A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 12, Chelsea. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2004.
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SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ACTIVITIES
INNS, TAVERNS, AND COFFEE HOUSES
Chelsea's importance as a pleasure resort near London from the 17th century was reflected in its large number of places of refreshment. The earliest recorded alehouse in Chelsea may have been the Rose, which stood on the corner of Church Lane opposite the parish church in 1538 and in which an assize of ale was held in 1547. (fn. 1) The Pye or Magpie, so-named by 1587, (fn. 2) fronted the riverside road on the east side of Shrewsbury House; courts leet were occasionally held there. (fn. 3) It was known as New Pier House, Cheyne Walk, in the 1840s but renamed the Magpie and Stump by 1855. In 1886 it was destroyed by fire in 1807 and replaced by a private house, and its early 19th-century skittle alley was converted into a garden studio. (fn. 4) From the early 17th century, references to alehouses and coffee houses are frequent. The Dog, under Richard Eeds, was recorded in 1636 by John Taylor the water-poet, (fn. 5) and renamed the Rising Sun in 1670, while the Feathers, later on the corner of Cheyne Row, was first recorded in 1666. (fn. 6) Samuel Pepys tried to visit the Swan east of Cheyne Walk with friends in 1666. (fn. 7) The village, particularly the riverside, had the largest concentration of better-known inns, such as the Cricketers, the King's Head, the Magpie, Saltero's Coffee House, the Thames Coffee House, the Yorkshire Grey, the Feathers, and the Cross Keys. (fn. 8) At the corner of Church Lane and Cheyne Walk stood the White Horse by 1694, (fn. 9) the stopping place for coaches in the 18th century. By the end of the 17th century several inns had bowling greens, such as the one behind the Three Tuns by the river, another attached to an inn by the river west of Lindsey House, and Ninepin Place on the glebe next to College Walk in 1717. (fn. 10) Victuallers, recorded in Chelsea from the middle of the 17th century, (fn. 11) were licensed in increasing numbers during the 18th century, from 31 in 1716, 52 in 1728, and 68 a century later. (fn. 12) They were also prominent amongst tradesmen licensed to serve as jurors, making up over two thirds of those qualified in 1845. (fn. 13) Peter Newhall's coffee house in Chelsea, licensed in 1730 but whose location is unknown, was a meeting-place for a society of gardeners c.1725: 20 working nurserymen met monthly to discuss specimen plants and new varieties shown by their growers. The members included Thomas Fairfax, author of The City Gardener (1722). (fn. 14)
One of the better known of Chelsea's resorts in the 18th century was Don Saltero's Coffee House. (fn. 15) Saltero, more correctly James Salter, had formerly been a barber and a valet to Sir Hans Sloane, before opening a coffee house at no. 59 Cheyne Walk, at the corner of Lawrence Street, by 1697. By 1715 he had moved his coffee house to the west side of Danvers Street, and then to its final location at the newly-built no. 18 Cheyne Walk by 1718. Saltero's soon became frequented by the wealthy and fashionable of Chelsea, being noticed by Tatler in 1709. Part of the attraction was the large collection of unusual objects and curiosities collected by Saltero, including, reputedly, a hat which had belonged to the sister of Pontius Pilate's wife's chambermaid. Items were donated by Sir Hans Sloane, Rear Admiral Sir John Munden, and other Chelsea residents, and so extensive was the collection that a catalogue was printed. Saltero died in 1728, and his daughter and her husband, Christopher Hall, ran the premises as a tavern until 1758. It continued to attract considerable custom, largely because of the collection of curiosities, but in 1799 the collection was sold and dispersed. (fn. 16) By the middle of the 19th century, the coffee house was described as a 'quiet tavern', and in 1867 no. 18 was converted into a private residence.
Some other pleasure resorts popular in the 18th century were thought of as being in Chelsea as they stood near to the Royal Hospital, but were in fact at Ebury or Pimlico in Westminster: these included Stromboli House and Gardens, Star and Garter Tavern in Five Fields, and Jenny's Whim. (fn. 17) The most famous, however, was probably the Chelsea Bun House in Grosvenor Row, which was flourishing by the early years of the 18th century, and also housed a museum of curiosities and antiquities. In addition to having royal patronage, it reportedly sold 240,000 buns on Good Friday 1829, but this could not prevent it from being closed and demolished in 1839 and its collection of curiosities sold at auction. (fn. 18)
In the course of the 18th century taverns and tea gardens opened up away from the river. The Marlborough Tavern, halfway along Blacklands Lane, had a garden attached by 1794. (fn. 19) The Cow and Calf stood on the eastern edge of Chelsea common in Blacklands Lane where it joined Fulham Road by 1764 when it was licensed to Richard Shelmandine or Shelmerdine; he held it by lease from the owners of the manor by 1781. (fn. 20) It was said to have been rebuilt and renamed the Admiral Keppel in 1790, but William Sandeford received a victuallers' licence for the latter in 1780. (fn. 21) Admiral Keppel public house, later no. 77 Fulham Road, was in use between 1790 and 1856 with a music and dancing licence; the building was demolished and replaced in 1856. (fn. 22)
A detached house called Manor House in King's Road between Little's Nursery and Shawfield Street was turned into a tea and recreation garden by Richard Smith c. 1836. Commercial Tavern was later built there and Manor House became the Chelsea Literary and Scientific Institution. (fn. 23) The Six Bells, no. 197 King's Road, dated at least to 1722 when John Westerbone was licensed. (fn. 24) In 1810 it was licensed to William Bray, who with his brother John ran a tea garden there in the 1820s. In 1895 it still had a bowling green with arbours or little summer-houses in style of an old-fashioned tea garden, and had a flourishing bowling club with 65 members. The inn was rebuilt in Tudor style in 1900. (fn. 25)
Several of Chelsea's picturesque 18th-century inns survived into the later 19th century but were gradually picked off by redevelopment, especially along the river. They were replaced by pubs and restaurants concentrated in and around the King's Road as the commercial and social heart of Chelsea, where venues like the Markham Arms and the Chelsea Potter became famous in the 1960s and 70s.
