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The Fascination of London
Author: G. E. (Geraldine Edith) Mitton
Editor: Sir Walter Besant
Release Date: November 28, 2008 [eBook #27356]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CHELSEA***
IN THIS SERIES.
Cloth, price 1s. 6d. net; leather, price 2s. net, each.
By G. E. Mitton. Edited by Sir Walter Besant.
By Sir Walter Besant and G. E. Mitton.
THE STRAND DISTRICT.
By Sir Walter Besant and G. E. Mitton.
By G. E. Mitton. Edited by Sir Walter Besant.
G. E. MITTON
SIR WALTER BESANT
ADAM & CHARLES BLACK
A survey of London, a record of the greatest of all cities, that should preserve her history, her historical and literary associations, her mighty buildings, past and present, a book that should comprise all that Londoners love, all that they ought to know of their heritage from the past—this was the work on which Sir Walter Besant was engaged when he died.
As he himself said of it: “This work fascinates me more than anything else I’ve ever done. Nothing at all like it has ever been attempted before. I’ve been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day.”
He had seen one at least of his dreams realized in the People’s Palace, but he was not destined to see this mighty work on London take form. He died when it was still incomplete. His scheme included several volumes on the history of London as a whole. These he finished up to the end of the eighteenth century, and they form a record of the great city practically unique, and exceptionally viii interesting, compiled by one who had the qualities both of novelist and historian, and who knew how to make the dry bones live. The volume on the eighteenth century, which Sir Walter called a “very big chapter indeed, and particularly interesting,” will shortly be issued by Messrs. A. and C. Black, who had undertaken the publication of the Survey.
Sir Walter’s idea was that the next two volumes should be a regular and systematic perambulation of London by different persons, so that the history of each parish should be complete in itself. This was a very original feature in the great scheme, and one in which he took the keenest interest. Enough has been done of this section to warrant its issue in the form originally intended, but in the meantime it is proposed to select some of the most interesting of the districts and publish them as a series of booklets, attractive alike to the local inhabitant and the student of London, because much of the interest and the history of London lie in these street associations. For this purpose Chelsea, Westminster, the Strand, and Hampstead have been selected for publication first, and have been revised and brought up to date.
The difficulty of finding a general title for the series was very great, for the title desired was one that would express concisely the undying charm ix of London—that is to say, the continuity of her past history with the present times. In streets and stones, in names and palaces, her history is written for those who can read it, and the object of the series is to bring forward these associations, and to make them plain. The solution of the difficulty was found in the words of the man who loved London and planned the great scheme. The work “fascinated” him, and it was because of these associations that it did so. These links between past and present in themselves largely constitute The Fascination of London.
G. E. M.
|Chelsea South of the King's Road||1|
|Chelsea North of the King's Road||55|
|The Royal Hospital and Ranelagh Gardens||67|
|Map at end of Volume.|
The name Chelsea, according to Faulkner and Lysons, only began to be used in the early part of the eighteenth century. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the place was known as Chelsey, and before that time as Chelceth or Chelchith. The very earliest record is in a charter of King Edward the Confessor, where it is spelt Cealchyth. In Doomsday Book it is noted as Cercehede and Chelched. The word is derived variously. Newcourt ascribes it to the Saxon word ceald, or cele, signifying cold, combined with the Saxon hyth, or hyd, a port or haven. Norden believes it to be due to the word “chesel” (ceosol, or cesol), a bank “which the sea casteth up of sand or pebble-stones, thereof called Cheselsey, briefly Chelsey, as is Chelsey [Winchelsea?] in Sussex.” Skinner agrees with him substantially, deriving the principal part of the word from banks of sand, and the ea or ey from land situated near 2 the water; yet he admits it is written in ancient records Cealchyth—“chalky haven.” Lysons asserts that if local circumstances allowed it he would have derived it from “hills of chalk.” Yet, as there is neither hill nor chalk in the parish, this derivation cannot be regarded as satisfactory. The difficulty of the more generally received interpretation—viz., shelves of gravel near the water—is that the ancient spelling of the name did undoubtedly end in hith or heth, and not in ea or ey.
The dividing line which separated the old parish of Chelsea from the City of Westminster was determined by a brook called the Westbourne, which took its rise near West End in Hampstead. It flowed through Bayswater and into Hyde Park. It supplied the water of the Serpentine, which we owe to the fondness of Queen Caroline for landscape gardening. This well-known piece of water was afterwards supplied from the Chelsea waterworks. The Westbourne stream then crossed Knightsbridge, and from this point formed the eastern boundary of St. Luke’s parish, Chelsea. The only vestige of the rivulet now remaining is to be seen at its southern extremity, where, having become a mere sewer, it empties itself into the Thames about 300 yards above the bridge. The 3 name survives in Westbourne Park and Westbourne Street. The boundary line of the present borough of Chelsea is slightly different; it follows the eastern side of Lowndes Square, and thence goes down Lowndes Street, Chesham Street, and zigzags through Eaton Place and Terrace, Cliveden Place, and Westbourne Street, breaking off from the last-named at Whitaker Street, thence down Holbein Place, a bit of Pimlico, and Bridge Road to the river.
In a map of Chelsea made in 1664 by James Hamilton, the course of the original rivulet is clearly shown. The northern boundary of Chelsea begins at Knightsbridge. The north-western, that between Chelsea and Kensington, runs down Basil and Walton Streets, and turns into the Fulham Road at its junction with the Marlborough Road. It follows the course of the Fulham Road to Stamford Bridge, near Chelsea Station. The western boundary, as well as the eastern, had its origin in a stream which rose to the north-west of Notting Hill. Its site is now occupied by the railway-line (West London extension); the boundary runs on the western side of this until it joins an arm of Chelsea Creek, from which point the Creek forms the dividing line to the river.
An outlying piece of land at Kensal Town belonged to Chelsea parish, but is not included in the borough.
The population in 1801 was 12,079. In the year 1902 (the latest return) it is reckoned at 73,842.
Bowack, in an account of Chelsea in 1705, estimates the inhabited houses at 300; they are now computed at 8,641.
The first recorded instance of the mention of Chelsea is about 785, when Pope Adrian sent legates to England for the purpose of reforming the religion, and they held a synod at Cealchythe.
In the reign of Edward the Confessor Thurstan gave Chilchelle or Chilcheya, which he held of the King, to Westminster Abbey. This gift was confirmed by a charter which is in the Saxon language, and is still preserved in the British Museum. Gervace, Abbot of Westminster, natural son of King Stephen, aliened the Manor of Chelchithe; he bestowed it upon his mother, Dameta, to be held by her in fee, paying annually to the church at Westminster the sum of £4. In Edward III.’s reign one Robert de Heyle leased the Manor of Chelsith to the Abbot and Convent 5 of Westminster during his own lifetime, for which they were to make certain payments: “£20 per annum, to provide him daily with two white loaves, two flagons of convent ale, and once a year a robe of Esquier’s silk.” The manor at that time was valued at £25 16s. 6d. The Dean and Chapter of Westminster hold among their records several court rolls of the Manor of Chelsea during the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II. With the exception that one Simon Bayle seems to have been lessee of the Manor House in 1455, we know nothing definite of it until the reign of Henry VII., after which the records are tolerably clear. It was then held by Sir Reginald Bray, and from him it descended to his niece Margaret, who married Lord Sandys. Lord Sandys gave or sold it to Henry VIII., and it formed part of the jointure of Queen Catherine Parr, who resided there for some time with her fourth husband, Lord Seymour.
Afterwards it appears to have been granted to the Duke of Northumberland, who was beheaded in 1553 for his attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. The Duchess of Northumberland held it for her life, and at her death it was granted to John Caryl, who only held it for a few months before parting with it to John Bassett, “notwithstanding which,” says Lysons, “Lady Anne of Cleves, in the account of her funeral, 6 is said to have died at the King and Quene’s majestys’ Place of Chelsey beside London in the same year.”
Queen Elizabeth gave it to the Earl of Somerset’s widow for life, and at her death it was granted to John Stanhope, afterwards first Lord Stanhope, subject to a yearly rent-charge. It is probable that he soon surrendered it, for we find it shortly after granted by Queen Elizabeth to Katherine, Lady Howard, wife of the Lord Admiral. Then it was held by the Howards for several generations, confirmed by successive grants, firstly to Margaret, Countess of Nottingham, and then to James Howard, son of the Earl of Nottingham, who had the right to hold it for forty years after the decease of his mother. She, however, survived him, and in 1639 James, Duke of Hamilton, purchased her interest in it, and entered into possession. He only held it until the time of the Commonwealth, when it was seized and sold; but it seems that the purchasers, Thomas Smithby and Robert Austin, only bought it to hold in trust for the heirs of Hamilton, for in 1657 Anne, daughter and coheiress of the Duke of Hamilton, and her husband, Lord Douglas, sold it to Charles Cheyne. He bought it with part of the large dower brought him by his wife, Lady Jane Cheyne, as is recorded on her tombstone in Chelsea Church. Sir Hans Sloane in 1712 purchased it from the then Lord 7 Cheyne. He left two daughters, who married respectively Lord Cadogan and George Stanley. As the Stanleys died out in the second generation, their share reverted by will to the Cadogans, in whom it is still vested.
Beginning our account of Chelsea at a point in the eastern boundary in the Pimlico Road, we have on the right-hand side Holbein Place, a modern street so named in honour of the great painter, who was a frequent visitor at Sir Thomas More’s house in Chelsea. Holbein Place curves to the west, and finally enters Sloane Square.
In the Pimlico Road, opposite to the barracks, there stood until 1887-88 a shop bearing the sign of the “Old Chelsea Bun House.” But this was not the original Bun House, which stood further eastward, outside the Chelsea boundary. It had a colonnade projecting over the pavement, and it was fashionable to visit it in the morning. George II., Queen Caroline, and the Princesses frequently came to it, and later George III. and Queen Charlotte. A crowd of some 50,000 people gathered in the neighbourhood on Good Friday, and a record of 240,000 buns being sold on that day is reported. Swift, in his Journal to Stella, 1712, writes: “Pray are not fine buns sold here 8 in our town as the rare Chelsea Buns?” In 1839 the place was pulled down and sold by auction.
The barracks, on the south side of the road, face westwards, and have a frontage of a thousand feet in length. As a matter of fact, they are not included in the borough of Chelsea, though the old parish embraced them; but as they are Chelsea Barracks, and as we are here more concerned with sentiment than surveyor’s limits, it would be inexcusable to omit all mention of them.
The chapel stands behind the drill-yard at the back. It is calculated that it seats 800 people. The organ was built by Hill. The brass lectern was erected in 1888 in memory of Bishop Claughton. The east end is in the form of an apse, with seven deeply-set windows, of which only two are coloured. The walls of the chancel are inlaid with alabaster. Round the walls are glazed tiles to the memory of the men of the Guards who have died. The oak pulpit is modern, and the font, cut from a solid block of dark-veined marble and supported by four pillars, stands on a small platform of tessellated pavement. Passing out of the central gateway of the barracks and turning northward, we come to the junction of Pimlico Road and Queen’s Road. From this point to the corner of Smith Street the road is known as Queen’s Road. Along the first part of its southern side is the ancient burial-ground of the 9 hospital. At the western end of this the tombstones cluster thickly, though many of the inscriptions are now quite illegible. The burial-ground was consecrated in 1691, and the first pensioner, Simon Box, was buried here in 1692. In 1854 the ground was closed by the operation of the Intramural Burials Act, but by special permission General Sir Colin Halkett was buried here two years later. His tomb is a conspicuous object about midway down the centre path. It is said that two female warriors, who dressed in men’s clothes and served as soldiers, Christina Davies and Hannah Snell, rest here, but their names cannot be found. The first Governor of the Royal Hospital, Sir Thomas Ogle, K.T., was buried here in 1702, aged eighty-four, and also the first Commandant of the Royal Military Asylum, Lieutenant-Colonel George Williamson, in 1812. The pensioners are now buried in the Brompton Cemetery. For complete account of the Royal Hospital and the Ranelagh Gardens adjoining, see p. 67.
At the corner between Turks Row and Lower Sloane Street there is a great red-brick mansion rising several stories higher than its neighbours. This is an experiment of the Ladies’ Dwelling Company to provide rooms for ladies obliged to live in London on small means, and has a restaurant below, where meals can be obtained at a reasonable 10 rate. The first block was opened in February, 1889. It is in a very prosperous condition, the applications altogether surpassing the accommodation. The large new flats and houses called Sloane Court and Revelstoke and Mendelssohn Gardens have been built quite recently, and replace very “mean streets.” The little church of St. Jude’s—district church of Holy Trinity—stands on the north side of the Row, and at the back are the National and infant schools attached to it. It was opened for service in 1844. In 1890 it was absorbed into Holy Trinity parish. It seats about 800 persons. From Turks Row we pass into Franklin’s Row. On Hamilton’s map (corrected to 1717) we find marked “Mr. Franklin’s House,” not on the site of the present Row, but opposite the north-western corner of Burton’s Court, at the corner of the present St. Leonard’s Terrace and Smith Street. The name Franklin has been long connected with Chelsea, for in 1790 we find John Franklin and Mary Franklin bequeathing money to the poor of Chelsea. At the south end is an old public-house, with overhanging story and red-tiled roof; it is called the Royal Hospital, and contrasts quaintly with its towering modern red-brick neighbours.
The entrance gates of the Royal Military Asylum, popularly known as the Duke of York’s School, open on to Franklin’s Row just before it 11 runs into Cheltenham Terrace. The building itself stands back behind a great space of green grass. It is of brick faced with Portland stone, and is of very solid construction. Between the great elm-trees on the lawn can be seen the immense portico, with the words “The Royal Military Asylum for the Children of the Soldiers of the Regular Army” running across the frieze.
