Cheyne Walk: No. 15

Pages 50-53

Survey of London: Volume 2, Chelsea, Pt I. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1909.

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In this section


Ground landlord, leaseholder, etc.

Ground landlord, Earl Cadogan. Leaseholder, Lord Courtney of Penwith.

General description and date of structure.

We now pass over the five houses between No. 6 and Manor Street, which have been rebuilt upon the site of six or seven (fn. 1) houses of the same date as those described above. Regarding the site of Nos. 13 and 14, immediately west of Manor Street, a lease, dated 1717, between Sir Hans Sloane on the one hand and John Witt and Jeremiah Gray on the other, declares it to be the fifth piece of land eastward from the Manor House, which is useful in confirming the evidence we already possess of the position of the latter. The plot is described as having a frontage of 40 feet on Cheyne Walk, and is bounded on the east by the newly-made Manor Street and on the west by land built upon by Joseph Huddleston. Nos. 13 and 14, formerly one house, (fn. 2) and according to the rate-books held by Jeremiah Gray 1718 to 1721, have been recently rebuilt as two residences, and we therefore pass on to the house built by Huddleston, namely, No. 15.

This house, at one time called Carlton House, bears a striking resemblance to No. 4 Cheyne Walk, both in its appearance and general arrangement. The front elevation has four windows on each of the upper floors, the front door is in the same relative position, and the same features are prominent, such as the tall brick pilasters, the well-designed doorway, and the beautiful wroughtiron gates. The two plans seem to have been identical, with one important exception:—No. 15 does not appear, in any of the early plans of Chelsea, to have possessed the double "powder" room projection which is the characteristic of No. 4. The plan of the latter is, however, very useful in helping us to understand the changes in No. 15, the interior of which has been much rearranged.

The wrought-iron gate and railings are among the three best examples of Chelsea ironwork. A reference to the measured drawing (Plate 65) will show the delightful design of the panels both within and each side of the gate, and also of the scroll work that crests the railing. All the ironwork over the gate is new, the original work having long ago disappeared, but it will be seen that it has been skilfully made up on exactly the lines of the two pieces of scroll-work over the railing, being surmounted by a gilded dolphin (Lord Courtney's crest) and having his monogram. The gates and railings stand between two lofty brick piers with stone cornice and finials, the proportions of which, no doubt, belong properly to the gates of the adjoining Queen's House, since there are only three piers, and these of similar design, for the two houses. The doorway is simply treated, two fluted pilasters supporting a plain entablature with eight triglyphs, and opens into a square hall precisely on the plan of No. 4. The stair is quite similar in its general lines, but there is a noticeable difference in the details: the brackets beneath the end of the treads are here finely carved, but instead of twisted balusters the designer has adhered to the plainer type shown in the illustrations of the stair at No. 3 (Plate 32), and there are only two balusters to each tread. The cornice above the stair is carved.

Bearing in mind the plan of No. 4, we will now examine briefly the rest of the house. The first room on the ground floor occupies the old front room and half the long apartment which originally stretched right across the back of the house. Out of this opens the powder room, which has been somewhat altered. A second door from the end of the hall leads into a large dining-room, formed out of the other half of the long back room together with an extensive addition of the same width projecting into the garden. On the second floor the arrangement is similar, the drawing-room occupying the space immediately above the former of the rooms just described and partly over the hall, showing the powder room opening from it. The back room, however, is not extended over the new portion of the dining-room but stops short at the original wall. This little room retains its panelling and cornice. The front part of the drawingroom has an enriched cornice with modillions, very much like the later houses in Cheyne Walk, which were built in 1760. The architraves of the doors and the panels of the window shutters are also enriched with carving. The back part of the room has, however, a plain cornice, and a beam across the ceiling gives the line of the original partition. The main stair stops at the first floor and the second floor is gained by the smaller staircase as in No. 4. Here, in the bedrooms, the walls have been papered on canvas stretched over the panelling, except in the two front rooms, which show their early character. Beyond a few signs here and there, however, of the real age of the house the walls and their decoration have been quite modernised.

Figure 8:

No. 15 Cheyne Walk, Detail of Ironwork in Gate.

Photo By A. P. Wire

Condition of repair.

The house is in very good repair.

