CREATIVE HERITAGE

In the eighteenth-century, inspired craftspeople made Chelsea’s porcelain famous worldwide. One hundred years later, the area was a hotbed for progressive art and literature. In the sixties and punk era, its avant-garde visionaries defined fashion on King’s Road.

Today, it’s plays host to the boutiques, galleries and workshops of designers, artisans, and creative game-changers. Old Chelsea’s inherent creative spirit makes it a perpetually stimulating place to call home.

CHELSEA PORCELAIN

The first-ever porcelain factory in England began production in Chelsea around 1745 on the site of 26–30 Old Church Street. Under the directorship of Nicholas Sprimont, it received royal patronage and led the country’s porcelain revolution.

Nicholas Sprimont was a goldsmith from Liège in Belgium. His championing of an English porcelain factory, in the vein of successful European producers, Meissen and Sèvres, was a risky venture. But Sprimont aimed high, making sumptuous ornaments and tableware for only the wealthiest clients and even taking commissions from the King, George III. Such was Sprimont’s entrepreneurial spirit that he once wrote to the government asking them to cease foreign porcelain imports to give the English a break.

Chelsea porcelain is known for its playful and colourful depictions of the natural world, and this distinctive style is Sprimont’s legacy. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was an avid devotee of its botanical tableware, and many pieces remain in the royal collection.

Manolo Blahnik

Few people can boast their street has a Manolo Blahnik store, and the original at that. For almost 50 years, the inimitable shoe designer’s first retail premises have stood at 49–51 Old Church Street, and it’s a place of dreams and legend.

When Manolo first came to London in 1969, the building was the home to fashion brand Zapata, to which the young creative sold his first designs. His success was rapid and spectacular, creating shoes for fashion luminaries Ossie Clark, Jean Muir, and Zandra Rhodes.

In 1971, Blahnik decided to buy the Chelsea property and launch his eponymous brand. Those early years were a magical period. Manolo never left his shop, and it became like a private club. Drawn by the designer’s magnetic personality, the beautiful and famous would drop in just to hang out. Marianne Faithfull, Bianca Jagger, Paloma Picasso, David Bowie, Rupert Everett, and David Hockney were regular customers.

Today, Manolo Blahnik continues to be the must-have shoe label for models, film stars, fashion editors, and all discerning women the world over. And, while the brand now has 17 flagship stores globally, Manolo is very much in touch with his roots; the Old Church Street boutique remains the creative heart of the empire. With such a heritage, it’s hard to imagine a finer neighbour, especially when a new pair of heels are required.

Chelsea Arts Club

Nothing exemplifies the area’s bohemian and artistic leanings like the Chelsea Arts Club. It’s a world-famous HQ for creatives and freethinkers. The parties are legendary.

The club was founded in 1891 by a local group of artists, led by the painter James Abbott Mcneill Whistler. It began its life on King’s Road, but in 1901 the members purchased its current home at 143–145 Old Church Street. In those early days, Chelsea was London’s artistic hub.

Today, the club has over 2,400 members, including painters, sculptors, architects, writers, poets, actors, musicians, dancers, filmmakers and photographers. But membership remains extremely exclusive and is bound by a strict election process. Finding the club isn’t quite as tricky; it’s impossible to miss the exuberant murals that envelop its facade.

SOUND TECHNIQUES

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, this small recording studio in a former dairy at 46a Old Church Street was the epicentre of the emerging folk-rock scene.

Sound Techniques opened its doors in 1965 in, what was about to become, the hip district of Chelsea. It was the brainchild of engineers Geoff Frost and John Wood. Their mastery of sound, the ‘happening’ location, and the studio’s chilled vibe quickly made it the place to record, producing some of the finest British recordings of the era. Important artists and bands who made seminal albums there include Nick Drake, John Martyn, Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull.

While its influence is not widely appreciated, to those who know, it’s a legendary studio, recently immortalised in the feature-length documentary, The Parts You Don’t Hear.

OSCAR WILDE

The Irish novelist, playwright and poet is one of the best-known Victorian personalities and most illustrious Chelsea residents. We wrote many of his most lauded works at his family home of 34 Tite Street.

Tite Street has been home to many celebrated names in the worlds of art and literature, of which Wilde is probably the most notable. His residence here between 1854 and 1900 is now proudly commemorated by a blue plaque. And it’s this period that saw him reach the height of his fame. It’s where he wrote many of his most well-known works, including The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Of course, Wilde is renowned as much for his flamboyance as for his literary works, and the house perfected reflected his persona. Parts of the interior decoration, which some visitors of the time are noted as calling ‘bizarre’, were undertaken by the artist Whistler, another characterful Chelsea denizen.