The building is in three wings, enclosing at the back laundry, hospital, Commandant’s house, etc., and great playgrounds for the boys. Long low dormitories, well ventilated, on the upper floors in the central building contain forty beds apiece, while those in the two wings are smaller, with thirteen beds each. Below the big dormitories are the dining-rooms, the larger one decorated with devices of arms; these were brought from the Tower and arranged by the boys themselves. There are 550 inmates, admitted between the ages of nine and eleven, and kept until they are fourteen or fifteen. The foundation was established by the Duke of York in 1801, and was ready for occupation by 1803. It was designed to receive 700 boys and 300 girls, and there was an infant establishment connected with it in the Isle of Wight. In 1823 the girls were removed elsewhere. There are a number of boys at the sister establishment, the Hibernian Asylum, in Ireland. The Commandant, Colonel G. A. W. 12 Forrest, is allowed 6½d. per diem for the food of each boy, and the bill of fare is extraordinarily good. Cocoa and bread-and-butter, or bread-and-jam, for breakfast and tea; meat, pudding, vegetables, and bread, for dinner. Cake on special fête-days as an extra. The boys do credit to their rations, and show by their bright faces and energy their good health and spirits. They are under strict military discipline, and both by training and heredity have a military bias. There is no compulsion exercised, but fully 90 per cent. of those who are eligible finally enter the army; and the school record shows a long list of commissioned and non-commissioned officers, and even two Major-Generals, who owed their early training to the Chelsea Asylum. The site on which the Asylum stands was bought from Lord Cadogan; it occupies about twelve acres, and part of it was formerly used for market-gardens.
One of the schoolrooms has still the pulpit, and a raised gallery running round, which mark it as having been the original chapel; but the present chapel stands at the corner of King’s Road and Cheltenham Terrace. On Sunday morning the boys parade on the green in summer and on the large playground in winter before they march in procession to the chapel with their band playing, a scene which has been painted by Mr. Morris, A.R.A., as “The Sons of the Brave.” The chaplain 13 is the Rev. G. H. Andrews. The gallery of the chapel is open to anyone, and is almost always well filled. The annual expenditure of the Asylum is supplied by a Parliamentary grant.
On Hamilton’s Survey the ground now occupied by the Duke of York’s School is marked “Glebe,” and exactly opposite to it, at the corner where what is now Cheltenham Terrace joins King’s Road, is a small house in an enclosure called “Robins’ Garden.” On this spot now stands Whitelands Training College for school-mistresses. “In 1839 the Rev. Wyatt Edgell gave £1,000 to the National Society to be the nucleus for a building fund, whenever the National Society could undertake to build a female training college.” But it was not until 1841 that the college for training school-mistresses was opened at Whitelands. In 1850 grants were made from the Education Department and several of the City Companies, and the necessary enlargements and improvements were set on foot. Some of the earlier students were very young, but in 1858 the age of admission was raised to eighteen. From time to time the buildings have been enlarged. Mr. Ruskin instituted in 1880 a May Day Festival, to be held annually, and as long as he lived, he himself presented to the May Queen a gold cross and chain, and distributed to her 14 comrades some of his volumes. Mr. Ruskin also presented to the college many books, coins, and pictures, and proved himself a good friend. In the chapel there is a beautiful east window erected to the memory of Miss Gillott, one of the former governesses. The present Principal is the Rev. J. P. Faunthorpe, F.R.G.S.
On the west side is Walpole Street, so called from the fact that Sir Robert Walpole is supposed to have lodged in a house on this site before moving into Walpole House, now in the grounds of the Royal Hospital. Walpole Street leads us into St. Leonard’s Terrace, formerly Green’s Row, which runs along the north side of the great court known as Burton’s Court, treated in the account of the Hospital. In this terrace there is nothing calling for remark. Opening out of it, parallel to Walpole Street, runs the Royal Avenue, also connected with the Hospital. To the north, facing King’s Road, lies Wellington Square, named after the famous Wellington, whose brother was Rector of Chelsea (1805). The centre of the square is occupied by a double row of trees. St. Leonard’s Terrace ends in Smith Street, the southern part of which was formerly known as Ormond Row. The southern half is full of interest. Durham House, now occupied by Sir Bruce Maxwell Seton, stands on the site of Old Durham House, about which very little is known. It may have been 15 the town residence of the Bishops of Durham, but tradition records it not. Part of the building was of long, narrow bricks two inches wide, thus differing from the present ones of two and a half inches; some of the same sort are still preserved in the wall of Sir Thomas More’s garden. This points to its having been of the Elizabethan or Jacobean period. Yet in Hamilton’s Survey it is not marked; instead, there is a house called “Ship House,” a tavern which is said to have been resorted to by the workmen building the Hospital. It is possible this is the same house which degenerated into a tavern, and then recovered its ancient name. Connected with this until quite recently there was a narrow passage between the houses in Paradise Row called Ship Alley, and supposed to have led from Gough House to Ship House. This was closed by the owner after a lawsuit about right of way.
A little to the north of Durham House was one of the numerous dwellings in Chelsea known as Manor House. It was the residence of the Steward of the Manor, and had great gardens reaching back as far as Flood Street, then Queen Street. This is marked in a map of 1838. This house was afterwards used as a consumption hospital, and formed the germ from which the Brompton Hospital sprang. On its site stands Durham Place. Below Durham Place is a little row of old houses, or, rather, cottages, with plaster fronts, 16 and at the corner a large public-house known as the Chelsea Pensioner. On the site of this, the corner house, the local historian Faulkner lived. He was born in 1777, and wrote histories of Fulham, Hammersmith, Kensington, Brentford, Chiswick, and Ealing, besides his invaluable work on Chelsea. He is always accurate, always painstaking, and if his style is sometimes dry, his is, at all events, the groundwork and foundation on which all subsequent histories of Chelsea have been reared. Later on he moved into Smith Street, where he died in 1855. He is buried in the Brompton Road Cemetery.
The continuation of St. Leonard’s Terrace is Redesdale Street; we pass down this and up Radnor Street, into which the narrow little Smith Terrace opens out. Smith Street and Smith Terrace are named after their builder. Radnor House stood at the south-eastern corner of Flood Street, but the land owned by the Radnors gave its name to the adjacent street. At the northern corner of Radnor Street stands a small Welsh chapel built of brick. In the King’s Road, between Smith and Radnor Streets, formerly stood another manor-house. Down Shawfield Street we come back into Redesdale Street, out of which opens Tedworth Square. Robinson’s Street is a remnant of Robinson’s Lane, the former name of Flood Street, a corruption of “Robins his street,” from Mr. 17 Robins, whose house is marked on Hamilton’s map. Christ Church is in Christchurch Street, and is built of brick in a modern style. It holds 1,000 people. The organ and the dark oak pulpit came from an old church at Queenhithe, and were presented by the late Bishop of London, and the carving on the latter is attributed to Grinling Gibbons. At the back of the church are National Schools. Christchurch Street, which opens into Queen’s Road West (old Paradise Row), was made by the demolition of some old houses fronting the Apothecaries’ Garden.
At the extreme corner of Flood Street and Queen’s Road West stood Radnor House, called by Hamilton “Lady Radnor’s House.” In 1660, when still only Lord Robartes, the future Earl of Radnor entertained Charles II. here to supper. Pepys, the indefatigable, has left it on record that he “found it to be the prettiest contrived house” that he ever saw. Lord Cheyne (Viscount Newhaven) married the Dowager Duchess of Radnor, who was at that time living in Radnor House. After the death of the first Earl, the family name is recorded as Roberts in the registers, an instance of the etymological carelessness of the time. In Radnor House was one of the pillared arcades fashionable in the Jacobean period, of which a specimen is still to be seen over the doorway of the dining-room in the Queen’s House. On the 18 first floor was a remarkably fine fireplace, which has been transferred bodily to one of the modern houses in Cheyne Walk. At the back of Radnor House were large nursery-gardens known as “Mr. Watt’s gardens” from the time of Hamilton (1717) until far into the present century. An old hostel adjoining Radnor House was called the Duke’s Head, after the Duke of Cumberland, of whom a large oil-painting hung in the principal room.
From this corner to the west gates of the Hospital was formerly Paradise Row. Here lived the Duchess of Mazarin, sister to the famous Cardinal. She was married to the Duke de la Meilleraie, who adopted her name. It is said that Charles II. when in exile had wished to marry her, but was prevented by her brother, who saw at the time no prospect of a Stuart restoration. The Duchess, after four years of unhappy married life with the husband of her brother’s choice, fled to England. Charles, by this time restored to his throne, received her, and settled £4,000 on her from the secret service funds. She lived in Chelsea in Paradise Row. Tradition asserts very positively that the house was at one end of the row, but at which remains a disputed point. L’Estrange and others have inclined to the belief that it was at the east end, the last of a row of low creeper-covered houses still standing, fronted 19 by gardens and high iron gates. The objection to this is that these are not the last houses in the line, but are followed by one or two of a different style.
The end of all, now a public-house, is on the site of Faulkner’s house, and it is probable that if the Duchess had lived there, he, coming after so comparatively short an interval, would have mentioned the fact; as it is, he never alludes to the exact locality. Even £4,000 a year was quite inadequate to keep up this lady’s extravagant style of living. The gaming at her house ran high; it is reported that the guests left money under their plates to pay for what they had eaten. St. Evremond, poet and man of the world, was frequently there, and he seems to have constituted himself “guide, philosopher, and friend” to the wayward lady. She was only fifty-two when she died in 1699, and the chief records of her life are found in St. Evremond’s writings. He, her faithful admirer to the end, was buried in Westminster Abbey.
A near neighbour of the Duchess’s was Mrs. Mary Astell, one of the early pioneers in the movement for the education for women. She published several volumes in defence of her sex, and proposed to found a ladies’ college. She gave up the project, however, when it was condemned by Bishop Burnet. She was ridiculed by 20 the wits of her time—Swift, Steele, and Addison—but she was undoubtedly a very able woman.
The Duke of St. Albans, Nell Gwynne’s son, also had a house in Paradise Row. The Duke of Ormond lived in Ormond House, two or three doors from the east corner. In 1805 the comedian Suett died in this row. Further down towards the river are enormous new red-brick mansions. Tite Street runs right through from Tedworth Square to the Embankment, being cut almost in half by Queen’s Road West. It is named after Sir W. Tite, M.P. The houses are modern, built in the Queen Anne style, and are mostly of red brick. To this the white house built for Mr. Whistler is an exception; it is a square, unpretentious building faced with white bricks.
At different times the names of many artists have been associated with this street, which is still a favourite one with men of the brush. The great block of studios—the Tower House—rises up to an immense height on the right, almost opposite to the Victoria Hospital for Children. The nucleus of this hospital is ancient Gough House, one of the few old houses still remaining in Chelsea. John Vaughan, third and last Earl of Carbery, built it in the beginning of the eighteenth century. He had been Governor of Jamaica under Charles II., and had left behind him a bad reputation. He did not live long to enjoy his Chelsea 21 home, for Faulkner tells us he died in his coach going to it in 1713. Sir Robert Walpole, whose land adjoined, bought some of the grounds to add to his own.
In 1866 the Victoria Hospital for Children was founded by a number of medical men, chief of whom were Edward Ellis, M.D., and Sydney Hayward, M.D. There was a dispute about the site, which ended in the foundation of two hospitals—this and the Belgrave one. This one was opened first, and consequently earned the distinction of being the first children’s hospital opened after that in Ormond Street. At first only six beds were provided; but there are now seventy-five, and an additional fifty at the convalescent home at Broadstairs, where a branch was established in 1875. The establishment is without any endowment, and is entirely dependent on voluntary subscriptions. From time to time the building has been added to and adapted, so that there is little left to tell that it was once an old house. Only the thickness of the walls between the wards and the old-fashioned contrivances of some of the windows betray the fact that the building is not modern. Children are received at any age up to sixteen; some are mere babies. Across Tite Street, exactly opposite, is a building containing six beds for paying patients in connection with the Victoria Hospital. 22
Paradise Walk, a very dirty, narrow little passage, runs parallel to Tite Street. In it is a theatre built by the poet Shelley, and now closed. At one time private theatricals were held here, but when money was taken at the door, even though it was in behalf of a charity, the performances were suppressed. Paradise Row opens into Dilke Street, behind the pseudo-ancient block of houses on the Embankment. Some of these are extremely fine. Shelley House is said to have been designed by Lady Shelley. Wentworth House is the last before Swan Walk, in which the name of the Swan Tavern is kept alive. This tavern was well known as a resort by all the gay and thoughtless men who visited Chelsea in the seventeenth century. It is mentioned by Pepys and Dibdin, and is described as standing close to the water’s edge and having overhanging wooden balconies. In 1715 Thomas Doggett, a comedian, instituted a yearly festival, in which the great feature was a race by watermen on the river from “the old Swan near London Bridge to the White Swan at Chelsea.” The prize was a coat, in every pocket of which was a guinea, and also a badge. This race is still rowed annually, Doggett’s Coat and Badge being a well-known river institution.
Adjoining Swan Walk is the Apothecaries’ Garden, the oldest garden of its kind in London. Sir Hans Sloane, whose name is revered in Chelsea 23 and perpetuated in one of the principal streets, is so intimately associated with this garden that it is necessary at this point to give a short account of him. Sir Hans Sloane was born in Ireland, 1660. He began his career undistinguished by any title and without any special advantages. Very early he evinced an ardent love of natural history, and he came over while still a youth to study in London. From this time his career was one long success. When he was only twenty-seven he was selected by the Duke of Albemarle, who had been appointed Governor of Jamaica, to accompany him as his physician. About a year and a half later he returned, bringing with him a wonderful collection of dried plants.
