Written In The Walls
Chelsea: A History in Blue
In London, there’s a story written into every wall. The city’s blue plaques commemorate the people who have shaped the region’s history: 173 of which are waiting to be discovered in Kensington and Chelsea.
From Florence Nightingale and Captain Cook to John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix, London’s blue plaque scheme commemorates over 900 people and places integral to the city’s history.
Belmond Cadogan Hotel has roots that stretch far into London’s past. Dating from 1887, the property played a key role in the social history of Kensington and Chelsea. Today, it continues to draw inspiration from the neighbourhood’s rich character. It’s in this spirit that we invite you to discover, among the boutique shops and leafy parks, some of our favourite historic blue plaques.
Lillie Langtry (1853-1929)
Belmond Cadogan Hotel, 21 Pont Street, Chelsea, SW1X 9SG
Langtry was among the most popular models and actresses of the late 19th century and a leading lady in London’s high society. Infamously, she played mistress to several noblemen including the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. Though she only lived at 21 Pont Street from 1892 to 1897, Lantry continued to visit her old bedroom long after it became The Cadogan Hotel.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
34 Tite Street, Chelsea, SW3 4JA
Irish novelist, journalist, playwright and poet Oscar Wilde, is among the best-known Victorian personalities. He is renowned as much for his love of extravagance and scandal as for his literary works. His plaque at 34 Tite Street marks the place where he wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest. It was in the now fabled room 118 of The Cadogan Hotel that Wilde was arrested for 'gross indecency with other male persons', an offence in 19th century Britain.
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)
153 Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW5 0TQ
The Master of Suspense lived in South Kensington from 1926 until 1939, producing silent films and early talkies before leaving for Hollywood. He went on to create more than 50 films including classics such as Strangers on a Train, The 39 Steps and Psycho. In a 2007 poll by the Daily Telegraph, he was ranked as Britain’s greatest filmmaker.
Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976)
58 Sheffield Terrace, Holland Park W8 7NA
Outsold by only the Bible and Shakespeare, the Queen of Crime authored 66 novels, 14 short story collections and the world’s longest running play, Mousetrap. Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express, The ABC Murders and Death on the Nile while living at this address between 1934 and 1941.
Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943)
37 Holland Street, Kensington, W8 4LX
Hall lived at 37 Holland Street with her partner Una, Lady Troubridge. It was in 1928 that her fifth and most famous novel The Well of Loneliness was published. The largely autobiographical work follows lesbian heroine Stephen Gordon as she searches for acceptance. The book was a sensational scandal in post-Victorian Britain and banned until 1949.
Sir Winston Churchill O. M. (1874-1965)
28 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, SW7 5DJ
At the forefront of British politics for over fifty years, Churchill served as Prime Minister from 1940-1945 and again from 1951-1955. Named in 2002 as the Greatest Briton of all time, his legacy is complex and generates much debate. He lived at this address until his death in 1965, when the Queen famously granted him a state funeral.
T. S. Eliot O. M. (1888-1965)
3 Kensington Court Gardens, Kensington, W8 5QE
Eliot moved to Kensington in 1957. The St. Louis-born poet became a naturalised Briton in 1927 and in 1939 he wrote Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. This became the basis for the hit musical, Cats. He stayed at this property until his death in 1965.
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
22 Donovan Court, Drayton Gardens, Chelsea, SW10 9QS
A pioneer in the study of molecular structures. Franklin has been posthumously noted for the role her research played in Watson and Crick identifying the structure of DNA in 1953. She moved to Donovan Court in 1951. She lived here until her young death in 1958.
James Joyce (1882-1941)
28 Campden Grove, Holland Park, Kensington, W8 4JQ
Joyce is famed for his 1922 masterpiece, Ulysses, though it was banned in Britain until 1936. Famously living in many hotels and flats across Europe, Joyce stayed at this address for just six months in 1931. Here he married his long-term partner, Nora Barnacle, and authored the manuscript for Finnegans Wake. Hounded by press, Joyce deemed this street ‘Campden Grave’ and soon let the flat, never to return to England again.
Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) and Dame Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958)
50 Clarendon Road, Notting Hill, W11 3AD
The Pankhurst name is synonymous with the campaign for women’s suffrage. Emmeline Pankhurst famously refused to eat, sleep or drink while imprisoned in 1913. This inspired the Women’s Social and Political Union motto ‘deeds not words’. It was at this address that she adopted four ‘war babies’ in 1915. Her daughter Christabel, who lived with her mother from 1916-1919, would later adopt one of these children.
Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)
23 Campden Hill Square, Holland park, W8 7JY
Sassoon showed exceptional courage on the Western Front during the First World War. It earned him the Military Cross—which he later threw into the Mersey River—and the nickname ‘Mad Jack’. Yet it’s his poetry highlighting the futility of war for which Sassoon is famed. He lived at this address from 1925 to 1932. During which time he wrote two autobiographical works: Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928) and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930).