Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sloane Square

Sloane Square is the 8th station on the Circle Line that I have visited on my ' Above the Underground series'. This station is used by both the Circle and the District Line and was opened on Christmas Eve 1868 by the District Railway. In the 1930s the station was modernised and escalators were put in between the ticket hall and the platforms. But in November 1940 a bomb fell on a train at the station killing 37 and injuring a further 79 passengers. It destroyed most of the station. By 1951 it was rebuilt in a similar style to the 1930s building. They are currently renovating the station again and had cordoned off the Westbound platform when I visited.

If you look above the platforms you can see this metal box structure which contains a large iron pipe. The purpose of the pipe is to carry the River Westbourne on its journey from Hampstead to the Thames. I am not sure how many passengers realise they have a river running overhead.

In the early 1980s Sloane Square gave its name to the Sloane Rangers. A name used to describe young, rich, unemployed, snooty members of the upper classes. So I am expecting the area to reflect people who have an excess of money.

You exit the station onto Sloane Square named after Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753). He was a physician to the Royal family but treated the poor for nothing. He had an interest in natural history and amassed a large collection which became the foundation of the British Museum.

Next to the station is the Royal Court theatre. Built in 1888, it became a cinema during WW2 until bomb damage closed it in 1940. It reopened in the fifties as a theatre and then in 1996 it was completely rebuilt except for the facade.

This property, on the North side of the Square, has been a hotel since 1900 with an interesting history.  Following the bombing in 1940, the Sloane Square hotel was used for treating casualties. In early 1960, the hotel was home to Peter Llewelyn Davies, the inspiration for JM Barrie's Peter Pan. On the 5th April 1960 Davies left the bar of the hotel and threw himself under a train at Sloane Square station. It was said that he felt his life was tainted by being the boy who never grew up. The 60s were the beginning of the Swinging London phenomenon and Chelsea was very much part of the  music, art and fashion culture of the time. The Beatles frequently stayed at the hotel which was then called The Royal Court. It was renovated in 2005/6 when it reopened as Sloane Square Hotel.

Around the corner on Sloane Street is The Holy Trinity Church, constructed in 1889 and known as the Cathedral of Arts and Crafts movement. The architect was inspired by the movement. The biggest attraction is the beautiful stained glass windows. The Great East Window was designed by the Pre Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones. The window is the largest ever manufactured by Morris & Co.It was this window that inspired the poet John Betjeman to describe the church as the Cathedral of Arts and Crafts. The church is a huge building, the nave being 9 inches wider than St Paul's Cathedral, with many treasures designed by the leading sculptors and designers of the day. 

I walked back to the square which has the Chelsea War Monument at one end. The 'Cross of Sacrifice' commemorates the men and women of Chelsea who died in the First and Second World Wars.
At the other end of the Square is the Venus Fountain. A bronze Venus sits on a pedestal from which the water flows into a large octagonal basin. Designed by Gilbert Ledward, it was installed in the square in 1953.

Also on the West side of the Square, on an island site is the Peter Jones Department store. Established in the 1880s it was one of the first stores in the country to be lit by electricity. John Lewis purchased the store in 1906 after the death of Peter Jones. The present building was built between 1932 and 1936 and has all the elements of a classic art deco building and is now a Grade II listed building. The store faces the King's Road which was originally constructed in the 17th cent as a driveway to Hampton Court quite some distance away. At that time the land it went through was countryside and market gardens until the 19th cent when it developed into the retail and residential area of today.

The King's Road starts from Sloane Square and travels for two miles through Chelsea and Fulham. It takes its name from King Charles II who used the road on his way to Kew. At that time and until 1830 it was a private royal road. The leading fashion street for mods in the 1960s and then for the punks and hippies in the 70s and 80s. It is now more the shopping street of choice for the wealthy. It is still home to a number of interesting buildings .