When the Ranelagh House estate was sold in 1735, the largest section, 12¾ acres including Ranelagh House and the Avenue, a coachway made by the earl of Ranelagh from the house to the London road at Ebury (Westm.), was bought by Benjamin Timbrell, master builder or carpenter, and James Swift, (fn. 26) partly as building land and partly to lease out. They are said to have leased part to James Lacey, patentee of Drury Lane Theatre, and Solomon Rietti, for creation of Ranelagh pleasure gardens, (fn. 27) but Lacey and Rietti do not appear in the extant papers regarding the creation of the gardens. In 1741 Timbrell and Swift leased to William Crispe and James Myonet the mansion and gardens for 21 years at £130, and the Avenue or walk, paved and planted with a row of lime trees and hedges on both sides, for 4 years at a peppercorn rent. Under an agreement drawn up with John David Barbutt and James Myonet just before the lease, Timbrell and John Spencer, carpenter, were to erect a building in the gardens according to an agreed design at a cost of £300: this may be the Rotunda, said to have been built by Timbrell in 1741, possibly to a design by William Jones, architect to the East India Company. (fn. 28) The Rotunda was 555 ft in circumference and 150 ft in internal diameter. It had four Doric porticoes marking its entrances. On the exterior was an arcade encircling the building above which was a gallery reached by steps at the porticoes. In the interior was a circle of 52 boxes separated by wainscotting, each of which could accommodate 7-8 people and their refreshments. Above the boxes was a gallery with a similar range of boxes entered from the outside gallery. The Rotunda was lit by 60 windows and chiefly built of wood. From the ceiling hung numerous chandeliers. The roof was supported by a square erection in the centre of the building made up of decorated pillars and arches, which included a fireplace with a chimney and open fire. Originally this structure had contained the orchestra but after a few years the latter was moved to the side for acoustic reasons. Behind the orchestra an organ was set up by Byfield in 1746.
Also in 1741 Crispe and Myonet made an agreement with Michael Christian Festing, who was to make contracts with performers for musical entertainments, with Crispe and Myonet paying the salaries of Festing and the entertainers; they also arranged to pay for slating work on the new building. To raise sufficient capital Crispe and Myonet, who were erecting a 'grand amphitheatrical structure' for entertainment of the public by 'musick ridottos', had borrowed money from two bankers who would raise £5,000 from subscribers, each paying 25 guineas and receiving a free ticket for two people to each evening's entertainment, up to 6 a year. To secure this capital Crispe and Myonet conveyed the house, garden, and avenue for 8 years to trustees for themselves, Barbutt, and the rest of the subscribers. (fn. 29) Capital for the undertaking was also said to have been raised by issuing 36 shares of £1,000 each, perhaps later on when it became clear that more capital was required. The principal shareholder and manager was Sir Thomas Robinson, Bt, MP, who built a house, Prospect Place in the grounds. (fn. 30)
The Rotunda and gardens opened in 1742 with a public breakfast, and Ranelagh quickly became one of the most fashionable resorts around London. (fn. 31) Horace Walpole wrote about it a couple of weeks after it opened, breakfasting there and describing the immense amphitheatre with balconies full of little ale-houses. In the 1740s he like many others went constantly to Ranelagh, getting held up in traffic jams of coaches trying to get there. In the early days admission was sometimes 1s. sometimes 2s., including the breakfast and morning concert. On special nights with firework displays the price was 3s. or more. Tickets costing from a half to two guineas (10s. 6d.-42s.) were issued for masquerades. Later on the usual admission charge was 2s. 6d., which included the refreshments of tea, coffee, and bread and butter. It was usually open on three days in the week. The regular season for evening concerts and gardenpromenade began at Easter, but the Rotunda was often open in February or earlier for dances. In its early days the public breakfastings and morning concerts were a constant feature, but in 1754 the proprietors were refused a license for music, and only breakfasts were held; thereafter the breakfasts and concerts were apparently abandoned.
