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Rambling Recollections of Chelsea by an old inhabitant   By:

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Transcribed from the 1901 The Press Printers edition by David Price, email Many thanks to Kensington Local Studies Library for allowing the use of their copy in making this transcription.

[Picture: The “Old Swan,” Chelsea]

Rambling Recollections of Chelsea and the surrounding District as a Village in the early part of the past century


[Picture: Decorative design]

LONDON: The Press Printers, 142 Strand

[Picture: Picture of the author]


[Picture: Decorative divider]

In offering my early recollections of Chelsea and surrounding neighbourhood , I thought they might be interesting to many of my old friends and neighbours , and while away pleasantly some of their leisure moments . The idea of compiling them from a diary , spasmodically kept , only occurred to me when confined to my room , to pass away some of the weary hours , and I certainly found the task extremely advantageous . Accordingly , I have had them printed , for presentation to my friends , as a souvenir of our old friendship .

Highfield Lodge , Wandsworth Common . June , 1901.

CHAPTER 1.—Early Recollections.

In my early recollection Chelsea had many industries characteristic of the village, which have entirely passed away. The only conveyance—a two horse stage coach, called the “Village Clock”—used to run from the Cross Keys, in Lawrence Street, twice a day, for one shilling to Charing Cross, and one and six pence to the City. It would stop to change horses at the “Black Horse,” in Coventry Street. Time, from Chelsea, ten in the morning and two in the afternoon; supposed to do the journey in an hour—which it never did. This coach appeared to be as much as was required, as it was seldom full, although it would go round in the morning to pick up its regular passengers.

The roads and streets had a very different appearance at that time, when the King’s Road was like a country road, with a toll gate on the north east side of Sloane Square. By the Asylum Wall, as far as Whitelands, there was no path at all. Where Colville Terrace now stands was Colville’s Nursery, as far as Downing’s Floorcloth Factory, with no path, and on the opposite side from Whitelands to the White Stiles was Siger’s Nursery. The White Stiles—where is now Avenue Terrace—was an open space with a grand avenue of horse chestnuts and some old fashioned wood fence with two stone steps and a stile at each end, and where Bywater Street and Markham Square stand was Morr’s Nursery.

The King’s Road only took a second place in Chelsea proper. Paradise Row and Cheyne Walk were considered the busiest and most thriving parts of the village, as nearly all its industries were located on the river bank, and nearly all the best families lived in Cheyne Walk or Paradise Row, and in the Royal Hospital, where the old soldiers used to pass the board, and pensions were paid.

For a boy in those days there were but few opportunities for amusement and recreation. The only resources we had were rowing, running, swimming and boxing, to learn which was the proper thing to do and nearly every boy’s ambition. I know it was mine, and as soon as I could save up two and six pence and get a half holiday, I used to go up to Air Street, Piccadilly, to a tavern on the right hand side kept by a retired prize fighter, there to have a lesson from a professional in the “noble art of self defence,” as it was then called. There were always a lot of professionals waiting about who used to take it in turns to give the lessons, and a very shabby, disreputable lot they were... Continue reading book >>

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