A Short History of Chelsea

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

The History of London’s Chelsea – a historical neighbourhood with royal connections


As an area, modern-day Chelsea conjures up many connotations. From its world famous King’s Road, to its wealthy residents and multi-million pound houses to buy in Chelsea, the area has become synonymous with desirability and affluence. However, it wasn’t always this way. We take a look at Chelsea’s colourful history – from its inauspicious beginnings as an Anglo-Saxon settlement to its present day status as London’s most coveted place to live.

The First Historical Record of Chelsea

Historians believe that the London settlement of Chelsea predates the Domesday Book of 1086. In fact, we know that in 787 AD it was the site of the Synod of Chelsea, making it one of London’s oldest neighbourhoods.

The name Chelsea is believed to be Anglo-Saxon in origin, meaning a chalky landing place for boats. It is believed that Chelsea’s proximity to the river Thames made it a small but bustling harbour.

Up until the Middle Ages, Chelsea remained a small sleepy village. This is hardly surprising given that the entire population of London in the year 1100 was a mere 15,000 people. By contrast, the population of Chelsea today is 41,400 – nearly three times that of London in the Middle Ages. This goes some way to explaining today’s level of demand for both property to buy in Chelsea and property to rent in Chelsea.


Chelsea’s Popularity as a Place to Buy a Home

It wasn’t until the mid 1500s that Chelsea came to prominence as a popular residential area. Henry VIII, Britain’s most colourful monarch, acquired the manor of Chelsea for himself and the ill fated Anne of Cleves, succeeded by Catherine Parr. Whilst both the inhabitants and architecture of the manor are long gone, the name still remains – Chelsea Manor Street.

The royal stamp of approval catapulted Chelsea into prominence. Accordingly, everyone wanted to buy a house in Chelsea. In the intervening decades, it became known as “the village of palaces”, becoming home to other figures of major historical importance, including the young Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Thomas More. Today, this grand family home for sale in Cheyne Place, in the heart of old Chelsea, is a reminder of the area’s historic significance.

As the small cottages were replaced by grander and more opulent Chelsea houses, other landmarks were also erected. Chelsea Royal Hospital was founded by King Charles II in 1694 as a home for war veterans. The chapel, which survives to this day, was designed by Christopher Wren and is a testament to pure ecclesiastical architecture. Today, the grounds of Chelsea Royal Hospital are best known for hosting the world famous Chelsea Flower Show.


Modern Chelsea

Those growing up in West London between the 1960s and the early 2000s, will remember the Kings Road as the place to be on weekends. Originally constructed as the Sovereign’s (Charles II) private road, from St James Palace to Fulham, this iconic street runs from Duke of York Square, past the Cadogan Estate with its Victorian red brick houses and through the heart of Chelsea. The King’s Road has welcomed London youth culture for decades. Accordingly, homes to buy in Chelsea have soared in popularity as the area retains some of its conservative image and welcomes a new international demographic.

Today residential development in Chelsea continues apace. The area has become popular with foreign buyers looking to buy property in Chelsea. One of the most notable current developments is that of Chelsea Barracks, financed by the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund. The old Barracks have been demolished to make way for a collection of apartments and houses built around contemporary public spaces. However, this is just one of many new developments in Chelsea which offer homes with gyms, parking and concierge service.

Yet intriguingly, whilst contemporary apartment living is increasingly creating a foothold in demand for Chelsea apartments – it is still the traditional Chelsea town house which prevails with buyers in terms of popularity. This five bedroom family house for sale in Cadogan Street is one of many kinds of home which buyers continue to desire. This unique period Chelsea house with garden and off street parking is a stone’s throw from the Saatchi Gallery, the farmer’s market at Duke of York Square and Peter Jones. It’s a different and more unique proposition to standardised apartment living.

Whilst Chelsea’s history is no doubt colourful, there’s every indication that the future is even more so. With the continued redevelopment throughout the area and the Cadogan Estate’s ambitious mixed-use development on the Curzon cinema site, there is every indication the property in Chelsea will continue to flourish.


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