Learn more about Chelsea, London
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|OS grid reference:||TQ275775|
|London borough:||Kensington & Chelsea|
|County level:||Greater London|
|Sovereign state:||United Kingdom|
|Ceremonial county:||Greater London|
|Police force:||Metropolitan Police|
|Fire brigade:||London Fire Brigade|
|Ambulance service:||London Ambulance|
|Post office and telephone|
|London Assembly:||West Central|
|London | List of places in London|
Chelsea is a district of London bounded to the south by the River Thames, where its frontage runs from Chelsea Bridge along the Chelsea Embankment, Cheyne Walk, Lots Road and Chelsea Harbour. 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 can be said to be Chelsea Bridge Road and the lower half of Sloane Street, including Sloane Square. To the north and northwest, the area fades into Brompton and South Kensington, but it is safe to say that the area north of the King's Road as far northwest as the Fulham Road is part of Chelsea.
The district is now part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, but until the creation of the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1965 it was a London borough in its own right, the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea.
Note also that Stamford Bridge, the famous headquarters of Chelsea Football Club, though close to the west end of the King's Road, is actually in nearby Fulham, which therefore hosts two Premiership teams.
Chelsea originated as a Saxon settlement. The word 'Chelsea' is probably derived from Anglo-Saxon Cealc-h3ð = "chalk wharf". 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, 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.
Henry VIII acquired the manor of Chelsea from Lord Sandys in 1536,(Chelsea Manor Street is still extant). Both Catherine Parr and Anne of Cleves lived in the Manor House, Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I) was a resident, and Sir Thomas More lived more or less next door at Beaufort House. James I established a theological college on the site of Chelsea Royal Hospital (which was founded by Charles II).
By 1694, Chelsea — always a popular location for the wealthy, and once described as "a village of palaces" — had a population of 3,000. 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 when the district was finally absorbed into the metropolis. The street crossing what was know as Little Chelsea, Park Walk, linked the Fulham Road to the King's Road and continued to the Thames and Local Ferry down Lover's Lane, renamed Milmans Street in the 18th century.
The King's Road was named for Charles II, recalling the king's private road from St James's Palace to Fulham, which was maintained until the reign of George IV. One of the more important buildings in the King's Road is Chelsea Town Hall, a fine neo-classical building containing important frescos. Part of the building contains the Chelsea Public Library. Almost opposite is the Odeon Cinema, with its iconic facade, which carries high upon it a large sculptored medalion of the now almost forgotten William Friese-Greene, who claimed to have invented celluloid film and cameras before any subsequent patents.
According to Encyclopædia Britannica "the better residential portion of Chelsea is the eastern, near Sloane Street and along the river; the western, extending north to Fulham Road, is mainly a poor quarter". This is no longer the case, with parts of Fulham such as Parson's Green attracting equally high house prices and being deemed desirable places to live. The areas to the west (and particularly around Cadogan Square) is actually now far more desirable.
The memorials in the churchyard of Chelsea Old Church (All Saints), near the river, illustrate much of the history of Chelsea. These include Lord and Lady Dacre (1594-1595); Sir John Lawrence (1638); Lady Jane Cheyne (1698); Francis Thomas, 'director of the china porcelain manufactory'; Sir Hans Sloane (1753); Thomas Shadwell, Poet Laureate (1692). Sir Thomas More's tomb can also be found there.
Chelsea was once famous for the manufacture of Chelsea buns (a Chelsea bun is made from a long strip of sweet dough tightly coiled, with currants trapped between the layers, and topped with sugar). Chelsea is still famous for its "Chelsea China" ware, though the works, the Chelsea porcelain factory — thought to be the first workshop to make porcelain in England — were sold in 1769, and moved to Derby. Examples of the original Chelsea ware fetch high values.
The best-known building is Chelsea Royal Hospital for invalid soldiers, set up by Charles II (supposedly on the suggestion of Nell Gwynne), opened in 1694. The beautifully proportioned building by Wren stands in extensive grounds. There was also until recently the Duke of York's Barracks off the King's Road, now a shopping mall. Chelsea Barracks, at the end of Lower Sloane Street, is still in use - primarily by ceremonial troops of the Household Division.
Chelsea's modern reputation as a centre of innovation and influence originated in a period during the 19th century when the area became a veritable Victorian artists' colony (see 'Borough of artists' below). It also became prominent once again as one of the centres of 1960s 'Swinging London' (see 'Swinging Chelsea' below).
 The Borough of Artists
Chelsea once had a reputation as London's bohemian quarter, and likes to think of itself as the haunt of artists, radicals, painters and poets. Little of this seems to survive now: the comfortable squares off the King's Road are homes to the English military establishment, American investment bankers and film stars, and more recently the pop singer Kylie Minogue.
Chelsea's reputation stems from a period in the 19th century when it became a sort of Victorian artists' colony: painters such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, J.M.W. Turner, James McNeill Whistler, William Holman Hunt, and John Singer Sargent, as well as writers such as George Meredith, Algernon Swinburne, Leigh Hunt, and Thomas Carlyle all lived and worked here. There was a particularly large concentration of artists in the area around Cheyne Walk (pronounced Cheynee) and Cheyne Row, where the Pre-Raphaelite movement had its heart.
Jonathan Swift lived in Church Lane, Richard Steele and Tobias Smollett in Monmouth House. Carlyle lived for 47 years at No. 5 (now 24) Cheyne Row. After his death, the house was bought and turned into a shrine and literary museum by the Carlyle Memorial Trust, a group formed by Leslie Stephen, father of Virginia Woolf.
