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Chelsea, Middlesex

Historical Description

Chelsea, a London suburb, a parish, and a parliamentary borough in Middlesex. The suburb lies on the Thames, opposite Battersea and contiguous to Brompton, 3½ miles SW of St Paul's. The place was anciently called Cealscythe, Cerchede, and Chelched, and was the meeting-place of a synod in 1785. The manor belonged once to Westminster Abbey; was held in the time of Henry VII. by Sir Reginald Bray; passed by marriage to Lord Sandys; went in 1536 to Henry VIII.; became part of the jointure of Queen Catherine; was held afterwards by the Duke of Northumberland, the Duchess of Somerset, Lord Stanhope, Lady Howard, the first Duke of Hamilton, Lord Cheyne, and Sir Hans Sloane; passed by marriage to Charles Cadogan, second Baron of Oakley; and belongs now to Earl Cadogan, who takes from it the title of Viscount Chelsea. It was early chosen by magnates of the metropolis as a place of retirement; it became the site of splendid residences; it has undergone extensions in a style of grandeur rivalling Belgravia; and the river front has been greatly improved by the embanking of Cheyne Walk and the construction of the Chelsea Embankment. Many of the houses lately built are of red brick in the Queen Anne style, which is quite in harmony with the old associations of the suburb. Chelsea Suspension Bridge, which was built in 1858 at a cost of £80,000, leads from the Chelsea Embankment to Victoria Road at the east of Battersea Park. By the Reform Act of 1867 it was constituted a borough, sending two members to Parliament, but under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885 Fulham, Hammersmith, and Kensington were detached, and Chelsea now only returns one member. The population of the parliamentary borough is 96,253.

The old manor

The old manor-house stood near the church, on the north side, and was tranStrred by Henry VIII. to the ancestors of the Lawrence family. The new manor-house stood in Cheyne Walk; was built by Henry VIII. to be a nursery for his children; was the favourite residence of Elizabeth before she came to the throne; was the deathplace of the widowed Duchess of Northumberland; was inhabited many years by the Earl of Nottingham; was the scene of the last thirteen years of Sir Hans Sloane's life, and the place where he collected the nucleus of the British Museum; and was taken down soon after his death in 1753. Beaufort House, in Beaufort Row, was the seat of Sir Thomas More; passed to the Paulets, the Dacres, the Cecils, the Villierses, the Beau-forts, and Sir Hans Sloane; and was pulled down by the last in 1740. Winchester House, in Cheyne Walk, was a palace of the Bishops of Winchester from 1663 till 1820. Lindsey House, in Lindsey Row, was the residence of the Earls of Lindsey, and became the meeting-place of a Moravian society under Zinzendorf. Danvers House, in Danvers Street, was the residence of Sir John Danvers, the stepfather of George Herbert and Lord Herbert. Gordon House, adjacent to the Royal Hospital, was the seat of Russell, the hero of La Hogue; passed to Sir Robert Walpole, the Earl of Dunmore, George Aufrere, Esq.. and the Earl of Yar-borough; and was purchased in 1808 by Government for the erection of an infirmary. Gough House, near this, was built by the Earl of Carberry; became the seat of Sir John Gough; and was afterwards converted into a ladies' seminary. Cremorne Mansion and grounds, between King's Road and the Thames, belonged to Lord Cremorne; are associated with Steele's Aspasia in the "Tatler;" and were afterwards converted into an attractive place of public amusement. Ashburnham House, in the same vicinity, was the residence of Dr Hoadley, the author of the " Suspicious Husband." Monmouth House, now demoliyhed, at the upper end of Lawrence Street, was the residence of the widowed Duchess of Monmouth, where Gay attended her as secretary, and was the place where Smollett wrote his ''Sir Lancelot Greaves" and his "Humphrey Clinker." Ranelagh House, on the east side of the Royal Hospital, was built by the first Earl of Ranelagh, but sold in 1733, and the grounds of it were converted into a fashionable place of amusement, with an elegant rotunda 150 feet in diameter, but closed in 1804. Houses in Paradise Row were inhabited by the Duchess of Mazarene, Mrs Astell, Dr Mead, and the commentator Stackhouse; houses in Church Lane by Bishop Atterbury, Dean Swift, and Arbuthnot; and houses elsewhere by Bishop Fletcher, the Beauchamps, the Berkeleys, and the Talbots. Stanley House was the deathplace of Sir C. Wager, and a cottage on the Thames towards Cremorne, of the painter Turner. Thomas Carlyle lived in Cheyne Walk, and died there in 1881. Don Saltero's coffee-house in Cheyne Walk was established in 1695 by a barber, under the patronage of Sir Hans Sloane; got the name of Don Saltero's from a whim of Vice-Admiral Munden; and is celebrated by Steele in the " Tatler." The best known building in Chelsea is the Royal Hospital for old and disabled soldiers. This great institution stands near the Thames, above Battersea Park Bridge, and makes an imposing display toward the river. It was founded by Charles II., carried forward by James II., and completed, after designs by Wren, in 1692 by William and Mary. It took for its nucleus an unfinished theological college founded by James I., and therefore is sometimes called the college of Chelsea. The buildings cost about £150,000; they form a parallelogram of three courts, with the middle court open toward the Thames; they measure 790 feet from east to west, and 365 from north to south; they consist of brick masonry, with freestone quoins, cornices, columns, and pediments; and they show more effect with less means than any other of Wren's buildings. A bronze statue of Charles II. by Gibbons is in the open court; a hall and chapel, each 110 feet long, are in the centre; and the wards of the pensioners are in the wings. The hall contains a picture of Charles II. on horseback by Verrio, and was used for courts of inquiry respecting the Peninsular and Crimean wars, and for the lying-in-state of the Duke of Wellington's body, and the chapel contains a great variety of standards captured by the British army, including 13 French eagles, and has an altar-piece by Sebastian Ricci. Dr Arbuthnot and the eccentric Mousey were physicians to the hospital; P. Francis, the translator of Horace, was chaplain; and Cheselden the famous surgeon, W. Young the original of Fielding's "Parson Adams " and Mother Ross, who served as a dragoon under Marlborough, were interred in the burying-ground. Extensive gardens connected with the hospital occupy the space between it and the river, and include part of an avenue of clipped lime trees, the remnant of a curious piece of formal Dutch landscape. The Royal Military Asylum, near the King's Road, is supplemental to the Royal Hospital; was founded in 1801 under the auspices of the Duke of York; comprises three sides of a spacious quadrangle in brick masonry, with stone dressings and a Doric portico; and gives maintenance and training to about 850 boys, the orphans of soldiers or children of those on foreign stations.

