Chelsea Walk - Lawrence Street

Facing you, as you emerge from Justice Walk into Lawrence Street are two early Georgian houses: Dukes House and Monmouth House built around 1705. These houses help us to picture the original Monmouth House illustrated here. The double doorway is almost identical. Originally occupied by the Duchess of Monmouth, later occupants included the writer Tobias Smollett and Nicholas Sprimont, owner of the famous Chelsea China factory from 1747 to 1769. Part of the building was also used as a showroom for the porcelain works. The building was demolished in 1835 to create Upper Cheyne Row.

The Cross Keys was established in 1765, but is now a gastro pub. Unlike most pubs it has retained its original name. The cross keys symbolise the keys that Jesus gave St. Peter to enter the gates of heaven. An irony doubtless not lost on one of its famous regulars, the Welsh poet and hell raiser Dylan Thomas.

Looking across the road you are struck by the imposing bulk of Carlyle Mansions built in 1886. The decorative panels, showing cranes and flowers, are a welcome relief from the terracotta façade. Over the years the flats have been very popular with writers. Henry James described his flat (no 19) as his "Chelsea Perch...the haunt of the sage and the seagull". T.S. Eliot occupied no 24 from 1946 to 1957 and his bedroom was immediately beneath the room where James died. Also living there in the 1950s, in Flat 24, was Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. The author and politician Erskine Childers (1870-1922) lived at Number 10. His most famous work is the 1903 spy novel The Riddle of the Sands about German plans for an invasion of Britain. The novelist and playwright Somerset Maugham briefly occupied Flat 27.

Retracing our steps back up Lawrence Street a blue plaque commemorates Chelsea Porcelain Works which occupied this site from 1750 to 1784. This was the first factory to produce porcelain of as fine a quality as that from Japan and China. Today Chelsea China is much prized, especially pieces bearing the famous red anchor mark.

Directions: Turn right into Upper Cheyne Row and then almost immediately left into Cheyne Row.

Watercolour of old mansion at top of Lawrence Street

Monmouth House in the 1830s, a watercolour by Elizabeth Gulston
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Old buildings on the corner of Lawrence Street now Carlyle Mansions

Corner of Lawrence Street before the building of Carlyle Mansions in 1882 by J Crowther
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Virtual Museum – The History of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
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