Between the acts of the evening concerts visitors walked in the gardens to the sound of music, and a garden-orchestra was erected c. 1767. The fairly formal gardens had several gravel walks shaded by elms and yews, a flower-garden, and an octagon grass plot. The principal walk led from the south end of Ranelagh House to the bottom of the gardens, where there was a circular Temple of Pan, and the walks were lit at night with lamps in the trees. There was also a canal with a structure called the Chinese House or the Venetian Temple.
The chief diversion at Ranelagh, mentioned frequently and critically, was the promenade in the Rotunda, with the company walking round and round inside the building in a quiet and orderly fashion, rarely disturbed by the unseemly behaviour found at Vauxhall and elsewhere. The company was fairly mixed, and the nobility complained about the number of tradesmen, but it seems to have been more exclusive than Vauxhall. By 1774 it was usual for the fashionable to arrive at 11 p.m. after the concerts had ended.
For the first 30 years or so Ranelagh was highly fashionable and had attractive entertainments. The concerts featured many fine singers and instrumentalists of the day, and performances of choruses from oratorios and operas; Mozart performed there in 1764. Also popular were the masquerades at which the company wore masks, which included tents in the garden, maypole and rustic dancing, a gondola and a sea-horse lit with lamps on the canal, shops attended by masked shopkeepers, booths for tea and wine, and gaming-tables and dancing in the Rotunda. Later in the 18th century, in addition to the concerts in the Rotunda there were garden concerts, fireworks, and transparent pictures in a building in the grounds.
By the late 1770s, however, Ranelagh began to lose its fashionable cachet, and by 1788 its shares had fallen 10 per cent in value; it was described as a bore and its distance from Town told against it. Efforts to revive its popularity had some success, such as masquerades lasting till day break c. 1791, and firework displays. In 1792 the exhibition called Mount Etna was introduced and remained popular for several years, held in a special building in the gardens: it showed the Cyclops forging the armour of Mars amid smoke and explosions. By the late 1790s the directors offered prizes for regattas and shooting-matches, and several spectacles were presented to the public to try to regain support, but without success. In July 1803 the Rotunda opened for the last time, and in the autumn of 1805 the proprietors ordered the demolition of Ranelagh House and the Rotunda; the furniture was sold by auction, and the organ was sold to Tetbury church (Glos.). By 1826 much of Ranelagh's gardens had become part of the Royal Hospital's grounds (below).
Cremorne House was first opened to the public in 1831 as a sports stadium or club by Charles Random, self-styled Baron de Berenger, a firearms specialist, who taught shooting in butts erected there. (fn. 32) In 1845 the lessee, Beatrix Crowder, (fn. 33) and Robert Russell, probably one of de Berenger's creditors, granted an under-lease of the estate to John Wolsey, to run both Cremorne House and a nearby house, the Canteen, as taverns, (fn. 34) but the same year Wolsey assigned the under-lease to Thomas Bartlett Simpson, hotelkeeper of the North and South American Coffee house in Threadneedle Street. (fn. 35) Simpson sublet the Cremorne estate to James Ellis, confectioner, in 1846 for 20 years to run the two buildings and grounds as taverns and a place of amusement, (fn. 36) and Ellis laid it out as a typical London pleasure garden, but went bankrupt and surrendered the lease back to Simpson in 1850. (fn. 37) Simpson took over management of the gardens, and although he may not have initiated the opening as pleasure grounds, he seems to have been the one responsible for their success.
Cremorne Gardens was opened to the public in 1846 and within a few years became established as a popular feature of London's summer season, its annual programme of events being welcomed by the press each May. It took advantage of the greater number of people with leisure in the mid 19th century: its admission remained 1s. to enter the grounds, making it relatively affordable not only for the middle class but for the growing class of office workers in the expanding metropolis. It could be easily reached by cab or bus from Charing Cross, or by river steamer to Cremorne pier, yet still seemed far enough from the noise and dirt of London to be a rural retreat. The grounds offered several attractions and side-shows: the Crystal Grotto, Marionette Theatre, Hermit's Cave, American Bowling Saloon, a circus, a fireworks temple, and a theatre for musical and dramatic performances. Probably the most popular attraction was the orchestra and dancingplatform, surrounded by tables among the trees and overlooked by tiers of supper-boxes. As well as the regular facilities, there were also spectacles and novelties, some of which exceeded the bounds of good taste and possibly legality in an effort to keep the crowds coming in. To maximise income the management had to appeal to a broad public and to attract customers from mid afternoon to after midnight, and because of this Cremorne developed a dual personality. By day it had attractive lawns, trees, and flower-beds, with balloon ascents and marionette shows, to appeal to the family outing and respectable women; at night it had dazzling, gaslit music and dancing and refreshments enjoyed by a wide range of society including loungers and prostitutes. The gas lights gave Cremorne much of its appeal, strung out along the walks and in the trees, and blazing around the sites of the main attractions. (fn. 38)
