Walnut Tree Walk

Pathway in/near Chelsea, existed between 1639 and the 1850s

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Pathway · Chelsea · SW10 ·

Walnut Tree Walk was a pathway on the line of the modern Redcliffe Gardens.

There was an area here of 93 acres which in 1800 were almost entirely unbuilt upon. Walnut Tree Walk was a footpath across the land allowing access between Old Brompton Road and Fulham Road.

The field at the Brompton Road end of Walnut Tree Walk to the east was Goodwin’s Field. Towards the south end of Goodwin’s Field a gravel pit is mentioned in 1753, and the right to excavate it.

Otherwise, the area was divided as some seventy acres of market gardens and more acres of grassland or paddock. Even "market garden" is a misnomer - they was more as likely nurseries rather than cabbages.

East of Walnut Walk, to the south the area was bounded by the properties fronting Fulham Road which constituted part of the small township of Little Chelsea. West of Walnut Tree Walk the unbuilt area extended south to Fulham Road itself.

Coleherne House, a substantial house since the seventeenth century, consisted of three acres. Between about 1802 and 1845 some eight acres more, near the Old Brompton Road, were part to nine villas or ’cottages’ and their gardens or pleasure grounds. These were mostly built on part of the property recently acquired by a successful Mayfair confectioner, James Gunter.

It was on the remainder of his lands, inherited by his son Robert, that the spread of building began in about 1850 which over the next twenty-five years or so covered almost all the area with streets of houses.

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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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