This district is defined as the southern part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBK & C). It includes the area south of the Royal Parks commonly known as High Street Kensington and South Kensington west to Earl’s Court and Olympia and south to Sloane Square and Chelsea. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens combine to form the largest green space in metropolitan London and provide a real oasis in the heart of this vast city.
South Kensington hosts four of London’s largest and finest museums and is also home to the venerable Imperial College. High Street Kensington leads to a long line of shops and department stores, offering a less hectic version of Oxford Street as well very upmarket stores in Knightsbridge. Sloane Street connects Knightsbridge to Chelsea via Sloane Square and is lined with luxury brand boutiques.
Chelsea is an extensive riverside area of London that extends broadly from Sloane Square in the east to the World’s End pub in the west and down to the River Thames. The King’s Road marks the main thoroughfare of Chelsea.
The whole of the district contains some of the most expensive residential property in the world but is a little more downmarket towards its western edges.
History of Chelsea
Chelsea’s modern reputation as a centre of innovation and influence originated in a period during the 19th century when the area became a veritable Victorian artists’ colony: artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, J.M.W. Turner, James McNeill Whistler, William Holman Hunt and John Singer Sargent, as well as writers such as George Meredith, Algernon Swinburne, Leigh Hunt and Thomas Carlyle all lived and worked here. A particularly large concentration of artists existed in the area around Cheyne Walk (pronounced Chey-nee) and Cheyne Row, where the pre-Raphaelite movement had its heart.
Following the Second World War, Chelsea, like many other formerly prosperous areas became rather run down and poor. It became prominent once again as an artistic centre, Bohemian district and hot spots for young professionals in the 1960s. The Americans called this period “Swinging London” and the King’s Road became the definition of style and fashion and both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones lived in the neighbourhood.
In the 1970s, the “World’s End” area of the King’s Road was home to Vivienne Westwood’s shop (“Sex”), and witnessed the genesis of punk music and style with many Mohawks to be seen on the road against the background of the closed down shops. Thereafter, working class youth culture was priced out of the area and gravitated to Camden, Islington, Ladbroke Grove, Brixton and Brick Lane.
The 1980s saw the rise of the Sloane (archetypally Princess Diana) and the Mohawks gave way to twin set pearls, pink Polo shirts and what an American would call a “preppy”. Chelsea seems to have settled into stylish affluence and aspiration and although the ‘Hooray Henries’ do not try to stand out, their loud braying voices, youth and wealth are hard to hide. They can be seen here in their natural habitat particularly on school holidays when they return from their boarding schools and all stay at a friends house, on the “King’s Road, mate”.