 Walking away from Sloane Square on the King's Road you will see this distinctive building on your left. Originally the Royal Military Asylum (orphanage) for the children of soldiers' widows and later used as a barracks, the Duke of York's headquarters, is now home to the Saatchi Gallery. The central block, the former drill hall  was converted in 2008 to house the Charles Saatchi art collection. Entrance is free to members of the public.

The back of the barracks building has been converted into shops and restaurants facing a new public square.

This retail court is known as the Duke of York Square

On leaving the Square I noticed these sculptures entitled 'Two Pupils' by Allister Bowtell (2002). The inscription reads c1814 from the Royal Military Asylum which occupied the site from 1803-1909 when the Duke of York's Royal Military school relocated to Dover.
The pupils represent children who would have been educated at the school during that time. Many of them orphans of soldiers.

Another building of note on the King's Road is the Pheasantry. Built in 1769, it has gone through many different guises over the centuries. In the mid 1800s it was occupied by a game dealer who bred pheasants for the Royal Household. In the early 1900s Eleanor Thornton, a model, lived there. She is thought to have been the model for the Rolls Royce mascot the 'Spirit of Ecstasy'. From the 1930s to 1966 the ground floor and basement was a members only club. After the war, the upper floors were let to a number of famous residents including Eric Clapton, Germaine Greer, Clive James and many more. Currently it houses apartments, shops and Pizza Express.

On the same side of the road is the Curzon Cinema. As with many cinemas it has had a number of different owners and names. It first opened its doors in 1934 as a music hall which could seat 2500. It then became a cinema, the Gaumont Palace. Modernised in 1960, it was renamed the Odeon in 1963. The cinema closed in 1972. The Foyer and stalls area were converted into the Habitat store whilst the former stage area was converted into flats and offices. A new Odeon cinema with 700 seats was created from the balcony area and was opened in 1973. It closed once again in Nov 1981 and remained empty for two years until the film distributors Artificial Eye took it over and named it the Chelsea Cinema

The art deco facade was kept when part of the original building became Habitat.

Above the habitat store there is a bas relief of the film pioneer, William Friese-Greene who had his studios and laboratory in the original building


On the other side of the cinema is the Trafalgar pub with its Edwardian frontage. Built in 1806 it was called The Lord Nelson until 1970.

This building (circa 1920) was originally a billiards hall and is a good example of an arts and crafts building. During the 60s it was home to a number of boutiques and antique dealers. More recently the building has been taken over by 'Anthropologie', an American fashion chain.


Just a little further along the road  is Chelsea Old Town Hall. It dates from 1886 and perhaps is more well known for being home to Chelsea Register Office where a number of famous people were married. It ceased to be the local town hall in 1965 when Chelsea amalgamated with Kensington but  the Register Office is still used. Judy Garland, Michael Winner, David Niven and director Roman Polanski  were all married here.
The beautiful Victorian halls in the Old Town Hall are now hired out for numerous different events including concerts, society weddings, fashion shows etc. It was here that John Lennon and Yoko Ono launched The Plastic Ono Band in 1969.

I left the King's Road and walk southwards to the Royal Hospital Road. The Royal Hospital, Chelsea was established  in 1682 to house army veterans. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren it imitated Louis XIV's building Les Invalides in Paris. 

This main building houses the chapel and the great hall. This is home to the Chelsea pensioners. A Chelsea pensioner refers to a retired member of the British army who now lives at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The Royal Hospital was founded in 1682 by King Charles II to provide soldiers with a home in their retirement. If a retired soldier wishes to be considered for a place in the Royal Hospital he must  fulfill certain criteria such as
* having been a soldier or non-commissioned officer in the British Army
* be in receipt of an Army or War Disability pension
* be 65 years of age or older
* not have a spouse, partner or family to support
(Women have only  become residents at  the Royal Hospital since 2009)..

Walking through the main doorway you come out onto the Parade ground, dominated by a gilded statue of Charles II  dressed as a Roman Emperor.

