Cheyne Walk (pronounced ‘Chainee’) is a historic, unique and extremely prestigious road located on the northern bank of the River Thames in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
For nearly 300 hundred years, the houses, mansions and flats contained within this relatively small road, have been home to a ridiculous number of historically famous people, mainly from the worlds of the arts, music, politics and literature – and as a result there are at least 10 blue plaques on display commemorating its most famous residents.
Cheyne Walk basically stretches along the length of the Chelsea Embankment between the Albert Bridge and Battersea Bridge, and it takes its name from the Viscount of Newhaven, William Cheyne who owned most of the Chelsea district right up until the early 1700’s – in fact most of the houses were originally constructed throughout the 1700’s , but were extensively re-developed throughout the 1800’s, at the time when the Chelsea Embankment was built – up until that time, the majority of the properties were right alongside the banks of the Thames.
Each one of the houses in Cheyne Walk are unique in their architectural style, and behind each front door, because of the many interesting occupants over the years, there is more often than not– a story to tell.
So – my quest this week was to identify just a few of the properties that were once occupied by historically famous individuals – and this is what I came up with:-
No.3 Cheyne Walk – was once the home of Rolling Stone Keith Richards and his first wife, the model Anita Pallenberg – who resided there in the late 1960’s. Keith and Anita moved in to no. 3 in the summer of 1969, and the house was regularly busted by the Chelsea Drug Squad. In his biography Keith describes that he often used to wake up to find half the Drug Squad in his bedroom.
No.4 Cheyne Walk – was once the home of authoress George Eliot – and the house in which she died.
No.19 Cheyne Walk – was the London home of the renowned poet and playwright T.S. Eliot (he of ‘Cats’ fame)
No.24 Cheyne Walk – was the home of author Ian Fleming (he of ‘James Bond’ fame)– and it is said that he wrote the very first Bond novel ‘Casino Royale’ whilst living here.
No.27 Cheyne Walk – Was once the residence of the writer Bram Stoker who was the author of “Dracula”.
No.48 Cheyne Walk – Mick Jagger and his girlfriend of the time Marianne Faithfull, lived here throughout the late 1960’s
No.96 Cheyne Walk – was the London home of famous Victorian artist James Whistler for nearly 70 years.
No.96 Cheyne Walk was also, in 1972 – the site of a top secret meeting between the Willie Whitelaw of the Government and Gerry Adams & Martin McGuiness of the Provisional IRA – aimed at ending the violence in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately the talks didn’t resolve anything and sadly the violence continued.
No.98 Cheyne Walk – was once the home of civil engineer Sir Marc Brunel and his equally famous son Isambard Kingdom Brunel
No.103 Cheyne Walk – Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, used to reside at this house.
No.119 Cheyne Walk – was the home of the influential artist J.M.W. Turner – famous for his paintings of River Thames water scenes – from his home here he would have had an uninterrupted of view of activity on the River.
No.120 Cheyne Walk – was the first home of the famous suffragette activist Sylvia Pankhurst just after she left university.
There have been many, many more famous Cheyne Walk residents over the past couple centuries – a few of the more popularly known ones being:-
Politician – David Lloyd George
Author – Ken Follett
Chelsea FC Owner – Roman Abramovic
Footballer – Sol Campbell
NY Mayor – Michael Bloomberg
Billionaire – John Paul Getty
Footballer – George Best
Writer – Somerset Maughan
Composer – Vaughan Williams
Jazz Singer – George Melly
At the end of Cheyne Walk down by Battersea Bridge, a number of very exclusive (and obviously extremely expensive) ‘house boats’ are moored – which are more like mini-hotels.
Cheyne Walk may only be a small street within the metropolis – but it is certainly a significant address, and with its past residents – it is a location that is steeped in history, and well worth a visit.
So – having spent a few hours down with the ‘Chelsea Set’ and the ‘Sloanies’, and before setting off back home – I went and had a cheeky one at the ‘Coopers Arms’ in nearby Flood Street, just off the Kings Road. The site has been a boozer since 1831, and the interior still displays some of the original architrave window surrounds and moulded cornices. However, as the weather was nice, I necked down my ale in the beer garden where the locals were sipping their Pimms.
Battersea Bridge – which flanks the western end of Cheyne Walk
The view from Battersea Bridge – looking toward Albert Bridge – a distance of which actually defines the length of Cheyne Walk, which runs along the embankment side of it.