Chelsea Farm

Farm in/near Chelsea, existed between 1650 and 1785

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Farm · Chelsea · SW10 ·

Chelsea Farm was established on the northern banks of the Thames on land previously open to common pasturage after the annual harvest.

Chelsea Farm in the days of Countess Huntindon
Credit: Kensington and Chelsea Libraries
Chelsea Farm was constructed in the 17th century and was used for market gardening, supplying central London.

The Earl of Huntingdon, in the middle of the eighteenth century, rebuilt Chelsea Farm as a house rather than a farm. It became the residence of the Countess of Huntington, a pious Methodist. Chelsea Farm was bought in 1778 by Thomas Dawson, who was created Viscount Cremorne in 1785. Cremorne House was built along with Ashburnham House and Ashburnham Cottage.

By the early 1800s the grounds extended north from the river Thames up to the King’s Road. The estate was famous for its elegant gardens, laid out by Nathaniel Richmond. After Lady Cremorne’s death (his second wife, who was the grand-daughter of William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania) there were no direct male heirs.

In 1825 the ‘Lammas’ rights of common grazing were abolished and in 1831 it was sold to Charles Random who established a ’National Sporting Club’, called the Stadium, in the grounds for ’the cultivation of skilful and manly exercise’ which included shooting, sailing, bathing, archery and fencing. The name lives on in Stadium Street. The venture failed and he was forced to surrender the property to his creditors.

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Chelsea Farm in the days of Countess Huntindon
Kensington and Chelsea Libraries



Chelsea is an affluent area, bounded to the south by the River Thames.

Its eastern boundary was once defined by the River Westbourne, which is now in a pipe above Sloane Square tube station. The modern eastern boundary is Chelsea Bridge Road and the lower half of Sloane Street, including Sloane Square, along with parts of Belgravia. To the north and northwest, the area fades into Knightsbridge and South Kensington, but it is safe to say that the area north of King’s Road as far northwest as Fulham Road is part of Chelsea.

The word Chelsea originates from the Old English term for chalk and landing place on the river. The first record of the Manor of Chelsea precedes the Domesday Book and records the fact that Thurstan, governor of the King’s Palace during the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042–1066), gave the land to the Abbot and Convent of Westminster. Abbot Gervace subsequently assigned the manor to his mother, and it passed into private ownership. The modern-day Chelsea hosted the Synod of Chelsea in 787 AD.

Chelsea once had a reputation for the manufacture of Chelsea buns (made from a long strip of sweet dough tightly coiled, with currants trapped between the layers, and topped with sugar).

King Henry VIII acquired the manor of Chelsea from Lord Sandys in 1536; Chelsea Manor Street is still extant. Two of King Henry’s wives, Catherine Parr and Anne of Cleves, lived in the Manor House; Princess Elizabeth – the future Queen Elizabeth I – resided there; and Thomas More lived more or less next door at Beaufort House. In 1609 James I established a theological college on the site of the future Chelsea Royal Hospital, which Charles II founded in 1682.

By 1694, Chelsea – always a popular location for the wealthy, and once described as ’a village of palaces’ – had a population of 3000. Even so, Chelsea remained rural and served London to the east as a market garden, a trade that continued until the 19th-century development boom which caused the final absorption of the district into the metropolis.

Chelsea shone, brightly but briefly, in the 1960s Swinging London period and the early 1970s. The Swinging Sixties was defined on King’s Road, which runs the length of the area. The Western end of Chelsea featured boutiques Granny Takes a Trip and The Sweet Shop, the latter of which sold medieval silk velvet caftans, tabards and floor cushions, with many of the cultural cognoscenti of the time being customers, including Keith Richards, Twiggy and many others.

The exclusivity of Chelsea as a result of its high property prices has historically resulted in the term Sloane Ranger to be used to describe its residents. From 2011, Channel 4 broadcast a reality television show called Made in Chelsea, documenting the ’glitzy’ lives of several young people living in Chelsea. Moreover, Chelsea is home to one of the largest communities of Americans living outside of the United States, with 6.53% of Chelsea-residents being born in the United States.
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