In the 1850s Simpson was able to secure court and aristocratic patronage, but by the 1860s Cremorne was attracting criticism. It was distinctive among places of entertainment in the wide range of social groups who came together there, but this social promiscuity, and the sexual promiscuity which the Gardens drew into its vicinity, led to sustained attacks from the Chelsea vestry, local residents, and moralists from a wider area. (fn. 39) In 1861 Simpson retired from active management and assigned the leases to Edward Tyrrell Smith of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. (fn. 40) Under Smith Cremorne entered its most popular and commercially successful period, (fn. 41) and writers emphasized the economics of Cremorne as a business, which helped to deflect criticisms made on social and moral grounds: the Gardens required 15 gardeners during the summer season, 20 carpenters, 6 scene-painters, and 5 house-painters out of season, 12 gasmen, 8 bill-posters, and gave custom to a variety of performers, fireworks manufacturers, and security guards. (fn. 42) Smith remained in control until 1867, when Simpson agreed to lease the Gardens to William Watling for three years, (fn. 43) and then granted a 21-year lease in 1870 to John Baum, the last manager of the Gardens, who spent more than £10,000 on the gardens and premises, (fn. 44) and provided a variety of entertainments which became increasingly rowdy and provoked annual opposition to the renewal of his music and dancing licence. Baum was refused a renewal of his licence in 1871, (fn. 45) though it was subsequently renewed, but ultimately it was the value of the land for building which finally closed the Gardens in 1877, when the freeholder decided to lay out the area for houses. (fn. 46)
OTHER PARKS AND OPEN SPACES
In 1929 Chelsea had only 13 acres of public open space, one of the smallest proportions in London at just two per cent of its area. It had 3 acres of private playing fields, (fn. 47) and other private open spaces included the Physic Garden and the borough's garden squares. Before c. 1815 the extensive grounds of the Royal Hospital, which included Burton's Court on the north side and gardens by the river, were apparently generally accessible, but access was then restricted, to local discontent. In 1845 the vestry petitioned that the 'comparatively useless' grounds be opened to benefit the populous neighbourhood, (fn. 48) and in 1846 the improvement commissioners petitioned for Burton's Court, on the north side of the Hospital, to be opened to the public. (fn. 49) In 1850 the Hospital did open its gardens to the public on Sundays and at certain times of the year, and later daily all year round, especially the centre walk and terraces next to the river, (fn. 50) but c. 1887 use of Burton's Court was again restricted, to military personnel. (fn. 51) The grounds were increased when part of the former Ranelagh estate was added: as Ranelagh Garden it provided 14 of the Hospital's 60 acres. The area was used as in-pensioners' allotments from 1832, and a summerhouse attributed to Sir John Soane survived in 2000, its thatch replaced with tiles, but the gardens were laid out afresh under John Gibson's scheme of 1859-66. The northern part remained private, with the river end (and the Hospital's South Grounds) publicly accessible, until in 1912 access was allowed throughout. From 1947 Chelsea MB rented the South Grounds as sports grounds, (fn. 52) which continued to be used by the RBKC, though inhabitants relied largely on facilities outside the borough. (fn. 53) The Hospital's grounds became perhaps best known in the 20th century as the site of the Chelsea Flower Show: the Royal Horticultural Society first held its summer show at the Royal Hospital in 1913, and subsequently the show became an annual event of international renown. (fn. 54)
Other open spaces in Chelsea comprised former burial grounds and small public gardens. After Chelsea Embankment was created in 1874 the MBW laid out surplus ground on the north side of the carriageway as ornamental gardens extending from Old Church Street to Flood Street; smaller gardens flanked Albert Bridge. Ground at the northern end of Chelsea Bridge was laid out in 1884. The gardens, maintained by the MBW and then by the LCC, totalled one acre, (fn. 55) but were badly affected by traffic in 2002. In 1887 the vestry created a public garden out of the disused burial ground around St Luke's church, the MBW contributing half of the cost. (fn. 56) The design, by G.R. Strachan, the vestry surveyor, involved moving most of the stones; (fn. 57) a few altar tombs remained. Its 4 acres passed to Chelsea borough council. (fn. 58) There were no facilities for children's games there in 1929, (fn. 59) and in 1934 conversion of the northern side to a children's recreation ground was authorized, although sports were forbidden. (fn. 60) The western part was subsequently tarmacked for a sports area, with a children's playground adjacent.
