A Short History of Chelsea, London
The exclusive central London suburb of Chelsea is home to some of the most splendid boutiques, restaurants and clubs in town. The prime address for the crème de la crème of London’s elite boasts a long and illustrious history and was home to royalty, aristocrats, England’s very first porcelain factory and quite a few famed artists. Boasting a long list of famous residents, from Vivienne Westwood to various members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Chelsea may have had a humble beginning but its present, and indeed its future, is looking as opulent as ever.
Book your holiday rental apartment in Chelsea when next visiting the English capital and you can discover all the aspects that make this, the most celebrated suburb in London.
Originally a small an unassuming fishing village, Chelsea gained prominence in the 16th and 17th centuries, when high-flying Londoners moved to the area, building opulent mansions, gardens and chapels. Even King Henry VIII, famous for causing England’s split from the Catholic Church, had one of his stately homes in Chelsea. The Chelsea Manor he purchased from Lord Sandys in 1536 was the humble abode of two of his wives; and Princess Elizabeth (who became Queen Elizabeth I) also resided here for many years. By the late 1600s, Chelsea had become synonymous with gorgeous gardens; the present day Chelsea Flower Show testament that this aspect of the suburb has never waned.
Since the early 1800s Chelsea has also been the address of choice of some of the city’s most well-known artists. Writers, poets and painters converged on its streets and cafes to discuss art, politics and social dilemmas. From classic, to bohemian and even hippie, the suburb has seen it all. From Jonathan Swift, to Richard Steele and George Meredith; from Oscar Wilde to Thomas Carlyle…all made their homes in Chelsea. The house of Thomas Carlyle, now 24 Cheyne Row, was purchased by Virginia Wolf’s father after the artist’s death in 1881 and turned into something of a shrine.
The Chelsea College of Art and Design (or former Chelsea Public Library), is certainly worthy of a visit. Nowadays it’s home to a wonderful collection of pictures and drawings of Chelsea through the years; a collection which started in the late 1800s and continues to this day.
By the turn of the next century Chelsea had blossomed into one of the most up-market suburbs in London, and its overwhelming popularity resulted in an extensive amount of construction work. Within the space of just a few years the suburb was home to the Chelsea and Albert Bridges, and the Chelsea Embankment.
The 1900s saw Chelsea transformed several times, as it went from the trend of the flirty 30s and 40s, to the hippy 60s and 70s until it emerged all prim and proper in the 80s and 90s. Home to more ‘cardigan-and-pearl sets’ than any other suburb in London, Chelsea became the epitome example of English respectability and it is here that it remains until this day. Prosperous and fashionable though it may be, Chelsea has always maintained its bohemian feel and the suburb is nowadays as cosmopolitan, arty and trendy as any could dream to be.