History of Chelsea

History of Chelsea

The Royal Borough of Chelsea, once described as a ‘Village of Palaces’,  has, through the ages, long been  associated with an illustrious past, both of garden centres as well as people. With a litany of the famous and fashionable patronising it, the first record of the Manor of Chelsea preceded even the Domesday Book of 1086.

This was not always the case. Prior to Chelsea becoming one of London’s most exclusive and fashionable post codes, it began life as a small rural garden market and nursery community situated next to the river bank. The actual word Chelsea originates from the Old English term for ‘landing place [on the river] for chalk or lime stone’.

Indeed this garden landscape usage intensified with the arrival of Joseph Knights ‘Exotic Nursery’ in 1808 which took up over two acres of land. Other nurseries swiftly followed, (for more information on these nurseries visit Thechelseasociety.com).


Chelsea developed in the 16th Century with the arrival of some of its most famous residents and grew, in a second period of development, in the 18th Century as overseen by Sir Hans Sloane from which Sloane Square takes its name. Finally a third period of growth, in the late 19th Century, saw Chelsea’s final move away from being a rural river side village, with the King’s Road becoming the central point of Chelsea life. 

Keeping with tradition, Chelsea still maintains its national reputation as a garden borough, with a host of exceptionally beautiful garden squares and gardening events, including The Chelsea Physic Garden and The Chelsea Flower Show to name but a few.