CHELSEA, a suburb of the metropolis, comprising the parishes of St. Luke and Upper Chelsea, in the Kensington division of the hundred of Ossulstone, county of Middlesex; containing, with part of the chapelry of Knightsbridge, 40,179 inhabitants. This place was anciently called Chelcheth or Chelchith, probably from the Saxon Ceosl, or Cesol, sand, and Hythe, a harbour; from which its present name is derived. In 785, a synod for the reformation of religion in England was assembled here by the legates of Pope Adrian. The beauty of its situation on the Thames, which is wider here than in any other part above London bridge, made it, at an early period, the residence of illustrious persons, whose superb mansions procured for it the appellation of the "village of palaces." Among these was the residence of the chancellor, Sir Thomas More, at the north end of Beaufort-row; which, after being successively in the occupation of several distinguished characters, was taken down by Sir Hans Sloane, in the year 1740. The bishops of Winchester had a palace at the upper end of Cheyne-walk, which, under an act of parliament passed in 1823, enabling the bishop to alienate it from the see, was taken down in 1824. Queen Elizabeth had also a palace here; and Sir Robert Walpole resided for some time in a mansion previously belonging to the crown, on the site of which a fine edifice was erected in 1810, by Gen. Gordon. The mansion and gardens of the Earl of Ranelagh were converted into a place of public amusement, which after having been fashionably attended for a considerable time, was closed in 1805, and the buildings taken down; the site is now occupied by dwelling-houses. Just above Battersea bridge, near the western extremity of Chelsea, are Cremorne Gardens, occupying the grounds of a villa that stood here belonging to Viscountess Cremorne, which was built by Theophilus, Earl of Huntingdon, in the reign of George II.

Chelsea comprehends the old town on the bank of the Thames, over which is a bridge of wood leading to Battersea, in Surrey; the new buildings, erected since 1777, and called Hans Town, in honour of Sir Hans Sloane, a former lord of the manor; and several ranges of building of recent erection in various directions. In the old town is Cheyne-walk, which contains many handsome houses, commanding an interesting view of the river and the scenery on its opposite bank; in the new town are, Sloane-street, a regular range of respectable houses, nearly a mile in length, Sloane-square, and Upper and Lower Cadogan places. The streets are partially paved, and well lighted with gas, under the superintendence of 40 commissioners, including the rector and the churchwardens, appointed annually by act of parliament obtained about the year 1820: an act for more effectually paving, lighting, and otherwise improving the parish of St. Luke, exclusively of the district of Hans Town, was passed in 1845. The inhabitants are supplied with water by the Chelsea Water-Works Company, incorporated in 1724. There are a soap-manufactory, two breweries, a manufactory for papier-maché, and an extensive floorcloth manufactory: a considerable trade is carried on in coal; and in the neighbourhood are large tracts of ground cultivated by market-gardeners. The county magistrates hold a petty-session here for the hundred every Tuesday; and four headboroughs, nine constables, and other officers are appointed at the court for the manor. The Botanic Gardens were established in 1673, by the Company of Apothecaries, to whom Sir Hans Sloane granted, at a quit-rent of £5 per annum, four acres on the bank of the river; they contain a great variety of medicinal plants systematically arranged, a hot-house, green-houses, and a library, in which are many volumes of natural history. Lectures are delivered periodically to the students, by a demonstrator appointed for that purpose. In the centre of the gardens is a fine statue of Sir Hans Sloane, by Rysbrach; and in the front opposite to the river are two remarkably fine cedars of Libanus. A second botanic garden, occupying more than six acres, and well stocked with plants arranged after the Linnæan system, in seventeen compartments, was established in 1807, near Sloanestreet, where lectures are delivered in May and June.

