Registered charity 276264

The History of the Chelsea Society

Registered Charity number 276264

The Society was formed on 1st April 1927 at a meeting called by the local historian, Reginald Blunt CBE, to protect and enhance the amenities of Chelsea.  Ninety-seven years later this is as important as ever.

The first Chairman of the Society was Sir Albert Gray KC, who served until his death on 27th February 1928.

For the Minutes of the first Council meeting click here Minutes of First Council Mtg 4.5.1927

For the invitation to the first AGM click here Invitation to 1st ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

For the first Annual Report click here FIRST ANNUAL REPORT 1928

For the Members of the First Council of the Society click here MEMBERS OF THE FIRST COUNCIL of The Chelsea Society

In 1926 the imminent demolition of Lombard Terrace on the Sloane Stanley estate aroused local indignation, with a printed petition, and was commented on in the national press. This row of simple 3-storeyed 18th or early 19th century buildings with three or four old-fashioned shops, typical of its period, faced the river at the junction with Church Street, and was all that survived of Lombard Street after the creation of Chelsea Embankment, and almost all that remained of the old Chelsea riverside. One house incorporated the northern portion of the much older Arch House.

Chelsea residents petitioned against demolition but without success, and all disappeared but two, given temporary reprieve because the tenants were protected. This and other losses in the recent past, with the threat to other parts of old Chelsea which had revived with renewed interest in redevelopment, led to the formation of the Chelsea Society , to protect and foster what they described as the amenities of Chelsea. It came into being at a meeting in April 1927 at Wentworth House, Swan Walk, through the efforts of Reginald Blunt, who saw the need to co-ordinate local opinion before changes were forced through.  The difficulties in saving buildings were exacerbated by the many residents whose stay in the area was brief (as is the case today).

The list of picturesque and historically important buildings already lost included Paradise Row, an ‘exquisite old Queen Anne terrace’, and the little old tavern opposite the Royal Hospital gates, Swift’s lodging in Danvers Street, and Orange House in Cheyne Row. Local efforts had in the past saved the Physic Garden and Carlyle’s house in Cheyne Row, but Blunt and the other founding members of the Society could see that the struggle to save other buildings and to resist schemes such as the westward embankment extension or building on the Duke of York’s headquarters’ site, would continue relentlessly. They also thought it was important to ensure that any new buildings were good ones.

In June 1927 they held an exhibition in the Chelsea Town Hall to make known their aims and purpose, exhibiting pictures of Chelsea from the late 18th and 19th centuries as well as photographs taken 1860-70 by J. Hedderley, thus underlining the charm and character of Chelsea which they were seeking to preserve.

Chelsea is one of the most historic parts of London, which is one of the leading cities of the world today. As the world changes and London keeps pace with other cities we have to consider how Chelsea can embrace the future whilst retaining its unique character, formed by its wonderful past.

The Chelsea Society was formed to play an important role in how change takes place and to ensure that we all understand  both the benefits and disbenefits of change. Inevitably this leads to a healthy debate between the interested parties.

If you are curious about the history of Chelsea, how cities work and how we, as citizens, can engage – then join us. Membership and DD form Whether you want to observe from the sidelines or take part in public debates, volunteer to help on an initiative, or enjoy a stimulating lecture or visit – or just to meet other people – we have a way for you to make the most of living and working in Chelsea.

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