Chelsea Walk - Royal Avenue

Royal Avenue and Burton's Court were laid out in the 1690s by William III as part of a proposed carriage way linking the Hospital with Kensington Palace. It was enclosed by a hedge and small white fence; hence by 1748 it was known as White Stile Walk.

The central part was filled with gravel and lined with grass verges and horse chestnuts. The terraces were laid out between 1817 and 1848 and a central garden created giving an unrestricted view of the Royal Hospital. This aspect continues to be protected. In the 1960s owing to their dilapidated state demolition was considered. Luckily only numbers 1-15 were demolished. Local pressure ensured that the 1962 rebuild was sympathetic.

As well as being the fictional home of James Bond, several notable people have lived here. Rossetti rented number 36 for his mistress Fanny Cornforth. The artist Bernard Stern (1920-2002) lived at number 18 and more recently the architect Richard Rogers. Joseph Losey, the American film director, came to England during the McCarthy era to escape the Communist witch-hunt. He lived at 30 Royal Avenue. One of his best known films The Servant starring Dirk Bogarde, Susannah York and Edward Fox was set in an empty house opposite his own.

Losey led a local protest to preserve the character of Royal Avenue and protect it from "rubbish, noise and hippies". It was the opening of Chelsea Drugstore in 1968 that spurred the locals into action.

This was Britain's first American style drugstore and replaced the White Hart pub. Stainless steel, brass, marble and mirrors were all used, leading a resident to describe it as a "Gin palace turned into a tin palace". Open 16 hours a day, seven days a week it is hardly surprising the residents complained. It closed in May 1971 and a pale imitation reopened in September.

A well known American hamburger chain occupies the building today.

It was immortalised both in celluloid and in song. Stanley Kubrick filmed scenes for the Clockwork Orange here. The Rolling Stones 1969 song You Can't Always Get What You Want includes the following line: "So I went to the Chelsea Drugstore to get your prescription filled".

We have now arrived back on the King's Road and the end of our stroll through historic Chelsea.

Rural view with sheep before the laying out of Royal Avenue

White Styles, now Royal Avenue
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Photograph of famous meeting place and shop on King's Road

Chelsea Drugstore in the 1970s
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Virtual Museum – The History of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
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