Mr. Sloane was appointed Court physician, and after the accession of George I. he was created a Baronet. He was appointed President of the Royal Society on the death of Sir Isaac Newton in 1727. He will be remembered, however, more especially as being the founder of the British Museum. During the course of a long life he had collected a very valuable assortment of curiosities, and this he left to the nation on the payment by the executors of a sum of £20,000—less than half of what it had cost him. In 1712 he purchased the Manor of Chelsea, and when the lease of the Apothecaries’ Garden ran out in 1734, he granted it to the Society perpetually on certain conditions, 24 one of which was that they should deliver fifty dried samples of plants every year to the Royal Society until the number reached 2,000. This condition was fulfilled in 1774. Sir Hans Sloane died in 1753.
A marble statue by Rysbach in the centre of the garden commemorates him. It was erected in 1737 at a cost of nearly £300. Mr. Miller, son of a gardener employed by the Apothecaries, wrote a valuable horticultural dictionary, and a new genus of plants was named after him.
Linnæus visited the garden in 1736. Of the four cedars—the first ever brought to England—planted here in 1683, one alone survives.
Returning to the Embankment, we see a few more fine houses in the pseudo-ancient style. Clock House and Old Swan House were built from designs by Norman Shaw, R.A. Standing near is a large monument, with an inscription to the effect: “Chelsea Embankment, opened 1874 by Lt.-Col. Sir J. Macnaghten Hogg, K.C.B. Sir Joseph W. Bazalgette, C.B., engineer.” The Embankment is a magnificent piece of work, extending for nearly a mile, and made of Portland cement concrete, faced with dressed blocks of granite. Somewhere on the site of the row of houses in Cheyne Walk stood what was known as the New Manor House, built by King Henry VIII. as part of the jointure of Queen Catherine Parr, 25 who afterwards lived here with her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour, Lord High Admiral. Here the young Princess Elizabeth came to stay with her stepmother, and also poor little Lady Jane Grey at the age of eleven. The history of the Manor House, of course, coincides with the history of the manor, which has been given at length elsewhere. Lysons, writing in 1795, states that the building was pulled down “many years ago.” It was built in 1536, and thus was probably in existence about 250 years. More than a century after, some time prior to 1663, James, Duke of Hamilton, had built a house adjoining the Manor House on the western side. The palace of the Bishops of Winchester at Southwark had become dilapidated, and the Bishop of that time, George Morley, purchased Hamilton’s new house for £4,250 to be the episcopal residence. From that time until the investment of Bishop Tomline, 1820, eight Bishops lived in the house successively. Of these, Bishop Hoadley, one of the best-known names among them, was the sixth. He was born in 1676, the son of a master of Norwich Grammar School. He was a Fellow of Catherine’s Hall at Cambridge, and wrote several political works which brought him into notice. He passed successively through the sees of Bangor, Hereford, Salisbury, and Winchester. He was succeeded by the Hon. Brownlow North, to whom Faulkner dedicated his first 26 edition of “Chelsea.” Lady Tomline, the wife of the Bishop of that name, took a dislike to the house at Chelsea and refused to live there. The great hall was forty feet long by twenty wide, and the three drawing-rooms extended the whole length of the south front. The front stood rather further back than the Manor House, not on a line with it. The palace stood just where Oakley Street now opens into Cheyne Walk. The houses standing on the sites of these palaces are mostly modern. No. 1 has a fine doorway which came from an old house at the other end of the row. In the next Mr. Beerbohm Tree and his wife lived for a short time after their marriage.
No. 4 has had a series of notable inmates. William Dyce, R.A., was the occupant in 1846, and later on Daniel Maclise, R.A. Then came George Eliot, with Mr. Cross, intending to stay in Chelsea for the winter, but three weeks after she caught cold and died in this house. Local historians have mentioned a strange shoot which ran from the top to the bottom of this house; this has disappeared, but on the front-staircase still remain some fresco paintings executed by Sir J. Thornhill, and altered by Maclise. In 1792 a retired jeweller named Neild came to No. 5. The condition of prisoners incarcerated for small debts occupied his thoughts and energies, and he worked to ameliorate it. He left his son 27 James Neild an immense fortune. This eccentric individual, however, was a miser, who scrimped and scraped all his life, and at his death left all his money to Queen Victoria. The gate-piers before this house are very fine, tall, and square, of mellowed red brick, surmounted by vases. These vases superseded the stone balls in fashion at the end of the Jacobean period. Hogarth is said to have been a frequent visitor to this house. In the sixth house Dr. Weedon Butler, father of the Headmaster of Harrow, kept a school, which was very well known for about thirty years. In the next block we have the famous Queen’s House, marked by the little statuette of Mercury on the parapet. It is supposed to have been named after Catherine of Braganza, but beyond some initials—C. R. (Catherine Regina)—in the ironwork of the gate, there seems no fact in support of this. The two Rossettis, Meredith, and Swinburne came here in 1862, but soon parted company, and D. G. Rossetti alone remained. He decorated some of the fireplaces with tiles himself; that in the drawing-room is still inlaid with glazed blue and white Persian tiles of old design. In his time it was called Tudor House, but when the Rev. H. R. Haweis (d. 1901) came to live here, he resumed the older name of Queen’s House. It is supposed to have been built by Wren, and the rooms are beautifully proportioned, panelled, and of great height. 28
The next house to this on the eastern side was occupied for many years by the artistic family of the Lawsons. Thomas Attwood, a pupil of Mozart and himself a great composer, died there in 1838. The house had formerly a magnificent garden, to the mulberries of which Hazlitt makes allusion in one of his essays. No. 18 was the home of the famous Don Saltero’s museum. This man, correctly Salter, was a servant of Sir Hans Sloane, and his collection was formed from the overflowings of his master’s. Some of the curiosities dispersed by the sale in 1799 are still to be seen in the houses of Chelsea families in the form of petrified seaweed and shells. The museum was to attract people to the building, which was also a coffee-house; this was at that time something of a novelty. It was first opened in 1695. Sir Richard Steele, in the Tatler, says: “When I came into the coffee-house I had not time to salute the company before my eye was diverted by ten thousand gimcracks round the room and on the ceiling.” Catalogues of the curiosities are still extant, and one of them is preserved in the Chelsea Public Library.
Of the remaining houses none have associations. The originals were too small for the requirements of those who wished to live in such an expensive situation, and within the last score of years they have been pulled down and others built on their 29 sites. One of these so destroyed was called the Gothic House; in it lived Count D’Orsay, and it was most beautifully finished both inside and out. The decorative work was executed by Pugin, and has been described by those who remember it as gorgeous. In another there was a beautiful Chippendale staircase, which, it is to be feared, was ruthlessly chopped up. In the last house of all was an elaborate ceiling after the style of Wedgwood. The doorway of this house is now at No. 1.
The garden which lies in front of these houses adds much to their picturesqueness in summer by showing the glimpses of old walls and red brick through curtains of green leaves. In it, opposite to the house where he used to live, there is a gray granite fountain to the memory of Rossetti. It is surmounted by a bronze alto-relievo bust modelled by Mr. F. Madox Brown.
A district old enough to be squalid, but not old enough to be interesting, is enclosed by Smith and Manor Streets, running at right angles to the Embankment. New red-brick mansions at the end of Flood Street indicate that the miserable plaster-fronted houses will not be allowed to have their own way much longer. No street has changed its name so frequently as Flood Street. It was first called Pound Lane, from the parish pound that stood at the south end; it then became Robinson’s 30 Lane; in 1838 it is marked as Queen Street; and in 1865 it was finally turned into Flood Street, from L. T. Flood, a parish benefactor, in whose memory a service is still held every year in St. Luke’s Church.
Oakley Street is very modern. In a map of 1838 there is no trace of it, but only a great open space where Winchester House formerly stood. In No. 32 lives Dr. Phené, who was the first to plant trees in the streets of London. Phené Street, leading into Oakley Crescent, is named after him. The line of houses on the west side of Oakley Street is broken by a garden thickly set with trees. This belongs to Cheyne House, the property of Dr. Phené; the house cannot be seen from the street in summer-time. The oldest part is perhaps Tudor, and the latest in the style of Wren. One wall is decorated with fleurs-de-lys. In the garden was grown the original moss-rose, a freak of Nature, from which all other moss-roses have sprung. In the grounds was discovered a subterranean passage, which Dr. Phené claims fixes the site of Shrewsbury or Alston House. It runs due south, and indicates the site as adjacent to Winchester House on the west side. Faulkner, writing in 1810, says: “The most ancient house now remaining in this parish is situated on the banks of the river, not far from the site of the Manor House built by King Henry VIII., and 31 appears to have been erected about that period. It was for many years the residence of the Shrewsbury family, but little of its ancient splendour now remains.” He describes it as an irregular brick building, forming three sides of a quadrangle. The principal room, which was wainscotted with oak, was 120 feet long, and one of the rooms, supposed to have been an oratory, was painted in imitation of marble. Faulkner mentions the subterranean passage “leading towards Kensington,” which Dr. Phené has opened out.
Shrewsbury House was built in the reign of Henry VIII. by George, Earl of Shrewsbury, who was succeeded in 1538 by his son Francis. The son of Francis, George, sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, who succeeded in his turn, was a very wealthy and powerful nobleman. He was high in Queen Elizabeth’s favour, and it was to his care that the captive Mary, Queen of Scots, was entrusted. Though Elizabeth considered he treated the royal prisoner with too much consideration, she afterwards forgave him, and appointed him to see the execution of the death-warrant. He married for his second wife a lady who had already had three husbands, each more wealthy than the last. By the second of these, Sir William Cavendish, she had a large family. Her husband left his house at Chelsea wholly to her. She outlived him 32 seventeen years, and with her immense wealth built the three magnificent mansions of Chatsworth, Oldcotes, and Hardwick, and all these she left to her son William Cavendish, afterwards created Baron Cavendish and Earl of Devonshire. A son of a younger brother was created Marquis of Newcastle, and his daughter and coheiress was Lady Jane, who brought her husband, Charles Cheyne, such a large dower that he was enabled to buy the Manor of Chelsea.
After the death of the Earl of Devonshire, Shrewsbury House became the residence of his widow until her death in 1643. It then was held by the Alstons, from whom it took its secondary name, and was finally in the possession of the Tates, and was the seat of a celebrated wall-paper manufactory. “The manufacture of porcelain acquired great celebrity. It was established near the water-side.... Upon the same premises was afterwards established a manufactory of stained paper.” This seems to point to Shrewsbury House as the original home of the celebrated Chelsea china. But, on the other hand, all later writers point authoritatively to Lawrence Street, at the corner of Justice Walk, as the seat of the china manufacture. There seems to be some confusion as to the exact site of the original works, for in “Nollekens and his Times” it is indicated as being at Cremorne House, further 33 westward. One Martin Lister mentions a china manufactory in Chelsea as early as 1698, but the renowned manufactory seems to have been started about fifty years later. The great Dr. Johnson was fired with ambition to try his hand at this delicate art, and he went again and again to the place to master the secret; but he failed, and one can hardly imagine anyone less likely to have succeeded. The china service in the possession of Lord Holland, known as Johnson’s service, was not made by him, but presented to him by the proprietors as a testimony to his painstaking effort. The first proprietor was a Mr. Nicholas Sprimont, and a jug in the British Museum, bearing date “1745 Chelsea,” is supposed to be one of the earliest productions.
The first sale by auction took place in the Haymarket in 1754, when table sets and services, dishes, plates, tureens, and épergnes were sold. These annual sales continued for many years. In 1763 Sprimont attempted to dispose of the business and retire owing to lameness, but it was not until 1769 that he sold out to one Duesbury, who already owned the Derby China Works, and eventually acquired those at Bow also.
The Chelsea china was very beautiful and costly. An old tradition is mentioned in the “Life of Nollekens” that the clay was at first brought as ballast in ships from China, and when 34 the Orientals discovered what use was being made of it, they forbade its exportation, and the Englishmen had to be content with their own native clay. Nollekens says that his father worked at the pottery, and that Sir James Thornhill had furnished designs. The distinctive mark on the china was an anchor, which was slightly varied, and at times entwined with one or two swords. Walpole in 1763 says that he saw a service which was to be given to the Duke of Mecklenburg by the King and Queen, and that it was very beautiful and cost £1,200.
From the corner of Oakley Street to the church, Cheyne Walk faces a second garden, in which there is a statue of Carlyle in bronze, executed by the late Sir Edgar Boehm and unveiled in 1882. This locality is associated with many famous men, though the exact sites of their houses are not known. Here lived Sir Richard Steele and Sir James Northcote, R.A. Somewhere near the spot Woodfall, the printer of the famous “Letters of Junius,” lived and died. A stone at the north-east corner of the church (exterior) commemorates him. In the Chelsea Public Library is preserved the original ledger of the Public Advertiser, showing how immensely the sales increased with the publication of these famous letters.
In this part there was a very old inn bearing the name The Magpie and Stump. It was a 35 quaint old structure, and the court-leet and court-baron held sittings in it. In 1886 it was destroyed by a fire, and is now replaced by a very modern structure of the same name. Further on there are immense red-brick mansions called Carlyle Mansions, and then, at right angles, there is Cheyne Row, the home for many years of one of England’s deepest and sincerest thinkers. Carlyle was the loadstar who drew men of renown from all quarters of the civilized globe to this somewhat narrow, dark little street in Chelsea. The houses are extraordinarily dull, of dark brick, monotonously alike; they face a row of small trees on the west side, and Carlyle’s house is about the middle, numbered 24 (formerly 5). A medallion portrait was put up by his admirers on the wall; inscribed beneath it is: “Thomas Carlyle lived at 24, Cheyne Row, 1834-81.” The house has been acquired by trustees, and is open to anyone on the payment of a shilling. It contains various Carlylean relics: letters, scraps of manuscript, furniture, pictures, etc., and attracts visitors from all parts of the world. There is no need to expatiate on the life of the philosopher; it belongs not to Chelsea, but to the English-speaking peoples of all countries. Here came to see him Leigh Hunt, who lived only in the next street, and Emerson from across the Atlantic; such diverse natures as Harriet 36 Martineau and Tennyson, Ruskin and Tyndall, found pleasure in his society.
