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Area Focus: Will Chelsea Ever Lose Its Enduring Appeal?

From Punk Rock to the annual flower show and Sloanie Ponies, Chelsea is an area full of heritage and creativity. Whether it’s the bustling King’s Road or quiet, tucked away mews, its appeal is easy to see. The Resident takes a closer look at this affluent, aspirational pocket of London… 

Lead image: The Ivy Chelsea Garden

It’s fair to say that Chelsea has a shed load of history – it’s Oscar Wilde’s old stomping ground, was widely perceived as the heart of the swinging sixties and has endured much notoriety as the home of the Premier League football club.

But beneath that, this part of west-by-south-west London, bounded by Knightsbridge and South Kensington to the north and the river Thames to the south, is one of the capital’s most varied neighbourhoods.

While its mixture of bustling streets and world-class culture is certainly a big side of life in Chelsea, there is also the quiet, family side that comes from groups like the Chelsea Pensioners and thriving local schools.

For local resident and community events organiser Sarah Farrugia, it’s this balance that makes the area such a great one to be in. ‘It’s quite effortless,’ she says. ‘It’s very busy and buzzy but it’s still got a chilled, relaxed attitude to life – I think that pervades everything.’

Chelsea gives you an ability to fade into background and have anonymity or dress up to the nines

She adds that the combination of the busy King’s Road full of boutiques and restaurants with the quiet side down by the Thames means that it’s got the best of both worlds. ‘It gives you an ability, especially if you live here to fade into background and have anonymity or dress up to the nines and strut your stuff.’

Culture

A big part of the atmosphere of Chelsea comes from being a thriving hub for culture year round. But one of the biggest events of the calendar is Chelsea Flower Show held each May in the grounds of the Chelsea Royal Hospital.

This year’s show from 21 to 25 May will have a whole host of specially designed gardens including the RHS Back to Nature Garden, co-designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, and Facebook’s first garden at the show called Beyond The Screen, which will celebrate people who have used Facebook to meet and connect with others.

Chelsea is also lucky to have two highly regarded international institutions on its doorstop in the form of the Saatchi Gallery and The Royal Court. The former is a world class gallery showing international exhibitions while the latter in Sloane Square is known for championing emerging writers.

But perhaps some of the most well known residents of Chelsea are the Chelsea Pensioners, retired members of British Army who have been given accommodation at the Chelsea Royal Hospital for the last 327 years.

‘Chelsea Pensioners, being former Soldiers, have a particular way of doing things,’ General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, KCB OBE, Governor of the Royal Hospital explains.

‘They’re enormously fun to be with. And they live by a certain ethos. They subscribe to a way of life that is slightly different from society at large, reflecting a set of values and standards from the Army with which it helps to be familiar.’ And it seems that their endlessly friendly and giving attitude makes them a bit of a symbol for the area.

Food and Drink

If there’s one thing this part of London does not have any shortages of, it’s spots to drink and dine. And if you’re abuzz on social media, you’ll have seen a lot of these spots before.

Perhaps one of the most Instagrammable of the lot is Peggy Porschen on King’s Road which is frequently seen with a queue of people outside eager to capture a shot with those florals and pink walls.

But there are plenty of other top spots, including Megan’s on King’s Road which has recently opened its roof garden for summer, the supreme menu and atmosphere at The Ivy Chelsea Garden and Tom Aikens’ highly acclaimed British brasserie Tom’s Kitchen.

If you’ve got a four-legged friend as well, Chelsea is one of the most dog-friendly parts of the capital with Colbert in Sloane Square welcoming them in and Bluebird in Chelsea even offering dog treats.

Shopping

From the luxury furniture shops of Sloane Square to the quirky boutiques on King’s Road, it’s not an exaggeration to point out Chelsea is pretty much shopping heaven.

Some of the most popular spots include the Chelsea mainstay Peter Jones as one of the most popular department stores in London as well as plenty of independent shops including John Sandoe Books which has been selling books next to Sloane Square since 1957.

‘I think the issues with small businesses in affluent parts of London has to be a commitment by everybody in the area, whether it’s those who lease the shops, the people going into those shops or the council in terms of fair business rates,’ adds Farrugia. ‘I think it’s a duty on us all to support diversity in retail.’

And with spots like Love My Human, Wilde Ones and beach clothing boutique Heidi Klein, they seem to be doing just that.

Property Market

On average, potential residents can expect to pay an average of £4.45m for a terraced house in a market that is on the up, with overall sold prices increasing around 5% since 2014.

And there is plenty to choose from, including a number of luxurious developments in the area including Chelsea Barracks, which is creating a new 12.8 acre neighbourhood on the Chelsea/Belgravia boundaries.

The market is on the up, with overall sold prices increasing around 5% since 2014

The development sees a collection of apartments, penthouses and townhouses around six newly created garden squares, as well as the luxury of a resident-only spa and gym. Prices for a two bedroom apartment start from £5.25m.

The rental market is also thriving in the area. For example, this red brick fronted classic flat is on the market for £2,500 a week. The one bedroom glamorously decorated apartment is located in a spot off of Sloane Square even has a balcony looking out into the streets.

Far from stuck in its, admittedly extensive, history, Chelsea seems to be thriving at the moment. What better time has there been to check it out yourself?



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