Chelsea Walk - Chelsea Embankment 13-18

Before the Embankment was built we would now be walking in water as the watercolour opposite shows. Residents did not always appreciate this picturesque scene. The artist Daniel Maclise, who lived at 4 Cheyne Walk, listed the disadvantages. These included the noise, industries, the wharfside loading, the cocks crowing, street cries and drying washing.

The photograph below shows the newly constructed houses that replaced the wharfs, pubs and businesses. An elaborate statue can be seen at the junction with Royal Hospital Road. This is one of the two memorials erected to celebrate the building of the Embankment. It was moved to the small garden next to Albert Bridge in the 1930s.

In 1877 the Board of Works released some of the surplus land. This was eagerly snapped up by the well-to-do with artistic leanings. They commissioned fashionable architects such as Norman Shaw and Edwin Godwin. The result was eighteen splendid individualistic red brick town houses. The Physic Garden divided the row, with numbers 13 to 18 built on the western side. Shaw's Swan House (number 17) is perhaps the most dramatic, with; its exquisite decoration recently carefully restored. Garden Corner (number 13), with its commanding views over the river and the Physic Garden, was built in 1879 on the site of the Old Swan pub. In 1906 the interior was remodelled by the Arts and Crafts architect and designer, Charles Voysey for Emslie Horniman, philanthropist and Liberal MP for Chelsea. Recognised as one of his finest works, its Grade II* status helps ensure that the fine interiors are retained. Today most of these houses have been converted into flats and offices.

We have now reached the Physic Garden. Through the wrought iron railings, previously the water gate, we can catch a glimpse of this hidden gem. Gazing across the river Battersea Park can be seen. This section was laid out for the Festival of Britain in 1951. Up to the 1970s the attractions of Battersea Fun Fair could be seen from this point. Today the Peace Pagoda dominates. It was built by Japanese monks and nuns in 1985, a gift to celebrate peace around the world.

Directions: Turn left into Swan Walk.

Watercolour of riverside with boats, pub and the Physic Garden

Chelsea riverside near the Physic Gardens in 1871 by William Ascroft
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1920s photograph of the grand red brick houses built on Chelsea Embankment in the 1870s

New houses on the north side of Embankment in 1920
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Virtual Museum – The History of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
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