At the north end of Cheyne Row is a large Roman Catholic church, built 1896. Upper Cheyne Row was for many years the home of Leigh Hunt. A small passage from this leads into Bramerton Street. This was built in 1870 upon part of what were formerly the Rectory grounds, which by a special Act the Rector was empowered to let for the purpose. Parallel to Cheyne Row is Lawrence Street, and at the corner, facing the river, stands the Hospital for Incurable Children. It is a large brick building, with four fluted and carved pilasters running up the front. The house is four stories high and picturesquely built. In 1889 it was ready for use. The charity was established by Mr. and Mrs. Wickham Flower, and had been previously carried on a few doors lower down in Cheyne Walk. Voluntary subscriptions and donations form a large part of the income, and besides this a small payment is required from the parents and friends of the little patients. The hospital inside is bright and airy. The great wide windows run down to the ground, and over one of the cots hangs a large print of Holman Hunt’s “Light of the World,” a gift from the artist himself, who formerly lived in a house on this site and in it painted the original. The ages at which patients are received 37 are between three and ten, and the cases are frequently paralysis, spinal or hip disease.
Lawrence or Monmouth House stood on the north side of Lordship Yard. Here Dr. Smollett once lived and wrote many of his works; one of the scenes of “Humphrey Clinker” is actually laid in Monmouth House. The old parish church stands at the corner of Church Street. The exterior is very quaint, with the ancient brick turned almost purple by age; and the monuments on the walls are exposed to all the winds that sweep up the river. The square tower was formerly surmounted by a cupola, which was taken down in 1808 because it had become unsafe. The different parts of the church have been built and rebuilt at different dates, which makes it difficult to give an idea of its age. Faulkner says: “The upper chancel appears to have been rebuilt in the fifteenth century; the chapel of the Lawrence family at the end of the north aisle appears to have been built early in the fourteenth century, if we may judge from the form of the Gothic windows, now nearly stopped up. The chapel at the west end of the south aisle was built by Sir T. More about the year 1522, soon after he came to reside in Chelsea. The tower was built between the years 1667 and 1679.”
The interior is so filled up with tombs and a great gallery, that the effect is most strange, and 38 the ghosts of the past seem to be whispering from every corner. There are few churches remaining so untouched and containing so miscellaneous a record of the flying centuries as Chelsea Old Church. A great gallery which hid Sir Thomas More’s monument was removed in 1824. Soon after the church was finished it was enlarged by the addition of what is now known as the Lawrence Chapel on the north side. This was built by Robert Hyde, called by Faulkner ‘Robert de Heyle,’ who then owned the manor-house. In 1536 the manor was sold to King Henry VIII., who parted with the old manor-house and the chapel to the family of Lawrence. There are three monuments of the family still existing in the chapel. The best known of these is that against the north wall, representing Thomas Lawrence, the father of Sir John, kneeling with folded hands face to face with his wife in the same attitude. Behind them are respectively their three sons and six daughters. This is the monument which Henry Kingsley refers to through the mouth of Joe Burton in his novel “The Hillyars and the Burtons.”
Not far from this is a large and striking monument to the memory of Sarah Colvile, daughter of Thomas Lawrence. She is represented as springing from the tomb clothed in a winding-sheet. The figure is larger than life and of white marble, 39 which is discoloured and stained by time. Overhead there was once a dove, of which only the wings remain, and the canopy is carved to represent clouds. The third Lawrence monument is a large tablet of black marble set in a frame of white marble, exquisitely and richly carved. This hangs against the eastern wall, and is inscribed to the memory of Sir John Lawrence. A hagioscope opens from this chapel into the chancel, and was discovered accidentally when an arch was being cut on the north wall of the chancel to contain the tomb of Lord Bray. This tomb formerly stood in the “myddest of the hyghe channcel,” but being both inconvenient and unsightly, it was removed to its present position in 1857. It possessed formerly two or three brasses, which have now disappeared. This is the oldest tomb in the church, dated 1539.
The Lawrence Chapel was private property, and could be sold or given away independently of the church. Between it and the nave—or, more accurately, over the north aisle, at its entrance into the nave—is a great arch which breaks the continuity of line in the arch of the pillars. This is the Gervoise monument, and may have originally enclosed a tomb. Of this, however, there is no evidence. In the chancel opposite to the Bray tomb stands the monument of Sir Thomas More, prepared by himself before his death, and 40 memorable for the connection of the word “heretics” with thieves and murderers, which word Erasmus afterwards omitted from the inscription. More’s crest, a Moor’s head, is in the centre of the upper cornice, and the coats-of-arms of himself and his two wives are below. The inscription is on a slab of black marble, and is very fresh, as it was restored in 1833. The question whether the body of Sir Thomas More lies in the family vault will probably never be definitely answered. Weever in his “Funeral Monuments” strongly inclines to the belief that it is so. “Yet it is certain,” he says, “that Margaret, wife of Master Roper and daughter of the said Sir Thomas More, removed her father’s corpse not long after to Chelsea.”
Sir Thomas More’s chapel is on the south side of the chancel. It was to his seat here that More himself came after service, in place of his manservant, on the day when the King had taken his high office from him, and, bowing to his wife, remarked with double meaning, “Madam, the Chancellor has gone.” The chapel contains the monuments and tombs of the Duchess of Northumberland and Sir Robert Stanley. The latter is at the east end, and stands up against a window. It is surmounted by three urns standing on pedestals. The centre one of these has an eagle on the summit, and is flanked by two female 41 figures representing Justice and Solitude in flowing draperies. The one holds a shield and crown, the other a shield. In the centre pedestal is a man’s head in alto-relievo, with Puritan collar and habit. On the side-pedestals are carved the heads of children. The whole stands on a tomb of veined marble with carved edges, and slabs of black marble bear the inscriptions of Sir Robert Stanley and two of his children. The tomb of the Duchess of Northumberland which stands next, against the south wall, has been compared to that of Chaucer in Westminster Abbey. This has a Gothic canopy, and formerly contained two brasses, representing her eight sons and five daughters kneeling, one behind the other, in the favourite style of the time. The brass commemorating the sons has disappeared.
A little further south, in the aisle, formerly stood the tomb of A. Gorges, son of Sir A. Gorges, who was possessor of the chapel for many years. This blocked up the aisle and was taken to pieces. The black slab which was on the top is set in the floor, and the brasses containing an epitaph in doggerel rhyme, attributing all the merits in the universe to the deceased, hang on the wall on the north side. The date of the chapel, 1528, is on the capital of one of the pillars supporting the arch which divides the chapel from the nave. The capitals are beautifully executed, though the 42 design is grotesque. In one of them the rough end of stone is left unfinished, as if the builder had been called hastily away and had never been able to complete his task. The chapel was recently bought by the church on the death of its owner, and is now inalienably possessed by the parish.
Just below the south aisle is the Dacre tomb, the richest and most striking in the church. It contains two life-size effigies of Lord and Lady Dacre lying under a canopy which is supported by two pillars with gilded capitals; above is a semicircular arch. The whole interior of the arch and the background is most richly carved and gilded. Above the arch are the Dacre coat-of-arms and two shields, while two smaller pillars, wedge-shaped like Cleopatra’s Needles, rise at each corner. At the feet of the figures lie two dogs, and the effigy of a small child lies on a marble slab below the level of its parents. By Lady Dacre’s will certain presentations to some almshouses in Westminster are left to the parish on condition of the tombs being kept in good repair. The tomb was redecorated and restored in 1868.
The south and west walls are covered with monuments, and careless feet tread on inscribed stones in the aisle. On the northern wall below the north aisle is a monument which immediately attracts attention from its great size and striking 43 design. It is that of Lady Jane Cheyne, daughter of William, Duke of Newcastle. It is an effigy of Lady Jane in white marble, larger than life-size; she lies in a half-raised position. Below is a black marble tomb with lighter marble pillars. Overhead is a canopy supported by two Corinthian columns. The inscription, which states it was with her money her husband bought the Manor of Chelsea, is on a black marble slab at the back. The monument is by Bernini.
All these tombs, with their wealth of carving and bold design, give a rich and furnished look to the dark old church, an effect enhanced by the tattered colours hanging overhead. The principal one of these colours was executed by Queen Victoria and her daughters for the volunteers at Chelsea when an invasion was expected. The shelf of chained books by a southern window is interesting. These formerly stood against the west wall, but were removed here for better preservation. They include a “Vinegar” Bible, date 1717, a desk Prayer-Book, and Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs.” The Communion-rails and pulpit are of oak, and the font of white marble of a peculiarly graceful design. Outside in the south-east corner of the churchyard is Sir Hans Sloane’s monument. It is a funeral urn of white marble, standing under a canopy supported by pillars of Portland stone. Four serpents twine round the urn, and the 44 whole forms a striking, though not a beautiful, group.
The church has been the scene of some magnificent ceremonies, of which the funeral of Lord Bray was notable. It was in this church that Henry VIII. married Jane Seymour the day after the execution of Anne Boleyn.
Church Lane, near at hand, is very narrow. Dean Swift, who lodged here, is perhaps one of the best-known names, and his friend Atterbury, who first had a house facing the Embankment, afterwards came and lived opposite to him. Thomas Shadwell, Poet Laureate, was associated with the place, and also Bowack, whose “Antiquities of Middlesex,” incomplete though it is, remains a valuable book of reference. Bowack lived near the Rectory, and not far from him was the Old White Horse Inn, famous for the beauty of its decorative carving.
Petyt’s school was next to the church. The name was derived from its founder, who built it at his own expense for the education of poor children in the beginning of the eighteenth century. William Petyt was a Bencher of the Inner Temple, Keeper of the Records in the Tower, and a prolific author. A tablet inscribed with quaint English, recording Petyt’s charity, still stands on the dull little block building of the present century, which replaced the old school. 45
Dr. Chamberlayne was another famous inhabitant of Church Street. His epitaph is on the exterior church wall beside those of his wife, three sons, and daughter, the latter of whom fought on board ship against the French disguised in male attire. Chamberlayne wrote and translated many historical tracts, and his best-known work is the “Present State of England” (1669). He was tutor to the Duke of Grafton, and later to Prince George of Denmark, and was one of the original members of the Royal Society.
The Rectory was built by the Marquis of Winchester. It was first used as a Rectory in 1566. It is picturesque, having been added to from time to time, and has a large old garden. The list of Rectors includes many well-known men. Dr. Littleton, author of a Latin dictionary, was presented to the living in 1669, and held it for twenty-five years. He was succeeded by Dr. John King, whose manuscript account of Chelsea is still extant. Reginald Heber, the father of the celebrated Bishop Heber, came in 1766. Later on the Hon. and Rev. Dr. Wellesley, brother to the first Duke of Wellington, was Rector from 1805, and still more recently the Rev. Charles Kingsley, father of the two brothers who have made the name of Kingsley a household word by the power of their literary talent.
The next turning out of the Embankment after 46 Church Street is Danvers Street, and an inscribed stone on the corner house tells that it was begun in 1696. Danvers House, occupied, (some authorities say built,) by Sir John Danvers in the first half of the seventeenth century, seems, with its grounds, to have occupied almost the whole space from the King’s Road to the Embankment. Thus Paulton’s Square and Danvers Street must both be partly on its site. The gardens were laid out in the Italian style, and attracted much notice. Sir John Danvers was knighted by James I. After he had been left a widower twice and was past middle age, he began to take an active part in the affairs of his time. He several times protested against Stuart exactions, and during the Civil War took the side of the Parliament. He was one of those who signed Charles I.’s death-warrant. He married a third time at Chelsea, and died there in April, 1655. His house was demolished in 1696. The house has gained some additional celebrity from its having been one of the four supposed by different writers to have been the dwelling of Sir Thomas More. This idea, however, has been repeatedly shown to be erroneous. More’s house was near Beaufort Street.
The next opening from the Embankment to the King’s Road is Beaufort Street. There is no view of More’s house known to be in existence, and, as stated above, four houses have contended for the 47 honour—Danvers, Beaufort, Alston, and that once belonging to Sir Reginald Bray. Dr. King went very carefully into the subject, and one of his manuscripts preserved at the British Museum is “A letter designed for Mr. Hearn respecting Sir Thos. More’s House at Chelsea.” His reasons cannot be given better than in his own words:
“First, his grandson, Mr. Thomas More, who wrote his life ... says that Sir Thomas More’s house in Chelsea was the same which my lord of Lincoln bought of Sir Robert Cecil. Now, it appears pretty plainly that Sir Robert Cecil’s house was the same which is now the Duke of Beaufort’s, for in divers places [are] these letters R.C., and also R.c.E., with the date of the year, viz., 1597, which letters were the initials of his name and his lady’s, and the year 1597, when he new built, or at least new fronted, it. From the Earl of Lincoln that house was conveyed to Sir Arthur Gorges; from him to Lionel Cranford, Earl of Middlesex; from him to King Charles I.; from the King to the Duke of Buckingham; from his son, since the Restoration, to Plummer, a citizen, for debts; from the said Plummer to the Earl of Bristol; and from his heirs to the Duke of Beaufort, so that we can trace all the Mesne assignments from Sir Robert Cecil to the present possessor.”