By the 1880s the poor condition of the King's Road burial ground caused controversy. A mortuary was constructed there in 1882, and the remaining ground was reserved for the recreation of workhouse residents. After war damage a scheme of 1947-50 to develop the garden, with a small part opened to the public, removed most of the stones and demolished the mortuary. In order to improve its condition and make the whole area publicly accessible the Chelsea Society and the RBKC re-modelled the garden in 1977, retaining mature trees and the remaining monuments; it was named Dovehouse Green. (fn. 61)
Roper's Garden, north of the Embankment between the old church and Danvers Street, was so-named because it lies partly on the site of property given by Sir Thomas More to William and Margaret Roper in 1534. (fn. 62) The buildings which stood on the site were destroyed in 1941, and from 1948 volunteers and the Chelsea Gardens Guild created gardens there. A public garden on the site, designed by Bridgwater, Shepheard, & Epstein, was opened in 1964. (fn. 63)
The public Cremorne Gardens, at the west end of Cheyne Walk, were opened in 1982 by RBKC on the south-eastern extremity of the site of the former Cremorne pleasure gardens and Cremorne pier, (fn. 64) and replaced wharves. The 1¼-acre park included gates which had apparently stood at the King's Road entrance to the earlier gardens. (fn. 65)
Chelsea Palace Theatre
It opened as a music hall called Chelsea Palace of Varieties in 1903 at nos 232-42 King's Road, a music hall designed by Oswald Wylson and Charles Long in baroque style with a capacity of 2,524 in stalls, circle and boxes, and gallery. Standing on the corner of Sydney Street with its striking orange-red terracotta dome it was an important feature of King's Road. It also housed straight plays, ballet, and in 1923 was used for films, but by 1952 was almost exclusively a music hall again. In March 1957 it closed temporarily because of financial difficulties, but reopened when Jack Hylton took a short lease for the English Stage Company's production of The Country Wife by Wycherley, transferred from the Adelphi Theatre. After that short season it closed for good in 1957. (fn. 66) It was bought by Granada and used as television studios until it was demolished in the 1960s, (fn. 67) and replaced with a shop and a 9-storeyed block of flats; the shop was occupied by Heal's in 2003.
The Court Theatre, Lower George Street, off Sloane Square, opened in 1870 as the New Chelsea Theatre in the former Ranelagh Chapel. In 1871 its interior was altered by Walter Emden and it was renamed the Belgravia Theatre. Further alterations were made in 1882 by Alexander Peebles, after which its capacity was 728, distributed between stalls and boxes, dress circle and balcony, amphitheatre, and gallery, and it was presumably renamed Court Theatre at this time. It was closed in 1887 and demolished, (fn. 68) being replaced by the Royal Court Theatre on another site.
Royal Court Theatre
The Royal Court Theatre was built on the east side of Sloane Square and opened in 1888, designed by Walter Emden and Bertie (W.R.) Crewe to replace the earlier Court Theatre (above). Built of fine red brick, moulded brick, and a stone facade in free Italianate style, it had a capacity of 841 in stalls, dress circle, amphitheatre, and gallery. It ceased to be used as a theatre in 1932, (fn. 69) but was used as a cinema 1935-40 until bomb damage closed it. The interior was reconstructed by Robert Cromie and the theatre reopened in 1952; further alterations were made in 1956 and 1980, retaining the façade largely unaltered. The capacity in 1982 was 442. (fn. 70) George Devine became artistic director and opened the English Stage Company at the Royal Court in 1956 as a subsidised theatre producing new British plays, international plays, and some classical revivals. (fn. 71) Devine aimed to create a writers' theatre, where the play was more important than the actors, director, or designer, and to discover writers whose plays were stimulating, provocative and exciting: the Royal Court production of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger in May 1956 was later seen as the decisive starting point of modern British drama, and Devine's policy created a new generation of British playwrights: John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, John Arden, Ann Jellicoe, N.F. Simpson, and Edward Bond. Early seasons included new international plays by Bertolt Brecht, Eugene lonesco, Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Marguerite Duras.
The theatre started with the 400-seat proscenium arch Theatre Downstairs, and then in 1969 opened a second theatre, the 60-seat studio Theatre Upstairs. Though the quality of the auditorium and the façade were greatly appreciated by audiences, the remainder of the building had little merit, providing poor facilities for both audience and performers. By the early 1990s the theatre was becoming dangerous, particularly in its electricity circuits, and was threatened with closure in 1995. The theatre also backed onto the Westbourne (Ranelagh) sewer, possibly why the drains caused flooding in the stalls and understage throughout the 20th century. The Royal Court received a grant of £16.2 million from the National Lottery and the Arts Council for redevelopment, which began in 1996. The structure was completely rebuilt, but the façade and the intimate auditorium were preserved; facilities for performers and theatre-goers were improved, and additional office and dressing-room space was provided by building a new annex over the Ranelagh sewer. The refurbished theatre, supported by the Jerwood Foundation, reopened in 2000 with the 330-seat Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, and also maintained a studio theatre, the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. In 2003 the Royal Court remained influential in world theatre, producing new plays of high quality, encouraging writers from across society, and developing connections abroad.
By 1912 Chelsea had six cinemas or theatres which also showed films. Chelsea Electric Palace, nos 180-2 King's Road, seating 400, was used for films and variety shows. Those showing films only were Cremorne Cinema, World's End, King's Road, seating 240; Electric Theatre, nos 148-50 King's Road; King's Picture Playhouse, Church Street; Royal Electric Theatre, Draycott Avenue, seating 300. The Palace of Varieties (above), King's Road, was the 6th. (fn. 72)
In 1910 the Palaseum, designed by A.W. Hudson for 960, was opened at no. 279 King's Road, on the corner of Church Street. In 1911 it was renamed King's, and is presumably the King's Picture Playhouse, Church Street, mentioned in 1912 with a capacity of 1,200. It became the Ritz in 1943, and the Essoldo in 1949 after remodelling by C. Edmund Wilford. (fn. 73) The Essoldo was noted as an 'enterprising cinema' in 1969 showing both general entertainment and films reflecting modern society. (fn. 74) It was modernized in 1968 with 432 seats, and became the Curzon in 1972, but closed in 1973. The building reopened as King's Road Theatre for live performances, closing again in 1979. It then reopened in 1980 as the Classic with four screens, seating 245, 277, 161, and 153 respectively. Screen 4 was renamed The Arts in 1984, and the whole complex was renamed Cannon in 1986. (fn. 75) It was still open in 2003 as UGC Chelsea, seating 220, 238, 122, and 111 for the four screens.