The parish includes also parts of Little Chelsea

The parish includes also parts of Little Chelsea, Knights-bridge, and Kensal Green, and is divided into Stanley, Church, Hans Town, and Royal Hospital wards. Acreage, 794, of which 65 are in the Thames; population, 96,253. It was divided ecclesiastically in 1832 into the two parishes of St Luke Chelsea and Upper Chelsea, both of which are in the diocese of London. The parochial living of St Luke is a rectory, of the gross yearly value of £1547 with residence, in the gift of Earl Cadogan. The other livings in this parish are —the perpetual curacy of Old Church, of the gross yearly value of £250, in the gift of the rector of St Luke and the lord of the manor; the vicarage of Christ Church, of the net yearly value of £300, in the gift of Hyndman's trustees; the perpetual curacy of Park Chapel, in the gift of trustees; and the vicarage of St John, of the gross yearly of £400 with residence, also in the gift of trustees. The parochial living of Holy Trinity Upper Chelsea is a rectory, of the gross yearly value of £1500 with residence, in the gift of Earl Cadogan; and there are also the vicarages of St Jude, St Saviour, and St Simon Zeiotes. The net yearly value of St Jude is £178, and the gross yearly value of St Saviour, £839, both being in the gift of the rector of Upper Chelsea. The gross yearly value of St Simon Zeiotes is £220 with residence, and the living is in the gift of trustees. St Luke's Church was built in 1824 at a cost of £40,000, and is a splendid edifice in the Pointed style, with a lofty square tower. Upper Chelsea Church was built in 1830, and is also in the Pointed style. The Old Church, though now ranking as but. a chapel, was the original parish church, and consists of nave, side aisles, and chancel —the last rebuilt in the early part of the 16th century. Monuments of Sir Thomas More, Thomas Hungerford, Elizabeth Mayerne, the Duchess of Northumberland, the Countess of Huntingdon, Lord a'id Lady Dacre, Thomas Lawrence, and Lady Jane Cheyne are in this church; monuments of Dr E. Chamberlayne, Sir Hans Sloane, and Philip Miller are in the churchyard; and the remains of Fletcher the dramatist's mother, the Herberts' mother, the poet Shadwell, the lexicographer Boyer, the actor Mossop, and the magistrate Sir John Fielding were interred in the churchyard. Upper Chelsea Church was built in 1853, and is in the English style. St Simon's Church was built in 1859, and is a handsome cruciform edifice in the Early Decorated style. There are Roman Catholic, Congregational, Presbyterian, and Wesleyan chapels.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyMiddlesex 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Chelsea from the following:

Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Middlesex is online.


Online maps of Chelsea are available from a number of sites:

DistrictKensington and Chelsea
CountyGreater London
Postal districtSW3
Post TownLondon