The Pensioners can come and go as they please from the Royal Hospital and can wear civilian clothing. However, around the Hospital and surrounding area they are expected to wear a blue uniform. When they travel further afield they are supposed to wear their scarlet uniform. The special three cornered hat is worn for ceremonial occasions.

There is a cafe in the Royal Hospital that is open to the public where I enjoyed a decent sandwich and cup of tea.

It was just a short walk from the cafe to Ranelagh gardens from where you get a good view of the rest of the hospital and the accommodation blocks for the veterans. The Chelsea flower show is held in this area.
During the 18th cent this was the site of the Ranelagh pleasure ground with a large Rotunda which was an important venue for musical concerts. In 1765 a 9 yr old Mozart played here. The garden no longer has a rotunda but is a pleasant area for walking.

Next to the Royal Hospital is the National Army Museum which reopened in March after a three year major refurbishment. The huge glass windows make it much more inviting. It is free to visit so I popped in for a quick look round. At the time of my visit there was an exhibition of work by war artists which I found very interesting.

I wandered around the streets of Chelsea and found the home of Oscar Wilde.

Also that of Mark Twain

Many writers and artists lived in this area. I noticed that a number of the houses have large studio windows.

Around the corner from here is a 350 yr old garden. The Chelsea Physic Garden was established by the worshipful society of Apothecaries of London in 1673 to grow medicinal plants. It occupies 4 acres close to the River Thames. The garden houses around 5000 different herbal, edible, useful and medicinal plants.
This is the first time I have ever seen pomegranites being grown outdoors in London.

Although it is November there is still some colour in the garden.

The garden is open all year round with the entrance fee  reduced during the winter.

You can see how the garden is surrounded by large mansion blocks which would protect the plants from the worst of the weather.

Wandering back to Sloane Square I was surprised to find a few streets with pastel painted terraced housing which made a change from all the mansion blocks.

I also found a number of exclusive and individual shops down the side roads including Philip Treacy's hat shop. He is a well known milliner and has created hats for numerous famous people. At the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, 36 women were wearing a Philip Treacy creation.

I tried to photograph some of the hats in the window but it was a very sunny day and the reflections on the glass  meant you couldn't see them. This was probably the plainest of them but the only one you can see.

Before returning to the station I had a look at Cadogan Hall. Originally built as a church for the Christian Scientists it is now the home of the Royal Philharmonica Orchestra. To commemorate  the New England origins of the Church, the foundation stone was brought from Concord New Hampshire.

Back at the station waiting for the train I found another Labyrinth by Mark Wallinger. There is one at every station and they are all different.


  1. wow I hope that the pipes are secure so no water comes out, interesting place though.

  2. Lots to see in Chelsea. It is hard to believe the Peter Jones department store is so old. I really struggle to date London buildings by their appearance. Charles Saatchi......rings a bell. Ah yes, Nigella's former husband. I really like the look of Chelsea. Hmm, average flat price £1,300,000. Oh well.

  3. What an interesting part of London. I know a little of it there is always so much to see !

  4. I came over here not knowing what to expect, but I found another wonderful place to visit! Thanks for the great tour. Are you moving over here instead of your original blog?

  5. Quite a lot of history! Trinity Church particularly appeals to me.

  6. What a lot to see around one station. I had read of the river that flows over the station but that box-like structure is not the way I pictured it. I really like the architecture of the Sloane Square Hotel.

  7. Clearly so much more than just Rangers - although I suspect that the area will be haunted by them for some time to come.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  8. We stayed near the Sloane Square station in London last year so it was really fun to see your post! We stayed at the Lime Tree Hotel, close by, and would definitely return there. We also found an Italian restaurant close to Sloane Square station that we ended up going back to for 3 dinners, it was so good!

  9. Wow what a lot to see at Sloane Sqare. It looks a lovely area all a bit posh for the ordinary Joe Blow.

  10. That stop was rich in interesting places --- history old and recent, all fascinating.

  11. I really like you post good blog,Thanks for your sharing.



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