Next time you travel in a cab to Chelsea Green, test the cabbie’s Knowledge by asking for The Flat Iron instead. It’s not only a notable building in downtown Manhattan-those of a certain age will know immediately that you mean the junction of streets that converge, just north of the King’s Road, on the tiny patch of grass in the shape of an iron. Welcome to Chelsea Green. The handkerchief-sized patch of turf is too small to swing more than one cricket bat, but, nevertheless, it’s large enough to host the annual carol concert (organised by John D. Wood) and, this year, it was the venue for a Jubilee party.
Past residents have included a red carpet’s worth of Holly-wood stars, rock royalty and politicians. ‘A rather delicate situation occurred one day when both Mick Jagger and Margaret Thatcher wanted to view the same house. It was a little awkward because the Rolling Stone arrived late for his appointment,’ explains Andy Buchanan, a long-serving member of John D. Wood’s Cale Street office. Today, despite the influx of Premiership footballers, international businessmen and high-ranking diplomats, if you look hard enough you’ll find remnants of the Swinging Sixties and plenty of inherited wealth.
Bet you didn’t know…
Patrons of The Chelsea Kitchen which, until it moved a few years ago, was the only remaining cheapie diner in SW3-would have known an eccentric regular, the late Lady Rusheen Wynn-Jones. Her house off the green was festooned in flowers and plants, and neighbours regularly had to post her stray collection of yellow birds back through her letterbox. She once made an application to the council to reinstate a long-vanished pond on the green.
The catchily named Retail 24. Unfortunately, it’s not actually open 24 hours a day.
The staff of the King’s Road Dairy drive around the area in a proper milk float delivering essentials, including milk, bread, butter and cheese, direct to residents’ doorsteps (www.kingsroaddairy.com).
St Luke’s on Sydney Street boasts a sizeable Sunday congregation (those of a cynical bent would say this includes many parents who are ‘getting on their knees to save the fees’ and joining the admissions queue for the nearby extremely popular Christ Church Primary School). It also hosts a variety of concerts throughout the year, as well as a number of carol services and mother-and-baby groups.
The Builders Arms on St Luke’s Street is probably the closest you’ll come to a locals’ pub in the area, and is filled with Chelsea teenagers on exeats at the weekends. The pub on the green, which is now a smart restaurant called The Markham Inn, used to be more of a proper boozer, complete with swirly carpets and fruit machines, but those days are long gone.
For everything you need…
‘It’s taken many years for us to achieve a complete range of shops on the green, but we’re now there, with the recent arrival of Andreas, the Chiswick High Road greengrocer,’ explains Mr Buchanan. ‘The ladies resident around the green are delighted: “Hurrah! Now we don’t have to dress up to go to the supermarket,” they tell me.’ There’s also a convivial atmosphere, he adds: ‘If The Chelsea Fishmonger, Rex Goldsmith, hasn’t seen you for a few weeks, he might shout across the street “What happened, did we poison your husband?”‘ One of the most highly acclaimed butchers in London, David Jago, operates out of Jago Butchers on Elystan Street, and, for a bottle of claret to go with your steak, pop into Haynes, Hanson & Clark just next door. All your ailments can be remedied at the chemist, shoes repaired at the cobbler and bedspreads washed at the laundrette.
…and for things you don’t
The green is home to a collection of outré shops, including the dress boutique Fifi Wilson, Jane Asher’s cake shop, an old-fashioned children’s toy-shop and Felt, which Strutt & Parker’s long-term Chelsea expert, Lulu Egerton, describes as ‘a wonderful jewellery emporium that’s run by the zany Eliza Poklewski-Koziell’
Café culture hasn’t yet been wholeheartedly embraced by Chelsea Green, but there are a few tables where you can enjoy a quick, hot lunch outside The Pie Man (also recommended for when the fridge and freezer are empty, or when your canapé- making strength withers and you need to call in some help). Finns has a selection of salads and lunchtime snacks.
The nearest thing is Sign of the Times (020-7589 4774; www.signofthetimesdressagency.com), a second-hand clothes shop that has been on Elystan Street for more than 30 years. It sells all sorts of designer items at a fraction of the original cost.
The green is too small to host a proper one, but a popular farmer’s market takes place every Saturday in Duke of York’s Square, which is just a short walk away.
Out and about
The best cinema in the area is the Curzon on King’s Road. It has a distinguished history (the studios and laboratory of film pioneer William Friese-Greene were on the original site) and, today, you can enjoy a glass of wine when watching the film. Added to which, Sloane Square’s Cadogan Hall and Royal Court Theatre mean you really needn’t venture into the West End.
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