The Picture House at no. 148 King's Road, between Markham Street and the Pheasantry, was the site of the Electric Theatre, nos 148-50, in 1912, designed by Felix Joubert with a capacity of 394. Known as the Classic by 1972, (fn. 76) it closed in 1973 and reopened with live shows, but was demolished in 1978 and replaced by shops and flats. (fn. 77)
In 1934 the Gaumont Palace opened at no. 206 King's Road, designed by W.E. Trent and E.F. Tulley with a capacity of 2,502. It became the Gaumont by 1946, and the Odeon in 1963. It closed in 1972 and was converted into a department store for Habitat, which incorporated in the complex a new Odeon seating 739 which opened in 1973. It closed in 1981 and reopened 1983 as the Chelsea Cinema, (fn. 78) and was still open in 2003 as an independent cinema.
Prince's Club, an exclusive sports club with socially restricted membership, was opened in 1870 by George and James Prince. The club houses were built on the grounds of Holland's Pavilion, and the club used former nursery land adjoining as a cricket ground. In addition to cricket there were facilities for tennis, badminton, and, later, skating. The ground was being built on in 1879, and the club finally closed in 1885 when its lease expired, moving to W. Kensington where it operated as the Queen's Club. (fn. 79)
Chelsea had two other skating rinks, at Royal Avenue from 1875, and at the Glaciarium in Milman's Street from 1876. (fn. 80) Catharine Lodge, in south-west corner of Trafalgar Square, became a cycling club for society people c. 1896. (fn. 81) The area in the centre of Trafalgar Square was sub-let to the Chelsea Lawn Tennis Club by lease expiring in 1928; (fn. 82) occupied the centre of Trafalgar Square from before First World War until the square was redeveloped in 1928. (fn. 83)
Chelsea Football Club
Chelsea Football Club was founded in 1905 to play in a sports ground at Stamford Bridge bought by H.A.(Gus) Mears and his brother, Mr J.T. Mears, after Fulham FC turned down the ground. (fn. 84) Gus Mears had his team officially recognised by the Football League and it played its first match in 1905, against West Bromwich Albion. A match later that year had 60,000 spectators, and by 1906/7 Chelsea had reached the First Division. (fn. 85) Chelsea were winners of the League Division One in 1955, and of the F.A. Cup in 1970, 1997, and 2000; they were runners up 4 times, semi-finalists 8 times. They were particularly successful, both at home and in Europe, in the 1950s and 6os, and in the 1990s. (fn. 86) The main history of the development of the ground, Stamford Bridge stadium, is reserved for treatment under Fulham.
FRIENDLY SOCIETIES AND SAVINGS CLUBS
A number of friendly, loan, and building societies met in Chelsea, mainly in public houses. (fn. 87) Among early ones, the Freedom and Friendship with Hope Society, which met in the King's Arms, was registered from 1794 to 1816, the Friendly Assistants' Society was registered at the Cricketer's Inn in 1799, the Brotherly Society of Bricklayers at the Coach & Horses inn in Marlborough Street in 1803, the Chelsea Female Union Society at the Magpie and Stump in 1804, and the Chelsea Union Friendly Society at the Duke of Wellington inn, South Street, Sloane Square, in 1823. By the 1840s societies not meeting at pubs included the Chelsea Independent Total Abstinence Society, which met at the Tee Total Coffee House, Exeter Street, and the Temperance Provident Society which met at the Mechanics' Institution in King's Road. Burial societies included the Catholic Burial Society of St Joseph and St Patrick, at the Coach & Horses inn, Marlborough Street, registered from 1839 to 1861, and the West London Philanthropic Burial Society, registered from 1849 to 1859 which met first at the Rose & Crown, Lower Sloane Street, and then at the Queen's Head, Keppel Street. Loan societies included the Chelsea & General Joint Stock Loan Society, at the Prince of Wales in Exeter Street, and the Chelsea New Loan Society at no. 24 George Street, near Sloane Square. The Chelsea Building Society was registered at no. 7 Sloane Terrace in 1842.
Chelsea Savings Bank was founded in 1819 under the patronage of the duke of York and duke of Wellington. In 1861 Chelsea Savings Bank reported it had over 10,000 contributors, and included 53 charitable societies and 25 friendly societies. (fn. 88)
Chelsea Temperance Society was founded in 1837, and had a hall in Pond Place (later Street). In 1908 it built Sydney Hall in Pond Street near its old hall, which had served for many years. (fn. 89)
The Chelsea Permanent Building Society, later Chelsea Building Society, was founded in 1875 in London. (fn. 90) In 1934 new offices on 3 floors of a corner site in King's Road were opened for it, (fn. 91) presumably that still in use in 2003.
