloss Rosenau was the boyhood home of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who became the husband of Queen Victoria. Due to the name of nearby Albert Bridge, builders rook the opportunity to call many of the roads of this area of Battersea after connections with the Prince Consort.
Credit: The Underground Map

Battersea Bridge, a painting by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1885)
Credit: The Maas Gallery

Justice Walk links Old Church Street and Lawrence Street. It has stayed relatively untouched, a reminder of early 19th century Chelsea. The cellar under the Wesleyan Chapel, seen on the right, was used as a soup kitchen for the poor. The chapel was relocated to the corner of Chelsea Manor Street and King’s Road circa 1900. H. Allen Smith, wine merchants, occupied the premise from 1903 to 1985. According to local legend, a courthouse with a gaol beneath occupied this site in 18th century. Prisoners were led through a tunnel to boats moored on the river to be transported to Australia.
Credit: William Walter Burgess c.1890
Licence: CC BY 2.0

Albert Bridge Road at the former end of Ethelburga Street (1958)
Credit: Gwyneth Wexler
Licence: CC BY 2.0

Royal Hospital, Chelsea
Licence: CC BY 2.0

Impromptu Dance, a Scene on the Chelsea Embankment (1883)
Credit: Frederick Brown (1851-1941)

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