From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Chelsea is an area of west London.
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, 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 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.
Chelsea was also home to writers such as George Meredith, Algernon Swinburne, Leigh Hunt, and Thomas Carlyle. 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.
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 Rolling Stones members Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards 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. Elvis Costello even sang `I don`t want to go to Chelsea`. Then Youth culture decamped forever, the Goths moving to the newly fashionable quarter of Camden Town and the hippies to Notting Hill.
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:
- Francis Bacon
- Hilaire Belloc (Cheyne Walk)
- James Bond (fictional) and John le Carre's Smiley.
- Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and Isambard Kingdom Brunel (civil engineers) (98 Cheyne Walk)
- Phyllis Calvert (actress) was born in Chelsea
- Steve Clark (late Def Leppard guitarist)
- Agatha Christie
- Johnny Depp rented a property on the King's Road for the duration of filming Finding Neverland.
- George Devine & Jocelyn Herbert (Rossetti Studios, Flood St)
- Dominicetti (6 Cheyne Walk)
- Bernie Ecclestone (Chelsea Square)
- George Eliot (spent the last 3 weeks of her life at 4 Cheyne Walk)
- Judy Garland (Spent the last few months of her life there with her fifth husband until death on June 22, 1969)
- Elizabeth Gaskell (93 Cheyne Walk)
- Bob Geldof
- David Lloyd George (10 Cheyne Walk)
- Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan (Chelsea Square)
- Elizabeth Hurley
- Mick Jagger and all the Rolling Stones (Edith Grove, Cheyne Walk)
- Henry James (21 Cheyne Walk)
- Roger Keyes
- Bob Marley composed his hit "I Shot the Sheriff" in a one-bedroom flat off Cheyne Walk in the mid-1970s.
- 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.
- Kate Middleton (ex-girlfriend of Prince William)
- Kylie Minogue
- Thomas More
- John Camden Neild (5 Cheyne Walk)
- Gwyneth Paltrow
- Sylvia Pankhurst (Cheyne Walk)
- Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran
- Alex Rider (fictional)
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti (16 Cheyne Walk)
- Gerald Scarfe and Jane Asher
- John Shaw Junior, architect of the 19th Century
- Mark Shuttleworth of ubuntu linux
- 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 (today 34 Tite Street, 16 Tite Street in Wilde's lifetime)
- Countess Zaleska (fictional title character in Dracula's Daughter)