He goes on to add that More built the south 48 chancel (otherwise the chapel) in the church, and that this belonged to Beaufort House until Sir Arthur Gorges sold the house but retained the chapel. When Sir Thomas More came to Chelsea he was already a famous man, high in the King’s favour. The house he lived in is supposed to have stood right across the site of Beaufort Street, not very far from the river. It is unnecessary here to sketch that life, already so well known and so often written, but we can picture that numerous and united household which even the second Lady More’s mean and acrid temper was unable to disturb. Here royal and notable visitors frequently came. The King himself, strolling in the well-kept garden with his arm round his Chancellor’s neck, would jest pleasantly, and Holbein, in the dawn of his fame, would work for his patron, unfolding day by day the promise of his genius. Bishops from Canterbury, London, and Rochester came to confer with More. Dukes and Lords were honoured by Sir Thomas’s friendship before his fall. The barge which so often carried its owner to pleasure or business lay moored on the river ready to carry him that last sad journey to the Tower; and sadder still, to bring back the devoted daughter when the execution was accomplished, and later also when she bore her gruesome burden of a father’s head, said to have been buried with her in Chelsea Church. 49
After his death, More’s estates were confiscated and granted to Sir William Paulet, who with his wife occupied the house for about fifty years. It then passed through the possession of the Winchesters and the Dacres, the same whose tomb is such an ornament in the church, and by will Lady Dacre bequeathed it to Sir Robert Cecil, who sold it (1597) to the Earl of Lincoln, from which time we have the pedigree quoted from Dr. King. On the death of the Duke of Beaufort, Sir Hans Sloane bought it for £2,500 and pulled it down (1740).
Beaufort Street has not the width of Oakley Street, but it is by no means narrow, and many of the houses, which are irregularly built, have gardens and trees in front. A few yards further westward is Milman Street, so called after Sir W. Milman, who died in 1713. The site of his house is not definitely known, but the street marks it with sufficient accuracy. It is interesting to reflect that these great houses, described in detail, stood in their own grounds, which reached down to the water’s edge, whence their owners could go to that great London, of which Chelsea was by no means an integral part, to transact their business or pleasure. The water highway was by far the safest and most convenient in those days of robbery and bad roads. “The Village of Palaces,” as Chelsea has been called by Mr. L’Estrange, is no purely fanciful title. 50
Milman Street at present does not look very imposing. The houses and shops are squalid and mean. Near the King’s Road end is the Moravian burial-ground, which is cut off from the street by a door, over which are the words “Park Chapel National School, Church of England.” The burial-ground is small in extent, and is a square enclosure surrounded by wooden palings, and cut into four equal divisions by two bisecting paths. One of its walls is supposed to be the identical one bounding Sir T. More’s garden. At one end it is overshadowed by a row of fine elms, but in the plot itself there are no trees. What was formerly the chapel, at the north end, is now used as a school-house. Now and then the Moravians hold meetings there. The gravestones, laid horizontally in regular rows, are very small, and almost hidden by the long grass. The married men are in one quarter, and the bachelors in another, and the married and single women are separated in the same way. On the side of the chapel is a slab to the memory of Count Zinzendorf, who died in 1760.
Not far from the corner (eastward), as we turn on to the Embankment, is the famous Lindsey House, which claims to be the second oldest house in Chelsea, the first being Stanley House (see p. 55). The original house was built by Theodore Turquet de Mayerne, some time before the middle 51 of the seventeenth century. De Mayerne was Court physician to Henry IV. and Louis XIII. of France. About twenty years later it was bought by Montague Bertie, second Earl of Lindsey, whose son rebuilt or altered it largely. It remained in the Lindsey family until 1750. The family of the Windsors leased it for some time, and one of them was married in the parish church to the widow of the unjust Judge Jeffreys. In 1750 the Earl of Lindsey, created Duke of Ancaster, sold it to the Count Zinzendorf mentioned above, who intended to make it the nucleus for a Moravian settlement in Chelsea. Ten years later he died, and some time after his death the Moravians sold Lindsey House. It is now divided into five houses, and the different portions have been so much altered, by the renovations of various owners, that it is difficult to see the unity of design, but one of the divisions retains the old name on its gateway. It is supposed that Wren was the architect. Amongst other notable residents who lived here were Isambard Brunel, the engineer; Bramah, of lock fame; Martin, the painter, who was visited by Prince Albert; and Whistler, the artist. Close by Lindsey Row the river takes an abrupt turn, making a little bay, and here, below the level of the street, is a little creeper-covered house where the great colourist Turner lived for many years, gaining gorgeous sky effects from the red sunsets 52 reflected in the water. The house is numbered 118, and has high green wooden pailings. It is next to a public-house named The Aquatic, and so will be easily seen. The turning beyond is Blantyre Street. Turner’s real house was in Queen Anne Street, and he used to slip away to Chelsea on the sly, keeping his whereabouts private, even from his nearest friends. He was found here, under the assumed name of Admiral Booth, the day before his death, December 19, 1851. The World’s End Passage is a remembrance of the time when the western end of Chelsea was indeed the end of the world to the folks of London. Beyond World’s End Passage were formerly two houses of note—Chelsea Farm, afterwards Cremorne Villa, and Ashburnham House. The first of these lay near what is now Seaton Street. If we pass down Blantyre Street, which for part of the distance runs parallel to World’s End Passage, we find three streets running into it at an obtuse angle. The first of these, from the King’s Road end, is Seaton Street. It was just beyond this that the Earl of Huntingdon, about the middle of the eighteenth century, built Chelsea Farm. His widow, who lived there after his death, was connected with the Methodist movement, and built many chapels. She left the farm in 1748. It was then sold, and passed through various hands, until it came into the possession of Baron 53 Dartrey, afterwards Viscount Cremorne, from whom it gained its later name. Lady Cremorne was frequently visited by Queen Charlotte. This Lady Cremorne was a descendant of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. After her death the villa and grounds were sold. In 1845 the place was opened as Cremorne pleasure-gardens. These gardens, though famous, never rivalled successfully those of Ranelagh, at the eastern extremity of Chelsea. They were only open for thirty-two years, but during that time acquired the reputation for being the resort of all the rowdies in the neighbourhood. The noise made by the rabble passing along the river side after the closing at nights caused great annoyance to the respectable inhabitants, and finally led to the suppression of the gardens. L’Estrange says that the site extended over the grounds of Ashburnham as well as Cremorne House.
Cremorne Road is an offshoot of Ashburnham Road. Ashburnham House was built in 1747 by Dr. Benjamin Hoadley, son of the Bishop of that name, and author of “The Suspicious Husband.” However, the house is remembered, not by his name, but by that of its second purchaser, the Earl of Ashburnham, who had here a collection of costly paintings. The grounds were very well laid out, and adorned with statues.
Burnaby Street, running out of it, is named after a brother of Admiral Sir William Burnaby, who lived for some time in the neighbourhood. Beyond is Stadium Street, named after Cremorne House when it was used as a national club, and bore the alternative name of The Stadium. To the south of Lots Road are the wharves of Chelsea and Kensington. Chelsea Creek runs in here, cutting past the angle of Lots Road and turning northward to the King’s Road, where it is crossed by Stanley Bridge. The West London railway-line has its Chelsea station just above the bridge.
Even this remote corner of Chelsea is not without its historical associations. Just across the bridge, on the Fulham side, but usually spoken of as belonging to Chelsea, is the old Sandford Manor House, supposed to have been the home of Nell Gwynne. This house is connected with Addison, who wrote from here many beautiful letters to little Lord Warwick, who became his stepson on his marriage with the Dowager Countess in 1716. In one of these he says: “The business of this is to invite you to a concert of music, which I have found in a neighbouring wood. It begins precisely at six in the evening, and consists of a blackbird, 55 a thrush, a robin redbreast and a bullfinch. There is a lark that, by way of overture, sings and mounts until she is almost out of hearing ... and the whole is concluded by a nightingale.”
It would be difficult to find a wood affording such a concert in the vicinity of Chelsea Creek now.
Chelsea may be roughly divided into two great triangles, having a common side in the King’s Road. Allusion has now been made to all the southern half, and there remains the northern, which is not nearly so interesting. Beginning at the west end where the last part finished, we find, bordering the railway, St. Mark’s College and Schools. The house of the Principal is Stanley House, the oldest remaining in the parish. There has been some confusion between this and Milman House, as both were the property of Sir Robert Stanley, the former coming into his possession by his marriage with the daughter of Sir Arthur Gorges. The Stanley monument in More’s chapel will be also recalled in this connection. Stanley House as it now stands was built in 1691, and is not at all picturesque. The original building, 56 which preceded it, was known as Brickills, and was leased by Lady Stanley from her mother, Lady Elizabeth Gorges. In 1637, when Lady Gorges died, she left the house and grounds to her daughter by will, and the Stanleys lived there until 1691, when the last male descendant died. At this time the present house was built. The Arundels occupied it first, and after them Admiral Sir Charles Wager, and then the Countess of Strathmore. It was purchased from her by a Mr. Lochee, who kept a military academy here. Among the later residents were Sir William Hamilton, who built a large hall to contain the original casts of the Elgin Marbles. These casts form a frieze round the room, and detached fragments are hung separately. This room alone in the house is not panelled. The panelling of the others was for many years covered with paper, which has been gradually removed. The drawing-room door, which faces the entrance in the hall, is very finely carved. The house and grounds were bought from Sir W. Hamilton in 1840 by the National Society, at the instigation of Mr. G. F. Mathison, whose untiring efforts resulted in the foundation of St. Mark’s College for the training of school-masters. The first Principal was the Rev. Derwent Coleridge, son of S. T. Coleridge. His daughter Christabel has given a charming account of the early days of St. Mark’s 57 in a little book published in the Jubilee year. In the early part of 1841 ten students were residents in the college. The chapel was opened two years later, in May, 1843.
The Chapel has always been famous for its music and singing. It was among the first of the London churches to have a choral service. The students now number 120, and a large majority of these take Holy Orders. The grounds are kept in beautiful order, and the great elms which overshadow the green lawns must be contemporary with the house.
The King’s Road was so named in honour of Charles II., and it was notorious in its early days for footpads and robbers. In the eighteenth century the Earl of Peterborough was stopped in it by highwaymen, one of whom was discovered to be a student of the Temple, who lived “by play, sharping, and a little on the highway.” There was an attempt made at first to keep the road for the use of the Royal Family, and later on, those who had the privilege of using it had metal tickets given to them, and it was not opened for public traffic until 1830.
At no part of its length can King’s Road claim to show any fine vista, and at the west end the buildings are particularly poor and squalid. In Park Walk stands Park Chapel, an old-fashioned church with a gallery in no particular style of 58 architecture. It was founded in 1718, and in it General Gordon received the Holy Communion before he left for Khartoum. Park Walk is marked on Hamilton’s Survey as Lovers’ Walk, and forms the western boundary of the ancient Lord Wharton’s Park, which extended from the King’s Road to Fulham Road and contained forty acres. Faulkner says that it was part of the estate purchased by Sir Thomas More. There was an attempt made in 1721 to encourage the manufacture of raw silk; for this purpose the park was planted with mulberry-trees. The scheme, however, failed. The park is now thickly covered with houses; its eastern side was bounded by the “Road to the Cross Tree”—in other words, to what was called the Queen’s Elm. This name still survives in a public-house at the north corner of what is now Church Street. It was derived from a tradition that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth stood here to shelter from a shower under a great elm-tree, accompanied by her courtier Lord Burleigh. The tree is mentioned in the parish books in 1586. At the top of Church Street, near the Fulham Road, there is a high stone wall enclosing the Jews’ Burial-ground. The graves lie in long rows, but are not divided according to sex as with the Moravians. Overlooking the burial-ground is the Hospital for Women founded in 1871. It is a red-brick building with ornate stone facing. 59 Beyond it is the Consumption Hospital, which is only an off-shoot of the main building over the road in the borough of Kensington. Arthur Street (formerly Charles Street), a few yards further on, leads us into the South Parade, which forms the northern side of Trafalgar Square. The square is wide, with a garden in the centre. At the south-western corner it is adjacent to Carlyle Square, which faces the King’s Road.
This is a most picturesque little square with a country-like profusion of trees in its green garden. On the eastern side the road through Trafalgar Square runs on under the name of Manresa Road. This is lined with studios, and abounds in artists and sculptors.
In Manresa Road are the Chelsea Public Library and the Polytechnic for South-west London north of the river. The latter cannot be claimed exclusively by Chelsea, and therefore is not described in detail. The library was opened temporarily in 1887, and by 1891 the new building was ready. The librarian is Mr. J. H. Quinn, who has been there since the inauguration. The rooms have, since the opening, been greatly improved, and the library is now exceptionally interesting. On the ground-floor is a gallery open from 3 to 9 p.m. every week-day, except Wednesday, when the time of opening is two hours later. Here there is a collection of water-colour paintings and old prints 60 illustrative of old Chelsea, and anyone who has taken any interest in the magnificent old mansions that made Chelsea a village of palaces will be well advised to go to see what these buildings were actually like. In the gallery also are cases containing the Keats collection, deposited by Sir Charles Dilke during his lifetime, but at his death to go to Hampstead, on account of the poet’s connection with that place. Here are to be seen the editions of Shakespeare and Bacon annotated by Keats’ own hands, and his love-letters; also a letter from his publishers, abusing him furiously, which shows how much the contemporary judgment of the poems differed from that of posterity.
The reference-room in the library upstairs is exceptionally fine, and especial care has been taken to make the local topographical department as rich as possible. Among the volumes of the greatest value are Bowack’s “Middlesex,” which formerly belonged to Lord Brabourne; Faulkner’s two-volume edition of “Chelsea,” which has been “grangerized,” and is illustrated by innumerable portraits, letters, views, etc., and in the process has been expanded into four large quarto volumes. There is also the original manuscript of Faulkner’s account of the Royal Military Asylum and the Royal College and Hospital, with all the author’s corrections.
