A walk through Chelsea

This is an old post that I wrote but never posted. I was waiting to get some pictures of the buildings, which I eventually got, but just never got around to finishing and posting this post. It is finished and here it is: out of context by about 2 months! Better late, than never!

I am back in London.  I arrived here on Friday, October 12 after traveling from Bruges.  The total train ride took 3 1/2 hours – one hour from Bruges to Brussels and two and a half hours from Brussels to London.  The Chunnel makes a world of difference crossing the English Channel….it used to take hours by ferry from the Belgium or French coast.  Now, it takes 20 minutes through the chunnel….amazing!

My apartment building

It is good to be back in London and in my cute little apartment.  It is located in Chelsea, one of the 32 boroughs (districts) of London.  It is small and only one bedroom but it is all that we need.  Plus, rents are so high here in London….it is really all we wanted to spend!  Our rent for this little gem is $3,400 a month and that was a deal believe it or not!  Oh, and it comes with a view of the Thames River!  It really is a lovely apartment and location!

Our friends, Doug and Marie Warren are here in London for two weeks.  Doug has business over here and Marie came for the trip.  It has been wonderful seeing Marie again.  We have known each other for 23 years when David and Doug worked on a project together in Madawaska, Maine!  We haven’t seen each other for about 5 years now….so, it has been wonderful seeing her daily and having “girlfriend” time.

Today, Wednesday, October 17, Marie and I took a walking tour of Chelsea that was being offered during the week long Chelsea Festival.  Our guide was very knowledgable and had some interesting information on the various buildings along Kings Road, the major shopping street in Chelsea.  The tour started at the St Lukes Church that was built in 1820.  It was the church that Charles Dickens married Catherine Hogarth on April 2, 1836.

From the church, which is located on Sydney St, we walked to Kings Road which was originally a private road built by Charles II (reigned 1649-1651) to connect the Hampton Court with White Hall Palace.  It remained a private road until 1830 with beautiful gardens decorating along teh side of it.

Our first stop was in front of the building known as The Pheasantry, built in 1765 and was originally part of the Box Farm House.  In 1865, pheasants were sold from this building.  It has had a rich history of tenants including the Joubert family from France.  They made furniture and created the furniture for Queen Mary’s dollhouse.  In later years, it housed various bars and restaurants with notorious cliental as Eric Clapton.

Further down Kings Road, is a building that now houses a coffee shop “The Ca’puccino”.  In the 1960s, it used to be the home to the store “The Bazarr” owned by Mary Quant.  Ms Quant was a fashion designer and she designed the the mini-skirt and hot pants.  In the 60s, she sold mini-skirts from Bazaar.

In 1907, the current Laura Ashley store was a plumbing store that was owned by Thomas Crapper.  His claim to fame was the invention of the toilet.

MacDonalds Restaurant on Kings Road today used to be “The Chelsea Drugstore” in the 60s.  It was  a sleek aluminum and glass building that was three stories. It housed a chemist (I wonder what kind of drugs he dispensed), a bar, record store, newsstand and other concessions.  It was opened 16 hours a day, which didn’t please the neighborhood!  The “flying squad” made deliveries.  Those who opted for this service would receive their order by a purple catsuit clad girl who arrived on a sleek motorcycle.  That must have been quite the sight!

Close to Mickey Ds is Royal Crescent Square. I quiet park lined with beautiful trees and townhouses.  You look onto the stately Royal Hospital.  In fiction, Royal Crescent Square was James Bond’s address.

The Royal Hospital was built in 1692 by Charles II to thank the soldiers who fought for the Royalist during England’s civil war.  Today, it is a retirement home for 400 veterans as well as a hospital.

Our tour ended on Sloane Square which was named after Hans Sloane who was a doctor for three of England’s monarchs, a great traveler and collector.  He also introduced hot chocolate to England. It was after a trip to Jamaica where he observed the locals making a drink from cocoa beans and water.  He didn’t like the taste of this but mixed the cocoa with milk.  Originally, the mixture was sold by apothecaries as medicine but then Cadbury introduced the hot chocolate drink selling it as “Sloane’s drinking chocolate”.

Dr Sloane was a great collector of natural history items as well as coins, manuscripts, prints and other curiosities.  Upon his death, he bequeathed his massive collection of 71,000 items to England with the request that parliament pay his survivors 20,000 pounds.  This was arranged and thanks to Dr Sloane, the British museum and the Natural History museum was established.

On Sloane Square is the Royal Court Theater which was built in 1880 and has always been a theater.  Today it is dedicated to introducing new and upcoming playwrights from the UK and around the world.

Our final tidbit of information was about the Peter Jones store on the opposite end of the square from the Royal Court Theater.  It appears to be a structure from the 60s but actually was designed and built in the 1930s….the designer, William Crabtree, was way ahead of his times, no?  Peter Jones apprenticed with a draper or one who sells cloth for clothing and household items like curtains/drapes.  In 1877 he moved to the current site on King’s Road where it flourished as a department store. Upon his death in 1905, the store struggled until it was purchased by John Lewis who had a successful department store on Oxford Street.  Mr Lewis kept the Peter Jones name and today it is a lovely, 6 story department store that sells everything from running shoes to appliances.

It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours learning about the history of Kings Road. It has gone from the quiet, private road of the Charles II to a thriving shopping area of today.  I would have enjoyed being around during the revolutionary 60s to see Mary Quant’s Bazarr shop and the Chelsea Drugstore.  Oh, I forgot to mention that the Rolling Stones refer to the Chelsea Drugstore in their song “You can’t always get what you want”…..so on that note, go listen to the song and see if you can hear it!  Cheers….

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