The Royal Hospital for veteran soldiers, a handsome structure of brick ornamented with columns, quoins, and cornices of stone, erected after a design by Sir Christophen Wren, at an expense of £150,000, towards defraying which the projector, Sir Stephen Fox, grandfather of Charles James Fox, contributed £13,000, was begun in the reign of Charles II., and completed in that of William III. The buildings occupy a spacious quadrangle, in the centre of which is a statue in bronze of Charles II.; the east and west sides, which are 360 feet in length, comprise wards for the pensioners, and the governor's house. In the centre of the north side is a large vestibule lighted by a handsome dome, with the great hall on one side, in which the pensioners dine, and on the other, the chapel, a neat and lofty edifice, containing a handsome altar-piece with a good painting of the Resurrection. The south side of the quadrangle is open to the river, affording a fine view of the extensive gardens, which reach to its margin. There are smaller quadrangles, in which are the infirmaries and various offices, formed by the addition of wings to the extremities of the north side of the large quadrangle. On the north side of the hospital is an inclosure of thirteen acres, planted with avenues of trees. The number of inpensioners is about 500, and of out-pensioners indefinite; the annual expenditure is from £700,000 to £800,000. York Hospital, also in the parish, is a receptacle for wounded soldiers arriving from foreign stations, who are waiting for a vacancy in the royal hospital. The Royal Military Asylum was founded in 1801, by the Duke of York, for the support and education of the orphan children of soldiers, and of those whose fathers are serving on foreign stations: at present the number of boys is 350. There were formerly nearly 1000 boys in the institution, and 300 girls; but the latter, in 1823, were removed to Southampton, where a cavalry barrack, which had been previously converted into an asylum for 400 boys, was appropriated to their use. The premises, which are of brick ornamented with stone, form three sides of a quadrangle: the west front consists of a centre, with a stone portico of the Doric order, connected with two wings by an arcade; and within the grounds is a handsome chapel.

The ancient parish of Chelsea has lately been divided into two distinct and separate parishes. The living of St. Luke's is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £13. 6. 8.; net income, £1003; patron, Earl Cadogan. The church, erected in 1824, at an expense of £40,000, of which the Parliamentary Commissioners granted £8785, is a magnificent structure in the decorated and later styles of English architecture, with a tower crowned by dome turrets at the angles; the west front is strikingly beautiful. The interior has an impressive grandeur of effect, arising from the loftiness of the nave, which has a triforium and a fine range of clerestory windows of three lights, and is separated from the aisles by clustered columns and pointed arches: the altar-piece is ornamented with shrine-work of elegant design, and with a painting of the Descent from the Cross; the east window is lofty and of graceful character, and the roof of the building is groined. The living of Upper Chelsea is a rectory not in charge; net income, £840; patron, Earl Cadogan. The church, situated in Sloanestreet, and dedicated to the Trinity, is a handsome edifice in the later English style, with two minaret turrets at the west end, erected in 1830, at an expense of £5849, by grant from the Commissioners.

The old church, now used as a Chapel, is a small edifice, partly in the early and partly in the decorated English style, with a low tower surmounted by a campanile turret: it is chiefly of brick, and was built in the early part of the sixteenth century; it was enlarged, and the tower added, about 1670. At the end of the north aisle is a chapel in the decorated style, and at the extremity of the south aisle is one erected by Sir Thomas More, in 1520. Among the many interesting monuments are those of Sir Thomas More; Dr. Edward Chamberlayne, author of The Present State of England; Thomas Shadwell, poet-laureate in the reign of William and Mary; Sir Hans Sloane; and others. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £300; patron, the Rector of St. Luke's. An episcopal chapel, called Park chapel, was built by Sir Richard Manningham, in 1718, and is in the gift of J. D. Paul, Esq. Christ Church, situated in Queen-street, and consecrated in June, 1839, is a neat edifice of brick, in the early English style, with a campanile turret surmounted by a dwarf spire; it was erected by the Trustees of Miss Hyndman, at a cost of nearly £4000, and will accommodate 1200 persons. The living is in the gift of the Trustees. St. Saviour's district church, behind Hans-place, in Upper Chelsea, was also built for a congregation of 1200 persons, at an estimated expense of £5000, of which one-half was granted by the Metropolitan Church Building Society, and the remainder raised by voluntary contributions; it was consecrated in May, 1840. A district church dedicated to St. Jude has been since erected in Turk'srow, in the parish of Upper Chelsea. The two livings are in the gift of the Rector. St. Mark's College, Stanley Grove, is a training institution for masters of national schools, with a chapel annexed, and nearly 60 young men have been prepared here since the foundation. At Whitelands is an institution for training schoolmistresses; the building will accommodate 75 young women, and in connexion with it is a large school taught by the pupils in training. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, and Roman Catholics. John King, A.M., editor of some of the tragedies of Euripides; and Dr. Thomas Martyn, F.R.S., an eminent antiquary and natural philosopher, and regius professor of botany at Cambridge for sixty-four years, were natives of the parish.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.