Manresa Road runs into the King’s Road, and 61 after the next turning eastward there is an old burial-ground, given to the parish by Sir Hans Sloane, and consecrated 1736. Cipriani, the engraver, a foundation member of the Royal Academy, is buried here, and there is a monument erected to his memory by his friend and contemporary, Bartolozzi. When the Sydney Street burial-ground was opened in 1810, this was used for interment no more. Chelsea Workhouse stands just behind it, and the old women use the burial-ground for exercise. It is a quaint sight to see them through the tall iron railings wandering about dressed in their bright red-and-black check shawls, blue cotton dresses, and white frilled caps. The workhouse was begun in 1787, but has been largely added to since then. The Guardians’ offices adjoin the burial-ground, and on the opposite side of the street, a little further eastward, is the Town Hall, with a row of urns surmounting its parapet. The borough Councillors have their offices here.
Further on is Sydney Street, formerly Robert Street, running out of the King’s Road on the north side. Here stands St. Luke’s Church. The foundation-stone of this building was laid in 1820, and it was consecrated in 1824. For many years previously a discussion concerning the desirability of further church accommodation had been going on. The church was built on the old burial-ground, 62 and the tombstones which were removed in the course of erection are placed in long rows round a low wall. The building is of Bath stone, and has flying buttresses and a high square tower. In the interior it presents the greatest possible contrast to the old church. Here there is great height, the arches are pointed, the stonework light. The spire is 142 feet high, and the interior 130 feet long by 60 broad. From the interior vault of the roof to the pavement the height is 60 feet. Over the Communion-table is “The Entombment of Christ,” an oil-painting by J. Northcote, R.A. To the north of the church lies Pond Place, a remembrance of the time when a “pond and pits” stood on Chelsea Common hereabouts.
Not far from the top of Sydney Street, in the Fulham Road, is the Cancer Hospital, founded by William Marsden, M.D., in 1851. It was only on a small scale at first, but public donations and subscriptions now enable 100 patients to receive all the care and treatment necessary to alleviate their terrible infliction, and more than 1,500 are treated as out-patients. The chief fact about the hospital is that it is absolutely free. The disease itself is the passport of admittance. In this respect there is only one other hospital in London like it, and that is the Royal Free Hospital in Gray’s Inn Road, which was founded by the same benefactor. 63 The small chapel attached, in which there is daily service, was built about ten years ago, and consecrated by the Bishop of London. There is almost an acre of garden. Following the Fulham Road eastwards, we come to Marlborough Road. There is a tradition that the Duke of Marlborough at one time occupied a house here, but there seems to be no truth in it whatever.
Cale Street was named after one Judith Cale, who was a benefactor to the parish. South of it we have Jubilee Place, recalling the jubilee of George III., and Markham Street and Markham Square. At the corner of the former is an old house still called the Box Farm, and bearing the date 1686. In Markham Square is a large Congregational chapel, opened in 1860.
Cadogan Street contains St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, almshouses, school and cemetery. The actual fabric of this church was founded in 1879, but the mission of which it is the development began in 1812, and was at first established on the opposite side of the road. The building is of stone, and is in the Early English style, from designs by J. Bentley. Two oil-paintings on the pillars at the entrance to the chancel are by Westlake. There is also a large oil-painting over the altar. A statue to the memory of the founder of the mission, the Abbé Voyaux de Franous, stands in the northern aisle, and a small chapel on 64 the southern side has a magnificent carved stone altarpiece by the younger Pugin, supposed to have been executed from a design by his father.
Halsey Street and Moore Street lead northward into Milner Terrace, in which stands the modern church of St. Simon Zelotes. We now get back into the aristocratic part of Chelsea in Lennox Gardens, which open out of Milner Terrace.
At the west end of Pont Street stands the Church of St. Columba, opened 1884. Here the services are conducted according to the use of the Established Church of Scotland in London. The building, which is of red brick with stone dressings, is in the style of the thirteenth century. It was opened in 1884, and seats about 800 people. The pillars in the interior are of granite, and the pulpit of carved Aubigné stone. There are several stained-glass windows. The architect was Mr. Granderson.
Pont Street is built entirely of red brick, the houses being in a modernized seventeenth century style. From Pont Street opens out Cadogan Square. This square is very modern, and stands on part of the site of Princes’ Cricket-ground.
Hans Place deserves more special mention. “L. E. L.” (Letitia Elizabeth Landon), the poetess who was “dying for a little love,” spent the greater part of her life here. She was born at No. 25, and educated at No. 22, both of which have now 65 disappeared. Shelley stayed here for a short time, and Miss Mitford was educated at a school (No. 2) which turned out several literary pupils. Hans Place was laid out in 1777 by a Mr. Holland, who built a great house called the Pavilion, as a model for the Prince of Wales’s Pavilion at Brighton; it was pulled down in 1879. The grounds comprised twenty-one acres of land, and contained a large piece of ornamental water. To the west of Hans Place, in Walton Street, is St. Saviour’s Church, founded in 1839. A handsome chancel was added in 1890, and opened by the Bishop of London. At the same time a new organ was added. The chief feature of interest is a fine oak screen, on which the carving represents the nine orders of angels.
On the east is Pavilion Road: the derivation of the name is obvious. It runs parallel to the whole length of Sloane Street. Sloane Street itself is exactly a mile long from the square to Knightsbridge. The Church of Holy Trinity, just above the square, is in an unusual style of architecture; its two tall towers of red brick faced with stone add an imposing detail to the architecture of the street. The first church was consecrated in 1830, but pulled down in 1889 and replaced by the present one, due to the generosity of Earl Cadogan. The architect was F. R. Sedding, F.R.I.B.A. Within, the building is very light and 66 high, and all the fittings are exquisitely finished. The pulpit is of marble with inlaid panels. The east window is very fine, and the stained glass was designed by Burne-Jones, R.A., and supplied by Morris. The wrought-iron gates and brass panels on the chancel stalls are worth notice, also the graceful figure supporting the lectern, which is the work of H. H. Armstead, R.A. The handsome organ screen of iron, gilded over, and oxidized copper is a memorial gift, and the frontal picture on the chapel altar is by Reynolds Stephens.
East of Sloane Street is the aristocratic Lowndes Square, of which the name is evidently derived from a former owner, for on a map of Chelsea, 1741-45, this spot is marked “Lowndes, Esq.” Cadogan Place lies a little further south, and is open to Sloane Street on one side. Chelsea House, Earl Cadogan’s town residence, is in the north-east corner, and is marked by its stone facing in contrast with its brick neighbours. Below Cadogan Place is a network of little, unimportant streets. Byron stayed in Sloane Terrace with his mother in 1799, when he came to London for medical advice about his foot. The Court theatre in the square has been erected within the last thirty years. Sloane Gardens runs parallel to Lower Sloane Street, and behind is Holbein Place, from which we started on our perambulations. We have now made a complete circuit through 67 Chelsea, looking into every street and commenting on every building or site of importance in the parish.
Chelsea College originally stood on the site of the present Royal Hospital, and was founded by Matthew Sutcliffe, Dean of Exeter in 1610, as a school for polemical discussion. It was nicknamed by Laud “Controversy College.” King James I. called it after himself, and gave all the timber required for building purposes from Windsor Forest free of charge, and, according to the manner of Princes in those days, issued royal letters inciting his subjects to contribute to his own scheme. Sutcliffe spent £3,000 on the portion of the building which was completed. The original intention was to have two large quadrangles ornamented by towers and cloisters, but only one eighth of this was ever completed—one side only of the first quadrangle, “which,” remarks Fuller, “made not of free stone, though of free timber, cost—oh the dearness of church and college work!—full three thousand pounds!” 68
An Act of Parliament, secured by the King as an endowment for the college, empowered the authorities to raise water from the Hackney Marshes to supply the City of London; but this was rendered useless by the success of Sir Hugh Middleton’s scheme for supplying London with water in the same year. The constitution of the college included a Provost and twenty Fellows, of whom eighteen were to be in Holy Orders. Dean Sutcliffe himself was the first Provost. In 1616 the building stopped altogether for want of funds.
The King issued a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury exhorting him to stir up the clergy to incite the people to contribute. This had little effect. Probably collections then going on for repairs at St. Paul’s militated against it. Sutcliffe died in 1628, leaving to the College four farms in Devonshire, the benefit of an extent on Sir Lewis Stukeley’s estate, valued at between three and four thousand pounds, a share in the Great Neptune (a ship at Whitby), a tenement at Stoke Rivers, his books and goods in the College, and part of his library at Exeter, all subject to the proviso “that the work of the college be not hindered.”
In 1669 the King presented the buildings to the newly-incorporated Royal Society, but they were in such a ruinous condition that the society could make no use of them, and after thirteen 69 years resold the site to Sir Stephen Fox, for the use of the King. The buildings were then destroyed to make way for the present Royal Hospital.
The solid and yet harmonious building designed by Sir Christopher Wren is the nucleus of Chelsea. Indeed, the inhabitants locally call the hospital itself “Chelsea.” In all prints later than the end of the seventeenth century the central cupola rising above the two great wings forms a conspicuous landmark. In the days of William and Mary the gardens sloping down to the Thames were laid out in the stiff, formal Dutch style. Canals, in the shape of a capital L, with the foot reaching to the river, intersected prim gardens, and rows of little limes, pollarded like willows, edged the banks. It was only in 1852 that these canals were finally filled in, and the limes transplanted in the avenue bordering Ranelagh Gardens, where they still flourish. The Court favourite of Charles II., Nell Gwynne, whose name is strongly associated with Chelsea, is said to have suggested the idea of this home for aged and infirm soldiers. Evelyn evidently considers the merit to belong to Sir Stephen Fox, who certainly was a great benefactor. It has been 70 suggested that the latter persuaded the favourite to use her influence with the King, which seems probable. The idea, at all events, commended itself to Charles, who accordingly set about getting his subjects’ money to carry it out. He gave £6,787 odd from unsupplied secret service money. To this, Tobias Rustat, an under-keeper of the Royal Palace of Hampton Court, and yeoman of the robes to Charles II., described by Evelyn as “page of the back stairs, a very simple, ignorant, but honest and loyal creature,” contributed £1,000. However simple this man was, his simplicity manifested itself in a commendable direction. He is said to have given away his whole fortune in charity. It is to him we owe the statue of Charles II. in Roman dress which stands in the centre of the Hospital court. This statue is made of bronze, and there is a companion one of James II., a gift from the same benefactor, in Whitehall. Walpole attributes one of these to Grinling Gibbons, but which one is uncertain.
Sir Stephen Fox had been faithful to King Charles II. during his exile, and at the Restoration he received the reward of his services. He sat in the House of Commons from then until his death, twice representing Westminster. He was made Paymaster-General of the Forces and one of the Lords of the Treasury. He seems to have been an active-minded man, with considerable business 71 propensity. He devised a scheme for paying the troops out of his private purse, and levying a certain percentage on them for the convenience. As the pay of the army was much in arrears, and at all times irregular, this arrangement was thankfully accepted. The King saw in it the germ of an idea by which he might raise money for the Hospital. Accordingly, in 1683 he directed by letters of Privy Seal that one third of the money raised by imposing a poundage on the troops should go to the Hospital. He also added a clause to the effect that this was to be retrospective, to take effect from 1681. Hence the first haul amounted to over £20,000. Emboldened by success, Charles in the following year added to his demands one day’s pay from every man in the army.
But the building of the Hospital was more expensive than he had anticipated. It cost altogether £150,000, and when finished it would need an endowment. Charles had, therefore, recourse to the Stuart device of stirring up the people to give, by means of letters to the clergy, but without result, and in 1686 he directed that two-thirds of the army poundage should go to the continuance of the building, and finally that the whole should be devoted to this purpose after deductions for necessary expenses.
James II. carried on the design of his predecessor 72 during his short reign, but the building was not completed until 1694, under William and Mary. Sir Stephen Fox became chairman of the first Board of Commissioners, an office which has been ever since attached to the Paymaster-Generalship.
Some legacies have been bequeathed to the Hospital since the foundation, and various sums of unclaimed prize-money were also applied to this object, amounting in the aggregate to nearly £600,000. The income at present drawn from the above sources is a mere trifle in comparison with the expenditure, only amounting to little over £3,000 yearly.
The building—which is wonderfully well adapted for its object, being, in fact, a barracks, and yet a permanent home—was, when completed, just as it is at present, without the range of outbuildings in which are the Secretary’s offices, etc., and one or two outbuildings which were added in the beginning of the present century. The out-pensioners were not included in the original scheme, but when the building was ready for occupation, it was round that nearly one hundred applicants must be disappointed owing to want of room. These men received, accordingly, a small pension while waiting for vacancies. From this small beginning has sprung an immense army of out-pensioners in all parts of the world, including 73 natives who have served with the British flag, and the roll contains 84,500 names. The allowances vary from 5s. to 1½d. a day, the latter being paid to natives. The usual rate is about 1s. for a private, and 2s. 6d. for a sergeant. The in-pensioners, of whom 540 are at Chelsea and 150 at the sister hospital of Kilmainham in Ireland, receive sums varying from one shilling to a penny a day for tobacco money, and are “victualled, lodged, and clothed” in addition. They have rations of cocoa and bread-and-butter for breakfast; tea and bread-and-butter in the evening; mutton for dinner five days in the week, beef one day, and beef or bacon the remaining one. The allowance of meat is thirteen ounces, and the bread one pound, per diem. Besides this they have potatoes and pudding. They are clothed in dark blue in the winter, the coats being replaced by scarlet ones in the summer. Peaked caps are worn usually, and cocked hats with full dress. H. Herkomer’s picture “The Last Muster” is too well known to need more than a passing comment. The scene it represents is enacted every Sunday in the Hospital at Chelsea. Twenty thousand men have ended their days peacefully in the semi-military life which in their long service has become second nature to them, and 500,000 have passed through the list of out-pensioners.
The establishment is now kept up by annual 74 Parliamentary grants, of which the first vote, for £550, was passed in 1703. Up to 1873 sums varying from £50,000 to £100,000 were voted annually, but these were embodied with the army votes. Since that year the Hospital grants have been recorded separately. They amount to three and three-quarter millions, but part of this is repaid by the Indian Government in consideration of the men who have served in the Indian Army. In 1833 the levies from the poundage of the army ceased.