Chelsea Benevolent Society was founded in 1838 to alleviate individuals' distress, its members being entitled to refunds if they had given up to 2s. 6d. for immediate relief in the most deserving cases. It had relieved 2,502 cases by 1856, 141 in that year, and 5,892 by 1873, when the funds totalled £3,370. Gifts from Earl Cadogan and Leedham White brought the total to £6,482 and permitted the relief of 469 in 1885. Meetings were held at the Commercial Hall, King's Road, until 1855, at the Pier Hotel, Cheyne Walk, until 1869, and thereafter at the White Hart, King's Road. They were not recorded after 1885, although it was not until 1918 that amalgamation with Chelsea Relief Society created Chelsea Benevolent and Relief Society. The society was amalgamated with Kensington and Chelsea Benevolent Society in 1933, and was wound up c. 1961. (fn. 92)
Chelsea Relief Society, founded in 1861 and with volunteer visitors, from 1871 defined its aim as the discouragement of indiscriminate almsgiving by distributing the largest amount of relief for the smallest cost of management. In 1875 c. 1,300 tickets for bread, meat, and coals at Christmas were issued, and in 1896 230 persons or families received sums of 5s. to £2, at a total cost of £119. Unrecorded after 1896, the society was amalgamated with Chelsea Benevolent Society (above) in 1918. (fn. 93)
World's End Boys' Club was founded 1934 at no. la Lacland Place to help local boys aged 14-18 to make good use of their leisure. It provided physical training, boxing, rowing and other sport, handicrafts, a reading and games room and a canteen, and a summer camp. (fn. 94) Funds were raised through balls and other functions held in Chelsea. (fn. 95) In 1940, though younger boys had been evacuated, it still had an average nightly attendance of 85-90, (fn. 96) and was considering expanding into a neighbouring house 1942: it had c. 100 members, 60 of them under 16. (fn. 97) In 1947 it received a council grant, (fn. 98) and was still there in 1953 at the top of Lacland Place opposite the mission hall, (fn. 99) but presumably closed soon afterwards for development of the Cremorne Estate. A West Chelsea Girls' Club was started in 1917 with headquarters at no. 484 King's Road; it was still operating in 1938. (fn. 100)
Chelsea Central Club started in 1941 at St Luke's schools, remaining there until 1945 when it moved to no. 30 Chelsea Square. It was apparently originally for boys, and had 80-90 members in 1947, providing sport, a library, and discussions. A mixed club started in 1947 with 60 members, with opportunities for carpentry, boot repairing, badminton, acting, and dancing. (fn. 101) Balls were held at the Town Hall in aid of the clubs in 1952 and 1962. (fn. 102)
In 1851 there was a Library Institution in King's Rd between nos 102 and 105; the secretary was William Hill. (fn. 103)
Chelsea had several music societies in the 20th century. The Chelsea Music Club was founded in 1922 by Lady Piggott, and apart from the Second World War, provided Chelsea with a regular programme of chamber music in spring and autumn concerts, and included many well-known artists. Its first concert was held in 1923, conducted by Eugene Goossens at the Town Hall; in 1955 it gave its 200th concert. (fn. 104) Also in the 1920s a group of madrigal singers called the Chelsea Singers was founded, and gave their first concert in 1926. (fn. 105) The Chelsea Opera Group was formed in 1950 from a group of amateurs and students, many living in Chelsea, giving concert performances of operas under the conductorship of Colin Davis. Performances were given in Oxford and Cambridge as well as London, including a concert performance at Festival Hall. (fn. 106) In 1957 as their annual spring performance they performed the Merry Wives of Windsor under Colin Davis, who brought his own Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra, at Peter Jones department store in conjunction with the music society of the John Lewis Partnership. In 1957 the Chelsea Chamber Orchestra was giving performances at the Town Hall, and in 1958 performed with the Goossens family, the well-known instrumentalists. (fn. 107) The Chelsea College Orchestra was founded by Nicholas Dodd with 10 students at Chelsea College where he taught. It changed its name c. 1980 to Chelsea Symphony Orchestra and by 1986 was one of the country's leading amateur orchestras, giving about eight concerts a year and the occasional overseas performance. Its main base was Chelsea Old Town Hall, King's Road, where it gave many of its performances. (fn. 108)
Chelsea Book Club, at no. 65 Cheyne Walk (Lombard Terrace), like an 18th-century bookshop held exhibitions and lectures as well as selling books. In 1920 it held an exhibition of sculpture from Ivory Coast and Congo; it was the first to stock Joyce's Ulysses in 1922. In 1928 it was sold because of financial problems, and became the Lombard Restaurant.
The Chelsea Festival was started c. 1992 and referred to as Chelsea Week in 1993, when it was intended to be a festival of all local activities: it included a fashion show, a range of musical and theatrical performances, and an exhibition involving the Chelsea Society, Chelsea Arts Society, and Chelsea Arts College. (fn. 109) It was still being held in 2003 when it lasted for three weeks from the middle of June.
