Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for CHELSEA

CHELSEA, a London suburb, a parish, and a district 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, Cercehede, 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 Catheriue; 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, by the reform act of 1867, it was constituted a borough sending two members to parliament; but, as a borough, it includes Fulham, Hammersmith, and Kensington.

The old manor-house stood near the church, on the north side; and was transferred 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 death-place 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 Haus 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 Beauforts, 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 step-father 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 Yarborough; 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 have been 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 demolished, 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 Launcelot 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 death-place of SirWager; and a cottage on the Thames towards Cremorne, of the painter Turner. 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 bridges and railways noticed in our article on Battersea serve also for Chelsea. A handsome chain pier at Cheyne-walk, was erected at a cost of between £3, 000 and £4, 000; and accommodates the river-steamers. The botanic garden, on the margin of the Thames, below the pier, belongs to the apothecaries' company; was formed in 1686; enjoyed the services of Miller, the author of the Gardeners' Dictionary; comprises about 4 acres; and contains a green-house, several hot-houses, a library, two magnificent cedars, and a bronze statue of Sir Hans Sloane by Rysbrach. Another botanic garden, in Sloane-street, was formed in 1807 by Curtis, the author of " Flora Londinensis;" comprises about 6 acres; and is well stocked with plants. The water-works, adjacent to the Thames, in the vicinity of Battersea Park bridge, were constructed originally in 1724; occupy about 6½ acres; have connected cuts and basins, occupying about 82 acres more; are fed from the Thames at Seething-Wells, near Thames-Ditton; and supply Chelsea and Belgravia at the rate of 6, 914, 000 gallons a day. A resolution was taken, in 1859, to build a vestry hall, at a cost of £10, 000; but was temporarily delayed. A bronze statue of Sir James Macgregor was erected in 1866. Barracks for the Guards, with accommodation for 1, 000 men, with church, hospitals, and other buildings, presenting altogether a frontage of about 1, 250 feet, were built in 1863. There are also a post office‡ under Brompton, London, SW., a police station, gas-works, a workhouse, a house for patients leaving the Brompton Consumption Hospital, a training-college and chapel for schoolmasters, a training college for schoolmistresses, a grammar-school, seven national schools, fifteen schools supported by religious bodies, two ragged schools, two lunatic asylums, three military schools, and above all the royal hospital for old and disabled soldiers.

" Go with old Thames, view Chelsea's glorious pile,

And ask the shattered hero whence his smile.

Hail, noblest structure, imaged in the wave,

A nation's grateful tribute to the brave."

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 bronzed statue of Charles II., by Gibbons, is in the open court; a hall and a 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 the 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 Monsey 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 hospital maintains from 400 to 430 inpensioners, at a cost of £36 a year each; and has on its books about 76, 000 out-pensioners at rates of from 2½ d. to 3s. 6d. a day. 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, Knightsbridge, and Kensal-Green. Acres, 865; of which 65 are in the Thames. Real property, £269, 876. Pop. in 1841, 40, 179; in 1861, 63, 439. Houses, 8, 314. It was divided ecclesiastically, in 1832, into the two parishes of St. Luke-Chelsea and Upper Chelsea; and it includes also the chapelries of-Old Church, Christ Church, Park Chapel, St. John-Kensal-Green, St. Saviour, St. Jude, and St. Simon. The two parochial livings are rectories and four of the chapelries are vicarages in the dio. of London. Value of St. Luke, £1, 400;* of Upper Chelsea, £650; of Old Church, £250; of Christ Church, £300; of Park Chapel, £400; of St. John-Kensal-Green, £420;* of St. Saviour, £450; of St. Jude, £300: of St. Simon, £250.* Patron of St. Luke and Upper Chelsea, Earl Cadogan; of Old Church, the Rector of St. Luke; of Christ Church, Hyndman's Trustees; of St. John-Kensal-Green, the Bishop of London; of St. Saviour and St. Jude, the Rector of Upper Chelsea; of Park Chapel and St. Simon, 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 and 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. An Independent chapel in Markham square was built in 1860, at a cost of £5, 000; and is a Kentish-rag and Bath-stone structure, in the decorated style, with a steeple 138 feet high. A Roman Catholic chapel was built in 1861, after designs by Pugin; and is internally of rather ornate character. There are also chapels for Presbyterians, Baptists, and Wesleyans.

The district is conterminate with the parish; and com-prises three sub-districts, South, Northwest, and North-east. Acres of the South sub-district, 303 of land and 65 of water; of the Northwest, 213; of the Northeast, 284. Pop. of the South, 21, 654; of the Northwest, 19, 899; of the Northeast, 21, 886. Poor-rates of the district in 1862, £28, 715. Marriages in 1860, 619; births, 1, 985, -of which 95 were illegitimate; deaths, 1, 534, - of which 666 were at ages under 5 years, and 31 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 5, 407; births, 19, 164; deaths, 14, 865. The places of worship in 1851 were 12 of the Church of England, with 10, 693 sittings; 1 of the Presbyterian Church in England, with 060 s.; 2 of Independents, with 580 s.; 3 of Baptists, with 526 s.; 4 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 2, 060 s.; 1 of the Wesleyan Association, with 320 s.; 1 undefined, with 50 s.; 2 of Latter Day Saints, with 190 s.; 1 of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, with 200 s.; and 1 of Roman Catholics, with 600 s. The schools were 28 public day schools, with 5, 184 scholars; 76 private day schools, with 1, 554 s.; 19 Sunday schools, with 3, 370 s.; and 5 evening schools for adults, with 73 s.


(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a London suburb, a parish, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "populated places")
Administrative units: Chelsea CP/AP/Vest       Chelsea RegD/PLPar       London AncC       Middlesex AncC
Place names: CEALSCYTHE     |     CERCEHEDE     |     CHELCHED     |     CHELSEA
Place: Chelsea

Go to the linked place page for a location map, and for access to other historical writing about the place. Pages for linked administrative units may contain historical statistics and information on boundaries.