Survey of London: Volume 2, Chelsea, Pt I. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1909.
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XXX.—No. 17 CHEYNE WALK.
XXXI.—No. 18 CHEYNE WALK, DON SALTERO'S.
Ground landlord, leaseholders, etc.
General description and date of structure.
Both these houses were built in 1717, and occupied the two first plots of the Great Garden, eastward from the Manor House. Indeed, No. 18 actually adjoined the great house itself, and it may be seen that the frontage line of the existing buildings changes at this point. The two houses have been completely altered since; it has even been stated that they have been rebuilt, but on the authority of Mr. William Ascroft, who was an eye witness of the alterations in 1867, we are able to modify that statement. Sufficient of the structural work of the old houses remains to allow us to disregard their renovation, and to feel that they are not quite lost to us. The house were raised a storey, their fittings and appointments were changed, and the canopied balcony added. No features of any antiquity are left to detain our interest. The importance of the houses lies solely in their history.
Condition of repair.
Of the two houses, the one which has played an amusing and not unimportant part in Chelsea's history is No. 18, still called Don Saltero's after the first tenant, the enterprising and versatile James Salter. We will, however, first give the list of residents in No. 17 during the 18th century as displayed in the parish books.
|1718–1740.||Thomas Middleton, the apothecary.|
|1754–1755.||G. F. Guidott.|
No. 18 Cheyne Walk was for the greater part of a century the home of the curious museum and tavern known as Don Saltero's Coffee House. The proprietor of this establishment, James Salter, was at one time a servant of Sir Hans Sloane, whom he accompanied on his travels, and to this may be due his acquisition in 1718 of so fine a site as that adjoining the Manor House, when Sloane bought his Chelsea property. However that may be, Salter was in Chelsea long before this and his coffee-house had already acquired great reputation. The interest of the subject is sufficient apology for the following brief résumé of its history, and at the outset we must confess ourselves as once more indebted to the researches of Mr. Randall Davies for our main facts. Faulkner tells us that the name "Don Saltero" (fn. 1) first appeared in the newspapers on June 22, 1723, in the form of some verses over that signature written from The Chelsea Knackatory. The lines begin thus:—
"Sir, fifty years since to Chelsea great,
From Rodman on the Irish main
I strolled …"
which would date Salter's first appearance in Chelsea to the year 1673. This has been accepted by the writer in the Dictionary of National Biography. In 1682 occurs the record of his daughter May's baptism, and in 1687 that of his son John. In 1684–5 his name appears in the rate-lists as the occupant of a small house in Lombard Street, the southern portion of which was destroyed at the time of making the Embankment. From 1695 to 1707 Salter appears in conjunction with Edward Hatfield as living in the row by the Church, a circumstance to which we shall refer later on in dealing with Prospect Place. In 1708 he had moved again, and was in occupation of the corner house in Danvers Street (the eastern corner, rebuilt, and now a baker's shop). Here he stayed until 1717, and the next year we find him at No 18 Cheyne Walk.
The first reference to the coffee-house is in a letter of Anthony Cope's, who lived at Church Place, in Church Lane, to Moses Goodyear, dated 1697, from Venice, in which he says: "Forget me not at Salter's in the next bowl." This proves that Salter was carrying on business at the corner house in Church Row or Prospect Place, where Lawrence Street meets Cheyne Walk, and where the Cheyne Hospital now stands. In 1715, too, during his residence in Danvers Street, our proprietor is described as "James Salter, the coffeeman." In 1708 Salter entertained Richard Steele, who wrote the well-known description of the tavern in The Tatler, No. 34.
The ampler quarters in Cheyne Walk saw the final establishment of "Don Saltero's" reputation. His tavern was frequented by all the literati of the day, and his Chelsea friends found a warm place for his shop in their affections. His reputation as a mixer of punch was very high; he could also shave, bleed, draw teeth, and play a little on the fiddle, and every year he added stranger oddities to his queer mimic museum, from which he probably got as much amusement as his many visitors. People vied with one another in presenting strange curios with the most impossible inscriptions to please their host who had not scrupled to advertise himself as a "gimcrack whim collector." So he entertained Sir John Cope and Narcissus Luttrell of Little Chelsea, the annalist, Vice-Admiral Munden and Benjamin Franklin, and a multitude of other well-known men, till his death in 1728. He was buried at Chelsea on September 11th of that year.
From the 38th edition of "A Catalogue of the Rarities to be seen at Don Saltero's Coffee House in Chelsea" we extract the following "Complete list of Benefactors" to his "Coffee Room of Varieties" as of interest since it contains many 18th century residents of Chelsea:—
From 1729 to 1758 the museum and coffee-house were carried on by Salter's son-inlaw, Christopher Hall. In 1759 the rate-books give the name of James Emblem, which continues until 1781. In 1782–1783 occurs the name of James Jacob, and from 1790–1798 that of Mary Jacob. In 1799 the house changed hands, the collection was sold by auction, and the coffee-house was converted into a public-house, where we are told a room was still kept for the friendly conferences of "men of literature and science." The house was closed, as we have already stated, in 1867 and converted into a private residence.
Sir Richard Steele, The Tatler (No. 34), Tuesday, 28th June 1709.
Weekly Journal, 22nd June 1723.
Gentleman's Magazine, 7th January 1799.
James Salter, Catalogue of Rarities.
Thomas Faulkner, Chelsea and its Environs (2nd edition, 1829).
Rev. A. G. L'Estrange, The Village of Palaces (1880).
Alfred Beaver, Memorials of Old Chelsea (1892).
Randall Davies, Pall Mall Gazette, 4th September 1906.
Reginald Blunt, Handbook to Chelsea (1900).
G. W. Niven, Selections from "The British Apollo" (1903).
Chelsea Miscellany, Chelsea Public Library.
In the committee's ms. collection are—
3276. (fn. 2) Nos. 17 and 18 Cheyne Walk (photograph).