The annual expenditure of the Hospital now equals £1,800,000, and 98 per cent. of this goes to the out-pensioners. In 1894 the question was raised as to whether the money now supplied to the in-pensioners could not be better used in increasing the amount of the out-pensions. A committee was appointed to “inquire into the origin and circumstances attending the formation of Chelsea and Kilmainham, and whether their revenues could not be more advantageously used for the benefit of the army.” Numbers of the old soldiers themselves, as well as the Governor and all the Hospital officials, were examined. One or two of the old men seemed to imagine that they would prefer a few pence a day to spend as they pleased instead of shelter and food, but the majority were decisive in their opinion that on no attainable pension could they be so 75 comfortable as they were at present. Consequently the committee embodied their resolution in the following words: “That no amount of increased pension that it would be practicable to give would enable the men to be cared for outside the Hospital as they are cared for at present.”
The life led by the old men is peculiar, partaking as it does somewhat of a military character. The side-wings of the Hospital, built of red brick faced with stone, and darkened by age, are 360 feet in length and four stories in height. Each story contains one ward, which runs the whole length of the wing. The wide, shallow old staircase, the high doors, the wainscot, are all of oak coloured by age. The younger men and the least infirm occupy the highest wards, which look out upon the quadrangles by means of windows on the roof. Each ward contains about five-and-twenty men, including two sergeants, who have rather larger apartments than the rest, one at each end. An open space, like the between-decks of a ship, occupies half the longitudinal space, and the other half is partitioned off into separate cubicles containing a bed and a box, and these are open at the top and into the room. There is a large stove and one or two high-backed settles in each ward. Here the old fellows sit and smoke and warm up any food they have reserved from 76 the last meal. One or two have attempted to furnish their cubicles with pictures cut from the illustrated papers, but they do not seem to care much, as a rule, for anything but warmth and a pipe.
All the Waterloo veterans have died out, but Crimea and Indian Mutiny men there are in plenty. At each end of the wings are the staircases, which lead into passage halls. At the extreme end of the eastern wing is the Governor’s house, built in exactly the same style as the rest of the wing, and looking like part of it.
In the Governor’s house there is a magnificent state-room, 37 feet in length and 27 in width. It has the immense height of 27 feet, occupying two complete stories. The effect of height within the room is, however, diminished by a cornice which projects quite a foot all round, about two-thirds of the way up. The ceiling, which has been frequently alluded to by writers on Chelsea, but never fully described, has an immense oval in the centre, surrounding a circle of acorns and oak-leaves, from the middle of which the chandelier is suspended. On either side of this are two smaller circles, containing the letters G.R. and C.R. intertwined. The oval does not quite touch the walls of the room, and at either end there are the letters J.R., surrounded by a semicircular device of leaves, surmounted by a 77 crown. At each side of the oval are the national arms. In every one of the four corners is a wreath of roses, passion-flowers, and fruit in very heavy relief, and the interstices are filled by guns, arms, and accoutrements. The proportions of the room may be best understood by the statement that there are three windows at the end and four at the sides. The walls are all panelled and disfigured by hideous light pink paint, done, probably, in the same period of taste when an attempt was made to whitewash the statue of bronze in the court to make it look like marble! This disfigurement extends even to the magnificent trophy of arms and accoutrements carved round the great mirror over the mantelpiece, and, of course, supposed to be the work of the great Gibbons. The fireplace and mantelpiece are of white marble, with an inner setting of veined marble. The edges of many of the panels on the walls are also carved. The magnificent series of pictures give character and dignity to the room. Occupying almost two-thirds of the north end is an oil-painting of King Charles I. and his family, by Vandyck, in 1632. There is a mournful expression on all the faces, even those of the two small children in the front. On the east wall, on one side of the fireplace, are large oil-paintings of George III. and his consort, Caroline, by Allan Ramsay; and on the other a copy of Winterhalter’s 78 picture of Queen Victoria as Empress of India, by Hanson Walker, R.A.
Between the southern windows are portraits of King James II. and King Charles II., by Sir Godfrey Kneller and Sir Peter Lely respectively. As the windows are set very deeply in the walls, the light is bad, and these magnificent pictures are not seen to advantage. Occupying similar positions on the west are life-size portraits of George I., by Sir Godfrey Kneller; George II. and his consort, Caroline, by Enoch Seeman. Thus the fair, placid Caroline smiles down from the wall not many hundred yards from the house where she so often came to consult with the potent Sir Robert Walpole on the affairs of the nation and the liaisons of the King.
All the pictures in the room are the official property of successive Governors. The last three mentioned were bequeathed by William Evans in 1739. We can pass from this room through the vestibule, and along the wards, and thus reach the central wing, and pass under the colonnade into the hall beneath the cupola, without once going into the outer air. From this central hall open off the chapel and great hall on the east and west sides respectively. In this central hall it is possible to look right up into the hollow interior of the cupola at an immense height. Both hall and chapel are considerably raised above the 79 ground-level, and are reached by a flight of steps. They are of the same dimensions—108 feet by 37 feet—but, as the roof of the hall is flat, and that of the chapel hollowed out, the former looks much larger.
In the ‘History of the Diocese of London’ Newcourt gives the following quotation from the Bishop of London’s Registry: ‘The chappel of this Hospital (which is a very large and stately one, as is also the hall, which is of the same dimensions) is 108 feet long, and 37 feet and 9 inches wide ... consecrated by the Right Reverend Father in God, Henry, Lord Bishop of London, on Sunday, August 30, 1691.’ The prelate here referred to was Bishop Compton.
The chapel is paved with black and white marble, and all the fittings and wainscoting are of oak. The altar-rails and the side of the wainscot compartments are carved by Grinling Gibbons. Over the altar is an immense painting, made to fit the apse-like end. It represents the Resurrection, and was executed by Sebastian Ricci. The altar itself is heavy and ugly—a great oak canopy supported by Corinthian columns in oak. The feature of the chapel is, however, the number of standards which are suspended from either wall all down the nave. The greater number were transferred here from the Chapel Royal, Whitehall, and India House, by order of King William IV., 80 in 1835. Captain J. Ford, to whose laborious and painstaking work is due the record of the tombstones in the old burial-ground, made also a list of these flags, and drawings of those recognisable. This collection was purchased by Queen Victoria, who caused it to be made into a book, and presented it to the Hospital, adding an autograph inscription. The flags are chiefly American and French. There are also several French eagles and some native Indian flags. On the latter the mark of a hand, supposed by the natives to be the impress of their chief’s hand, recorded by supernatural agency, can be clearly seen. Every Sunday all the veterans who are not disabled by ill-health or infirmity take their places in the body of the chapel, almost filling it. Visitors and the Hospital officials sit in transverse pews of an old-fashioned shape, which run down the sides of the walls. The organ, presented by Major Ingram in 1691-92, is in a gallery at the west end, and immediately beneath the gallery on the right-hand side is the Governor’s pew.
The Chaplain is the Rev. J. H. S. Moxley. The service is short and simple, and at its conclusion the old men all march out together before the visitors leave. The service of plate presented by James II. is valued at £500. It includes three flagons, four chalices, six salvers, and a pair of candlesticks, all of silver-gilt. After service dinner 81 is the order of the day, and a visit to the kitchens, fitted with all the latest modern improvements, is necessary. It does not seem as if the regimen were very strictly adhered to. Great savoury pies of mutton and kidney, roast sirloin, and roast pork, with baked potatoes, are allotted to the various messes, to be followed by steaming plum-puddings.
The men do not dine in hall, as they used to do, but those who are on orderly duty wait there to receive the rations, and then carry them up to their comrades in the wards to be divided. The messes vary in number; some contain eight, some ten, some even fourteen. On either side of the central gangway in the hall are tables where the old men can sit and smoke, and play dominoes, cards, and bagatelle. There is a raised daïs at the western end, in the centre of which, facing the door, is a bust of Queen Victoria, and right across the end of the room, and continuing for the width of the daïs, on the sides is an immense allegorical painting of Charles II., with the Hospital in the background. This was executed by Antonio Verrio and Henry Cooke. All round the panels of the hall hang portraits of military commanders, with the dates and names of the battles in which they have taken prominent parts. These were collected by a former Governor of the Hospital, General Sir J. L. Pennefather, G.C.B. Above them are 82 other standards tattered beyond recognition and hanging mournfully over the heads of the men below. At the east end is a large painting of the Duke of Wellington in allegorical style. The court-martial on the conduct of General Whitelock was held in this hall; here the Duke of Wellington lay in state for seven days from the 10th to the 17th of November, 1852; and several courts of inquiry have been held. For some years it was used as a place of examination for military candidates, but this was rightly considered to be an abuse, and was discontinued in 1869. Formerly a dining-room, the hall is now a recreation-room, and must be a great boon to those whose wards lie up four flights of stairs.
Passing down the steps, through the vestibule, and under the colonnade on the south front, we see two monuments to the men of the Birkenhead and the Europa. The loss of the former in 1852 has often been quoted as an heroic instance of self-command; when the ship struck, the men went down standing shoulder to shoulder as if on parade. Their names are all inscribed here. The Europa was burnt at sea, and the twelve private soldiers who lost their lives with it are here also commemorated. There are other memorials, brasses, and a marble slab, to the memory of various officers. But the most striking monument, in the centre of the grounds, near the Embankment 83 gate, is that of the Battle of Chillianwallah, at which nearly 30 officers and more than 700 privates were killed. The monument takes the form of a great obelisk, with the names inscribed on the sides. Two of the guns which stand beside it were captured on the same occasion. A little higher up, between the bronze Charles and the Chillianwallah obelisk, is a cross to commemorate 243 officers and privates who were killed in suppressing the Sepoy Mutiny. The veterans are thus surrounded by a halo of gallant deeds; on every hand the memory of their comrades in arms greets them.
Further on down the colonnade we pass westward, through the west wing, to a continuation of the main building, in which is the library. This faces the next court, which, like the east, is filled in the centre with evergreen shrubs. The library contains 4,000 volumes, including Captain Ford’s Manuscripts. There are two rooms, and here the men can see the daily papers, which are afterwards passed on into the great hall. In the west court is the Chaplain’s house, and immediately across the road is the infirmary. In 1808 it was suggested that an infirmary for the pensioners should be established, and for this purpose the Commissioners fixed upon Sir Robert Walpole’s old house, which was conveniently near. The land on which this stands was leased to William Jephson in 1687 for 84 sixty-one years. Some years later the lease was passed on to Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, who lived here in 1707. Apparently he assigned it to Sir Richard Gough, who paid the rent from 1714 to 1719. In 1723 Sir Robert Walpole, the great statesman who virtually ruled England for more than twenty years, became the lessee. He had had some connection with the Hospital since 1714, when he had been made Paymaster-General, and had held a seat on the Board of Commissioners by virtue of his office. His influence in the reign of George II. still continued, and while the King was absent on the Continent, Walpole House was the seat of power in the kingdom. Here came office-seekers and busy flatterers. L’Estrange says “it was thought remarkably convenient that state documents should only have to travel from Chelsea to Kensington Palace.”
The grottos, which, according to the fashion of the time, were built in the garden, and richly decorated, must have seen some interesting sights. One in which Queen Caroline was royally entertained in 1729 was taken down in 1795. The entertainment was extremely sumptuous. The last of these grottos disappeared only when the Embankment was being made. In 1741 the Minister retired with the title of Earl of Orford, which afterwards descended to his well-known son, Horace, and a pension of £4,000 a year. 85
The house afterwards passed through the hands of John, Earl of Dunmore, and George Aufrere, and we find it in 1796 assigned to Charles, Lord Yarborough, who was living here in 1808. The building being then required by the Hospital, he consented to give up the remainder of his lease, a period of seventeen years, upon compensation being paid to the amount of £4,775 15s. Sir John Soane, the architect, who had all through been strongly in favour of adding on to Walpole House instead of purchasing new ground, designed the necessary additions. The building, like the Hospital itself, consists of two wings, east and west, abutting out from a connecting flank, with a vestibule in the front. The eastern wing is Walpole House. The room which was originally the dining-room is now one of the wards, and contains eight beds. It is strange to see the worn, homely faces of the infirm pensioners, in contrast with the magnificent white marble mantelpiece and the finely moulded ceiling. The connecting wing holds the Matron’s room in addition to the wards. The patients suffer from the complaints of old age, rheumatism, blindness, paralysis; few of them are permanently in the infirmary, and with the season of the year the numbers vary. In the summer it is found possible to close one ward entirely. There is a staff of nurses, and the old men are well looked after. Besides Walpole House, it was considered 86 advisable to have a supplementary infirmary. So when the lease of Gordon House fell in, it was adapted for the purpose. It stands in the southwest corner of the grounds, about 150 yards from the infirmary, and will be familiar to those who visited the Military and Naval Exhibitions, at which period it was used as a refreshment-house. The first recorded lease of the land on which it was built was in 1690.
The charity is directed by Royal Commissioners, who include representatives of the War Office, Horse Guards, Treasury, and the Hospital itself, through its Governor and Lieutenant-Governor.
The Governor is Sir Henry Norman. The officers who reside at the Hospital, under the authority of the Governor, are: Mayor and Lieutenant-Governor; six Captains of Invalids; Adjutant; Quartermaster; Chaplain; Physician and Surgeon; Deputy Surgeon.
Besides these there is a large staff, including Matron, Dispenser, Organist, etc. The pensioners themselves are formed into six companies, and their pension varies according to their rank, from the colour-sergeants at a shilling a day to privates of the third rank at a penny. The grounds of the Hospital were originally only twenty-eight acres, but have been added to by purchase from time to time; they now amount to between sixty and 87 seventy. A portion in the south-western corner was let on building leases not long ago.