Historical notes.

The first tenant of this house was Captain, afterwards Admiral Sir John Balchen, who after having served in the West Indies and off the Spanish coast, and being captured by the French in 1708 and again in 1709, accompanied Sir George Byng to the Mediterranean in 1718, the year before he took his Chelsea house. Made Rear-Admiral 1728, Vice-Admiral 1734, and Admiral of the White 1743; he was knighted 1744, and in the same year went down with his ship, the "Victory," in the Channel. His home was at No. 15 until 1742 with the exception of the years 1724 and 1725–1728, when he seems to have sublet it respectively to Captain Reginald and Captain Leonard Wynn. (fn. 3) Sir John Balchen was followed by Commodore, afterwards Vice-Admiral Temple West, who married a daughter of his predecessor. His name is associated with two failures. In the action off Toulon, February 11th, 1743–4, he commanded the sixty-gun ship "Warwick," which was one of the ships forming the head of the English line, and kept aloof from the French, merely firing on them from a distance. For this he was tried and cashiered, but reinstated by order of Council, May 12th, 1746. In the action off Minorca in 1756 he was second in command to Admiral John Byng, who was defeated, and in consequence condemned to death by court-martial and shot for alleged neglect of duty. Temple West was superseded, but no blame could be laid at his door. He was afterwards promoted to be Vice-Admiral. He left Cheyne Walk in 1755, two years before his death.

The following names then occur in the rate-books:—

1756. Catherine Duncombe.
1757–1760. Russian Ambassador.
1761. Thomas Hurnal.
1762–1763. Joseph Manger.
1764. Francis Dandridge.
1765–1779. Thomas Kynaston. (fn. 4)
1780–1783. James Emblem.
1790–1792. Samuel Cross.

Henry Thomas Ryall (1811–1867), engraver, lived here (Ascroft MSS.). Mr. Beaver tells us in his Memorials of Old Chelsea that No. 15 was tenanted in 1869 by Mr. William Lawson, a Scottish portrait painter. Two sons, Malcolm Lawson and F. W. Lawson, followed respectively the professions of music and painting, the third, Cecil G. Lawson, became an artist of greater repute, and his work is closely associated with Chelsea. His first appearance at the Royal Academy was in 1870, when his "Cheyne Walk, Chelsea," a view taken from a window of his father's house, was hung "on the line." He also exhibited in 1871 "A Summer Evening at Cheyne Walk," and in 1877 "A View from Don Saltero's in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, temp. 1777." He married in 1879 Constance, daughter of John Birnie Philip the sculptor, whose sister, after being married to E. W. Godwin, became the wife of J. M. Whistler.

Bibliographical references.

Thomas Faulkner, Chelsea and its Environs (2nd edition, 1829).
Alfred Beaver, Memorials of Old Chelsea (1892).
Reginald Blunt, Handbook to Chelsea (1900).
Dictionary of National Biography (Admiral Sir John Balchen, Admiral Temple West, Henry Thomas Ryall, Cecil Gordon Lawson).

In the committee's ms. collection are—

3232. General view from Cheyne Walk (photograph).
3233. (fn. 5) Another view (photograph).
3234. (fn. 5) Wrought-iron gate and railings (measured drawing).
3235. (fn. 5) Detail, centre panel, wrought-iron gate (photograph).
3236. (fn. 5) Front doorway (photograph).
3237. Front doorway (measured drawing).
3238. Staircase (photograph).
3239. Drawing-room, general view (photograph).
3240. Drawing-room, another view (photograph).
3241. Drawing-room chimney-piece (photograph).


  • 1. The number seems to have varied, as occasionally two houses have been thrown into one.
  • 2. This was the "Yorkshire Grey" tavern which gave its name to the "Yorkshire Grey Stairs" on the old riverside.
  • 3. Faulkner places Admiral Balchen in Little Chelsea. He is supposed to have taken the house of Sir John Cope after the death in 1723 of Admiral Wishart who was living there. If so, he lived here while the Wynns were occupying his house in Cheyne Walk (see Beaver, p. 333).
  • 4. Faulkner has "—Kynaston, Esq., in the Commission of the Peace for Middlesex" as living in the parish in 1774.
  • 5. Reproduced here.