Chelsea Walk - Kings Road

Our walk begins at the junction of the King's Road and Old Church Street, situated half way between Sloane Square and Stanley Bridge. Before leaving the noise and bustle of the King's Road here is some background information about historic Chelsea which may be helpful.

Chelsea is mentioned in Anglo-Saxon chronicles, but it was the arrival of Sir Thomas More in the 1520s that put Chelsea firmly on the map. During the 16th and 17th centuries, large mansions dominated the riverside. Our walk will take us through the streets that replaced these great houses in the 18th and 19th centuries.

We will also discover the extraordinary mix of people who lived there, from Kings to eccentrics, aristocrats to bohemians and the very rich to the poorest. But above all the riverside acted as a magnet to artists such as Holbein, Turner and Whistler and writers such as Tobias Smollett, Henry James and Ian Fleming.

Looking down the busy King's Road it is hard to imagine that before 1830 only those with a special copper token with the King's head on could use it. Charles II had it constructed as a private roadway between his palaces at Whitehall and Hampton Court. The added advantage was that it passed Sands Manor the home of his mistress Nell Gwynne.

But it was in the 1960s that the King's Road acquired international fame when it came to symbolise the Swinging Sixties. The opening of Mary Quant's shop, Bazaar, in 1955 was to revolutionise the area. By the mid 1960s the street was lined with boutiques and restaurants and became the haunt of the beautiful people. In the 1970s the Punks arrived led by Vivian Westward and Malcolm McLaren.

Old Church Street, originally known as Church Lane is one of the oldest streets in Chelsea and leads to the first parish church of All Saints, better known today as Chelsea Old Church. Offices and new buildings have replaced most of the old houses and businesses but, if you look carefully, many vestiges of bygone years can be seen.

Directions: Walk down Old Church Street towards the river.

Modern King's Road showing the Cadogan Arms pub

King's Road in 2006
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Watercolour of King's Private Road toll gate

King's Road in 1820, a watercolour by William P Sherlock
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Virtual Museum – The History of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
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