The large open space exactly opposite to the Hospital, on the north side of the Queen’s Road, is known as Burton’s Court. How it came by the name is a matter of doubt. In Hamilton’s Survey it is called College Court. Lysons refers to it as follows: “To the north of the college is an enclosure of about thirteen acres, planted with avenues of limes and horse-chestnuts.” Its dimensions have since been reduced by the land given up to the parish for road-making. In 1888 it was decided to allow the soldiers quartered at the adjacent barracks to use it as a recreation-ground. Through the centre of it runs an avenue of trees in direct continuation from the Hospital gates. This opens on to St. Leonard’s Terrace in two fine iron gates with stone pillars, surmounted by military arms in stone. Beyond these gates, still in the same straight line, runs the Royal Avenue, formerly known as White Stiles. It is mentioned very early in the Hospital records, payments for masonry and carpentry work being noted in 1692. Faulkner repeats a tradition to the effect that Queen Anne intended to have extended this avenue right through to the gates of the palace at Kensington, and was only prevented from carrying it out by her death. At present the avenue 88 intersected by Queen’s Road and St. Leonard’s Terrace is disjointed and purposeless.
The site of Ranelagh Gardens, which in their zenith eclipsed even the Vauxhall Gardens as a place of entertainment, is now included in the grounds of the Royal Hospital.
Richard, Earl of Ranelagh, Paymaster-General of the Forces in the reign of James II., was a thoroughly unscrupulous but an able man. He was three times censured for appropriating the public money to his own private use, and was finally expelled from his office in the fourth year of Queen Anne’s reign. Notwithstanding this, he obtained a grant of some land belonging to the Royal Hospital in 1690, when the building was nearly completed. This land lay to the south of the burial-ground, and between the Hospital and what is now known as Bridge Road. This was leased to him for sixty-one years at an annual rent of £15 7s. 6d. He built a house on it, and soon after obtained fifteen acres more at £30 4s. per annum, and finally a third grant, which in 1698 was confirmed to him with that portion he already held, to be held in fee on condition of his paying an annual rent of £5 to the Hospital. This Earl, described by Swift as the “vainest old fool I 89 ever saw,” seems to have had great delight in landscape-gardening. He laid out his land with fastidious care, and thus paved the way for the public gardens of the future. His grounds are described in “Views of the Gardens near London, December, 1691,” by Gibson:
“My Lord Ranelagh’s garden being but lately made, plants are but small; but the plats, borders, and walks are curiously kept and elegantly designed, having the advantage of opening into Chelsea College walks. The kitchen-garden there lies very fine, with walks and seats, one of which being large and covered was then under the hands of a curious painter. The house here is very fine within, all the rooms being wainscoted with Norway oak, and all the chimneys adorned with carving, as in the Council Chamber in Chelsea College.”
Lord Ranelagh died in 1712, and with him the earldom became extinct. The Ranelagh property passed to his unmarried daughter, Lady Catherine Jones. In 1715 King George I. was entertained by her at Ranelagh House, together with a great number of lords and ladies. In 1730 the property was vested in trustees by an Act of Parliament; the greater part of it was bought by Swift and Timbrell, who afterwards leased it to Lacey, the patentee of Drury Lane Theatre. They proposed to turn it into a place of public amusement, but soon abandoned 90 the idea, and relet it. In 1744 one Crispe, who then held the lease, became bankrupt, and the property was divided into thirty-six shares of £1,000 each.
It was in the time of Crispe that the great rotunda was built. This rotunda was 150 feet in interior diameter, and was intended to be an imitation of the Pantheon at Rome. The pillars which supported the roof were of great magnificence, painted for half their height like marble, and the second half fluted and painted white; they were crowned by capitals of plaster of Paris. The orchestra was at first in the centre, but was afterwards removed to one of the porticos, and the centre was used for a fireplace, which, if the old prints are to be trusted, was large enough to roast half a score of people at once. We have “A Perspective View of the Inside of the Amphitheatre in Ranelagh Gardens,” drawn by W. Newland, and engraved by Walker, 1761; also “Eight Large Views of Ranelagh and Vauxhall Gardens,” by Canaletti and Hooker, 1751. The roof of this immense building was covered with slate, and projected all round beyond the walls. There were no less that sixty windows. Round the rotunda inside were rows of boxes in which the visitors could have refreshments. The ceiling was decorated with oval panels having painted figures on a sky-blue ground, and the whole was lighted by twenty-eight 91 chandeliers descending from the roof in a double circle. The place was opened on April 5, 1742, when the people went to public breakfasts, which, according to Walpole, cost eighteenpence a head. The gardens were not open until more than a month later. The entertainments were at first chiefly concerts and oratorios, but afterwards magnificent balls and fêtes were held.
Walpole, writing to Sir Francis Mann, says: “Two nights ago Ranelagh Gardens were opened at Chelsea. The Prince, Princess, Duke, and much nobility, and much mob besides, were there. There is a vast amphitheatre, finely gilt, painted, and illuminated, into which everybody that loves eating, drinking, staring, or crowding, is admitted for 12d. The building and disposition of the gardens cost £16,000. Twice a week there are to be ridottos at guinea tickets, for which you are to have a supper and music. I was there last night, but did not find the joy of it. Vauxhall is a little better, for the garden is pleasanter and one goes by water.” The doors were opened in the evening at six, and until the time of the entertainment, some hours later, people seem to have had nothing better to do than to walk round and stare at each other—a method of passing the time described by the poet Bloomfield, in a poem which has been often quoted in fragments but seldom in entirety. It appeared in The 92 Ambulator (London and its Environs) in 1811, at full length, as follows:
Though Bloomfield’s metre can be scarce held faultless, yet his power of detailed description has preserved us a living picture of Ranelagh in the height of its glory. Balls and fêtes succeeded each other. Lysons tell us that “for some time previously to 1750 a kind of masquerade, called a Jubilee Ball, was much in fashion at Ranelagh, but 94 they were suppressed on account of the earthquakes in 1750.”
The masked balls were replaced by other festivities. In 1775 a famous regatta was held at Ranelagh, and in 1790 a magnificent display of fireworks, at which the numbers in attendance reached high-water mark, numbering between 3,000 and 4,000 exclusive of free admissions. In 1802 an aeronaut ascended from the gardens in a balloon, and the last public entertainment was a ball given by the Knights of the Bath in 1803. The following year the gardens were closed. Sir Richard Phillips, writing in 1817, says that he could then trace the circular foundation of the rotunda, and discovered the broken arches of some cellars which had once been filled with the choicest wines. And Jesse, in 1871, says he discovered, attached to one or two in the avenue of trees on the site of the gardens, the iron fixtures to which the variegated lamps had been hung. The promenades at Ranelagh, for some time before its end, were thinly attended and the place became unprofitable. It was never again opened to the public after July 8, 1803.
In 1805 Ranelagh House and the rotunda were demolished, the furniture and fittings sold, and the organ made by Byfield purchased for the church of Tetbury, in Gloucestershire. Lysons adds that the site was intended to be let on building leases. 95 This plan was, however, never carried out, and the ground reverted to the Royal Hospital. The gardens are now quite differently planned from what they were originally. The public is admitted to them under certain restrictions. One or two massive elms, which must have seen the Ranelagh entertainments blossom into life and fade away, are the only ancient relics remaining.
With this account of the Ranelagh Gardens we close our description of Chelsea, having wandered west and east, north and south, and found everywhere some memento of those bygone times, which by their continuity with the present constitute at once the glory and fascination of London, the greatest city in the world.
Alston House, 30
Apothecaries’ Garden, 22
Arthur Street, 59
Ashburnham House, 52, 53
Astell, Mrs. Mary, 19
Attwood, Thomas, 28
Beaufort Street, 46, 49
Blantyre Street, 52
Braganza, Catherine of, 27
Bramerton Street, 36
Bray, Sir Reginald, 5
Burnaby Street, 54
Burton’s Court, 14, 87
Butler, Dr. Weedon, 27
Cadogan Place, 66
Cadogan Square, 64
Cadogan Street, 63
Cale Street, 63
Carlyle Square, 59
Caroline, Queer, 84
Chamberlayne, Dr., 45
Chelsea Barracks, 8
Chelsea china, 32
Chelsea College, 67
Chelsea Creek, 54
Chelsea Embankment, 24
Chelsea House, 66
Chelsea Public Library, 59
Chelsea Workhouse, 61
Cheyne, Charles, 6, 32
Cheyne House, 30
Cheyne, Lady Jane, 6, 32, 43
Cheyne Row, 35
Cheyne Walk, 24, 34
Church Lane, 44
Church Street, 37
St. Columba, 64
Holy Trinity, 65
St. Jude’s, 10
Lawrence Chapel, 39
St. Luke’s, 61
St. Mary’s (Roman Catholic), 63
Old Parish, 37
Park Chapel, 57
St. Saviour’s, 65
St. Simon Zelote’s, 64
Cleves, Anne of, 6
Clock House, 24
Cremorne Villa, 52
Cremorne Pleasure Gardens, 53
Dacre Tomb, 42
Dacres, The, 49
Danvers House, 46
Danvers, Sir John, 46
Danvers Street, 46
Doggett’s Coat and Badge, 22
D’Orsay, Count, 29
Duke of York’s School, 10
Durham House, 14
Durham Place, 15
Dyce, William, 26
Elgin marbles, 56
Eliot, George, 26
Elizabeth, Princess, 25
Flood Street, 17, 29
Fox, Sir Stephen, 69
Franklin’s Row, 10
Gordon, General, 58
Gordon House, 86
Gothic House, 29
Gough House, 20
Grey, Lady Jane, 25
Gwynne, Nell, 54, 69
Halsey Street, 64
Hamilton, Duke of, 6
Hamilton, Sir William, 56
Hans Place, 64, 65
Haweis, Rev. H. R., 27
Heber, Reginald, 45
Hoadly, Bishop, 25
Hoadly, Dr. Benjamin, 53
Holbein Place, 7, 66
Incurable Children, 36
Howard, James, 6
Howard, Lady, 6
Hunt, Holman, 36
Hunt, Leigh, 35, 36
Jews’ Burial-ground, 58
Johnson, Dr., 33
Jubilee Place, 63
Keats collection, 60
King, Dr. John, 45
Kingsley, Rev. Charles, 45
King’s Road, 57, 60
Landon, Letitia Elizabeth, 64
Lawrence House, 37
Lawrence Street, 36
Lennox Gardens, 64
Letters of Junius, 34
Lindsey, Earl of, 51
Lindsey House, 50
Lindsey Row, 51
Lot’s Road, 54
Lower Sloane Street, 9, 66
Lowndes Square, 66
Maclise, Daniel, 26
“Magpie and Stump,” The, 34
Manor House, 15
Markham Square, 63
Markham Street, 63
Marlborough Road, 63
Martineau, Harriet, 36
Mazarin, Duchess of, 18
Mendelssohn Gardens, 10
Miller, Mr., 24
Milman Street, 49
Milner Terrace, 64
Mitford, Miss, 65
Monmouth House, 37
Moore Street, 64
Moravian Burial-ground, 50
More, Sir Thomas, 46
Neild, James, 26
New Manor House, 24
Norman, Sir Henry, 86
North, Hon. Brownlow, 25
Northcote, R.A., Sir James, 34
Northumberland, Duke of, 5
Nottingham, Countess of, 6
Oakley Crescent, 30
Oakley Street, 30
Old Chelsea Bun House, 7
Old Swan House, 24
Ormond, Duke of, 20
Ormond Row, 14
Palace of the Bishops of Winchester, 25
Paradise Row, 18, 22
Paradise Walk, 22
Park Walk, 57
Parr, Queen Catherine, 5
Paulet, Sir William, 49
Pavilion Road, 65
Petyt’s School, 44
Phené, Dr., 30
Pimlico Road, 7
Pont Street, 64
Prince’s Cricket Ground, 64
Queen’s Elm, 58
Queen’s House, 27
Queen’s Road, 8
Queen’s Road West, 17
Radnor House, 16, 17
Radnor Street, 16
Ranelagh, Earl of, 88
Ranelagh Gardens, 67, 88
Rectory, The, 45
Redesdale Street, 16
Robinson’s Street, 16
Rossetti, D. G., 27
Royal Avenue, 14, 87
Royal Military Asylum, 10
Ruskin, Mr., 13, 36
Saltero, Don, 28
Sandford Manor House, 54
Sandys, Lord, 5
Seaton Street, 52
Seymour, Lord, 5
Shadwell, Thomas, 44
Shawfield Street, 16
Shelley House, 22
Shrewsbury House, 31
Sloane Court, 10
Sloane Gardens, 66
Sloane, Sir Hans, 7, 22, 43, 49
Sloane Street, 65
Sloane Terrace, 66
Smith Street, 14, 16
Smith Terrace, 16
Smollett, Dr., 37
South Parade, 59
St. Albans, Duke of, 20
St. Leonard’s Terrace, 10, 14, 37
St. Mark’s College, 55
Stadium Street, 54
Stanhope, Lord, 6
Stanley House, 55
Steele, Sir Richard, 34
Swift, Dean, 44
Sydney Street, 61
Tedworth Square, 16
Tite Street, 20
Trafalgar Square, 59
Tree, Mr. Beerbohm, 26
Tudor House, 27
Turk’s Row, 9
Walpole House, 85
Walpole, Sir Robert, 14, 83
Walpole Street, 14
Walton Street, 65
Wellesley, Hon. and Rev. Dr., 45
Wellington Square, 14
Wentworth House, 22
Westbourne, The, 2
Whistler, Mr., 20, 51
Whitelands Training College, 13
Winchester House, 30
World’s End Passage, 52
Zinzendorf, Count, 51
BILLING AND SONS, LTD., PRINTERS, GUILDFORD
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