Chelsea and Brompton Cemetery
23 December 2023. A great turnout for our wander through old Chelsea on the day before Christmas eve, thanks to all those who turned up.
The Chelsea Pensioners’ pad were locking up for Christmas so we saved the plan to wander their gardens to another time, making our way to the outside walls of the Chelsea Physic Garden. We paused en route to contemplate the former residences of Oscar Wilde and the judge in his trial, with Mrs Thatcher’s Flood St abode visible in the distance. No heckling on this trip. Instead we went down Cheyne Walk whose former residents have included the reputable and disreputable in equal measure. We revered Mrs Gaskell’s former London home as well as the homes of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, Ian Fleming and his mum. We saw one of Turner’s houses, his studio came later. We took time in the stunning interior of the old Chelsea Church, some parts dating back to the twelfth century; much more to explore next time.
Chelsea Physic Garden gates
There was a beautiful view of the river at Chelsea Harbour, the reach being so wide at that point before heading to the Gates of Brompton Cemetery , passing the Chelsea Campus of Morley College en route. We went straight to the North Gate café where two brilliant chefs coped with eighteen late arrivals for lunch. Retracing our steps, we managed to find the graves of Emily Pankhurst (check) and several mausolea of Victorian notables who were clearly confident of their own grandeur, though forgotten today. We briefly explored the Catacombs before heading out of the South Gate back towards the Kings Road.
Emily Pankhurst’s grave
We passed the shopping destinations of our youth, including Granny Takes a Trip before heading into the extraordinary gardens that form part of the Moravian Church. We had an impromptu talk from a volunteer gardener and Church member. He was a brilliant exponent of the history including Sir John Soane’s legacy to Chelsea. We heard tales of exercising lions and brilliant sculptors who graced this peaceful place.
So many more blue plaques adorned the journey back that we began to run out of steam. Well, the guide did. but we did see the studios of Turner, the only house in London designed by Rennie Mackintosh and the most extraordinary baroque building next to it. But last-minute shopping called and buses were hopped on to, saving more explorations for next time.