In a curious book, Bohemia in London by Arthur Ransome which is a partly fictional account of his early years in London, published in 1907 when he was 23, there are some fascinating, rather over-romanticised accounts of bohemian goings-on in the quarter. The American artist Pamela Colman Smith, the designer of A.E. Waite's Tarot card pack and a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, features as "Gypsy" in the chapter "A Chelsea Evening".
A central part of Chelsea's artistic and cultural life was Chelsea Public Library, originally situated in Manresa Road. Its longest serving member of staff was Armitage Denton, who joined in 1896 at the age of 22, and he remained there until his retirement in 1939. He was appointed Chief Librarian in 1929.
The Chelsea Collection is a priceless anthology of prints and pictures of old Chelsea. Begun in 1887, it contains works by artists as notable and diverse as Rossetti and Whistler. During his time at the Library, Armitage Denton built the Collection assiduously, so that by the time of his death in July 1949 it numbered more than 1,000 items. At the end of the 20th century, the Collection totalled more than 5,000 works, and it continues to grow.
 Swinging Chelsea
Chelsea shone again, brightly but briefly in the 1960s Swinging London period and the early 1970s. The Swinging Sixties was defined on the King's Road which runs the length of the area and both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones lived here at one time. In the 1970s the "World's End" of the King's Road was home to Vivienne Westwood's boutique "SEX", and saw the birth of the punk movement. Then Youth culture decamped forever, the Goths moving to the newly fashionable quarter of Camden Town and the hippies to Notting Hill.
The King's Road remains the major artery through Chelsea and a very busy road, however, despite its continuing reputation as a shopping mecca, it is now home to many of the same shops found on any other UK high street, (Gap, Virgin Megastore, and McDonald's for example). Sloane Street is overtaking Bond Street as London's premier shopping destination; housing a variety of high end fashion or jewellery (for example Gucci and Graff).
- Kings Road
- Old Church Street
- Carlyle's House
- Turner's House
- National Army Museum
- Peter Jones
- A number of good antique and art shops off Sloane Square and Pimlico Road.
- The Number 11 Bus, London – one of the great bus journeys of the world.
- Chelsea Physic Garden
 Famous Residents
Chelsea probably has more Blue Plaques than any other district of London. Some of the great and not-so-good who have lived here include:
- James Bond (fictional) and John le Carre's Smiley.
- Thomas More
- Phyllis Calvert (actress) was born in Chelsea
- Francis Bacon
- Hilaire Belloc (Cheyne Walk)
- Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and Isambard Kingdom Brunel (civil engineers) (98 Cheyne Walk)
- Agatha Christie
- Dominicetti (6 Cheyne Walk)
- Bernie Ecclestone (Chelsea Square)
- George Eliot (spent the last 3 weeks of her life at 4 Cheyne Walk)
- Elizabeth Gaskell (93 Cheyne Walk)
- David Lloyd George (10 Cheyne Walk)
- Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan (Chelsea Square)
- Elizabeth Hurley
- Mick Jagger and (at one time) all the Rolling Stones (Edith Grove)
- Henry James (21 Cheyne Walk)
- Roger Keyes
- Freddie Mercury (1 Logan Place, W8), the outer wall is covered in graffiti and messages by Queen fans from around the world, particularly from Japan.
- John Camden Neild (5 Cheyne Walk)
- Sylvia Pankhurst (Cheyne Walk)
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti (16 Cheyne Walk)
- Gerald Scarfe and Jane Asher
- John Shaw Junior, architect of the 19th Century
- Sir Philip Wilson Steer (109 Cheyne Walk)
- Algernon Swinburne (16 Cheyne Walk)
- Margaret Thatcher (Flood Street)
- William Turner (died at 119 Cheyne Walk on December 15 1851)
- James McNeill Whistler (21, 96 & 101 Cheyne Walk)
- Oscar Wilde (Tite Street)
- Kylie Minogue
- Mark Shuttleworth of ubuntu linux
- Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran
- Bob Marley composed his hit "I Shot The Sheriff" in a one-bedroom flat off Cheyne Walk in the mid-Seventies.
- Johnny Depp rented a property on the King's Road for the duration of filming Finding Neverland.
- Gwyneth Paltrow
- Alex Rider ("fictional")
- Countess Zaleska (fictional title character in Dracula's Daughter)
Chelsea consists of two main postcodes (SW3 and SW10) but also includes small sections of SW1. All of Chelsea is, by definition, in the London borough of "The Royal Borough Kensington and Chelsea" (RBKC). On the eastern side RBKC meets the equably fashionable and expensive borough of the City of Westminster (COW), this meets at Lower Sloane Street where the postcode is SW1W, with one side of the road being in COW and the other in RBKC. However it does give the strange result that some of RBKC is in SW1W.
The vast majority of Chelsea is SW3. The far west of Chelsea is SW10 and SW5 but due to the absence of tube coverage in large parts of the Borough, most people in SW10 use Earls Court tube in SW5.
The most desirable part of Chelsea is around Sloane Square tube. Around here, Chelsea meets Belgravia and Knightsbridge. This property market attracts considerable (international) attention, and is a very complex market. The area around Milner Street has seen a massive boom in the prices of property (a 19% increase between 2005 and 2006).
Much of Chelsea (SW3) and Knightsbridge (SW1X) is still owned by Earl Cadogan. Most of the property he owns is in and around Cadogan Square. This has a major influence on the markets as the Earl is the freeholder. He also owns Cadogan Square, to which local residents can subscribe for an annual fee, and in return receive access to the gardens (and optionally the tennis courts).
 Nearest Places
- South Kensington
- West Brompton
- Sands End
- Battersea (south of the river)
 External links