Chelsea Arts Club
The Chelsea Arts Club was founded in 1891 by Whistler and his contemporaries in rooms at no. 181 King's Road. In 1902 it moved to larger premises at no. 143 Old Church Street. In 1933 the club's premises, which had an acre of garden, were remodelled. From 1908 to 1958 the club held a series of public fancy dress balls at the Albert Hall, latterly on New Year's eve, which raised funds for artists' charities, (fn. 110) but they ceased owing to their notoriety and rowdiness, and private functions were held at the club instead. (fn. 111) In 1966 the club was redecorated, a new bar was opened, and membership was opened to women artists as well. (fn. 112) The club had 700 members c. 1973 and was open to all in professions associated with arts: writers, dress designers, antique dealers, and theatre. (fn. 113) In 2003 it had 1,600 painters, sculptors, architects, designers, photographers, and filmmakers, and 800 writers, dancers, musicians, and other kinds of artists as its members. The club's facilities included a dining room, billiards room, garden, and 13 simple bedrooms for members. (fn. 114)
New English Art Club
Cliques of painters who were not part of the more established schools of painting of the 1880s, and who therefore found it difficult to get exhibition space, formed their own clubs. The New English Art Club was one such, formed in 1886 following meetings in Luke Fildes' house and at the Wentworth Studios, Chelsea. The NEAC had no formal HQ, as most of its leading members also belonged to the Chelsea Arts Club. (fn. 115) In 2003 the NEAC, which had about 70 members, continued to support contemporary British figurative artists, especially through exhibitions, and also held drawing classes and other events. (fn. 116)
In 1792 there was a political discussion club called the Free and Easy or Arthurian Society, which met at the Star & Garter in Sloane Square, and which, because of the mood of the time and based on an anonymous warning, was suspected of plotting to start a riot, arming its members with bludgeons and intending to kill anyone they came across. Hand bills alerting the populace were posted up in parts of Chelsea, Kensington, and Knightsbridge, and brought out the Chelsea Association to keep the peace and prevent trouble, and this was thought to have deterred the rioters. (fn. 117)
A Chelsea Liberal Association existed by 1877; it adopted the Birmingham system of party organization in 1878. (fn. 118) By then there was also a Conservative Association, which dined in the Vestry Hall. (fn. 119) Both main parties' associations remained active in the 1880s. (fn. 120) A Conservative Club in the King's Road was begun in 1887; (fn. 121) in 1910 one for Stanley ward alone was begun, with provision for shooting, smoking, and gambling. (fn. 122) In 1879 it was claimed that a great proportion of the Chelsea working class was Radical, whereas their opposite numbers in Kensington were Conservative. (fn. 123)
Systematic political activity by Radical clubs began in Chelsea in the mid-1870s, where the Eleusis, which evolved from a branch of the Reform League, promoted working-class electoral registration, and with the three other components of the parish's combined political committee of Radical Clubs, the Cobden, Progressive, and Hammersmith clubs, had involved itself in the selection of parliamentary candidates. (fn. 124) The committee was often represented at radical demonstrations, and was enlisted to support the local Liberal candidate, Charles Dilke. There was also a Chelsea Labour Association, a weekly meeting of Dilke's trade unionist supporters. (fn. 125) The Eleusis club had a lease of nos 180 and 182 King's Road, expiring in 1902. (fn. 126) The radical committee was still active in 1898, (fn. 127) but the Independent Labour Party in Chelsea disintegrated after 1895 when the Fabians, including presumably the Webbs, seceded. (fn. 128) By 1898 working-class support in the main part of the parish had been weakened by the Cadogan estate's gentrifying rebuilding. In 1914 Chelsea was one of six metropolitan boroughs with no Labour party, and in 1918 the exclusion of Kensal Town crushed the anti-Conservative elements. G.B. Shaw remarked that in Chelsea 'no progressive has a dog's chance....lord Cadogan rebuilt it fashionably and drove all the Radicals across the Bridge to Battersea'. (fn. 129)
Chelsea was served by three long-lived titles. (fn. 130) The Chelsea Mail began in 1856 as the West Middlesex Advertiser and Family Journal, changing its name in 1897 to the Chelsea Mail and West Middlesex Advertiser, which it retained until it ceased publication in 1913, apart from 1905 to 1908 when the title was reversed. The Chelsea News and General Advertiser began publication in the early 1860s, changing its name to The Westminster and Chelsea News in 1879, and the West London Press, Westminster and Chelsea News in 1855. From 1962 it was published as the Chelsea News, West London Press and Westminster & Pimlico News, and from 1972 as the Chelsea News. In 1920 the Chelsea Courier and Kensington Gazette began publication, changing it name to Chelsea Gazette in 1923 and the Chelsea & West London Gazette in 1927, but the West London and Chelsea Gazette from 1929 until it was discontinued in 1971.
There were a number of other short-lived titles, especially in the second half of the 19th century, several of them political newspapers including the Battersea and Chelsea News, published between January 1866 and July 1869, and the Independence, covering Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Fulham, Wandsworth and Battersea, between January 1862 and March 1863. (fn. 131)