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The London borough of Chelsea stretches west along the Thames, two miles south of Trafalgar Square. Its narrow streets and olde world housing date from the Georgian and Victorian periods.
Some of the more famous names to take up residence include Shelley, Sir Thomas More and J W Turner (118 Cheyne Walk). Later names include George Eliot (4 Cheyne Walk), Mick Jagger (Edith Grove) and Margaret Thatcher (Flood Street).
Oscar Wilde lived in two houses – 3 and 34 Tite Street. It was in this latter house that he wrote the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Four years later he had homosexual relations with Lord Alfred Douglas in the Cadogan Hotel, and a society scandal ensued. He was promptly arrested, went to prison, and died a bitter man in Paris.
The most famous road in Chelsea is King’s Road – part of the long promenade that runs from the Royal Mews through Sloane Square. It was laid out by Charles II as a link between the Palace of Westminster and Hampton Court.
It is surrounded by big name department stores like Peter Jones, which has stood on the west side of the square since 1877. Upmarket boutiques litter the street to the left, and gave the young, wealthy residents an amusing nickname – Sloanes, or Sloane Rangers.
The Royal Hospital was built by Christopher Wren in the late 17th-century as a home for elderly soldiers – a role that it still retains today.
The rules state that every resident – known as a Chelsea Pensioner – must be at least 65-years of age and have his rent paid by the State. In return they get an allowance for beer and tobacco and have to attend events and military parades.
They have what is probably the poshest retirement home in England – their dining hall, for example, contains a mural by Antonio Verrio, and was where the Duke of Wellington was laid in State before his burial at St. Paul’s.
The Chelsea Flower Show takes place every May in the grounds of the Royal Hospital. It is frequently attended by Her Majesty the Queen.
It started life in Chiswick, but financial difficulties nearly put paid to the event in the 1850s. It was saved when Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, stepped in and found some grounds in Kensington. The show then moved to Wisley, and finally came to Chelsea in 1913.
The Chelsea Physic Garden was founded in 1673 as a place to study medicinal plants. It contains around 5,000 different species split into several groups. There are sections on herbs, poisonous plants and a fantastic rock garden – containing volcanic stones from Iceland. There are also beds devoted to perfume and aromatherapy.
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