Like many shoppers in Chelsea, I took a break from the hustle and bustle of Kings Road one day to enjoy the oasis of tranquility that is Sloane Square in summer. I sat and absorbed the serene trees gently waving in front of the well-known Peter Jones department store. Even the bikes were resting gently in their racks.
And even though this is a little haven now, 250 years ago this was a really peaceful place; it was all fields.
The land, between Knightsbridge and King’s Road, belonged to Sir Hans Sloane, physician to three monarchs and inventor of drinking chocolate – which he sold to Cadbury’s. A far cry from today’s doctors who’d rather you laid off the chocolate. When the builder and his architect son, both named Henry Holland (most famous for the Brighton Pavilion), entered into an agreement to build a new town, they called it Hans Town. Sloane Square was laid out as a crossroads in the 1770s as part of this development. When Hans died, his fabulous collections were offered to the nation, forming the British Museum. The land passed to the Cadogan family on the marriage of Hans’ daughter and today belongs to the 8th Earl of Cadogan.
During the early 19th century the area became more densely built up and by the mid-19th century, Chelsea was a haven for artists such as Turner, Whistler and Rosetti. In 1868, Sloane Square Station opened, linking Chelsea to the metropolitan railway and driving modernisation of the area. In 1874 the river embankment at Chelsea was finished, to the residents’ delight as it provided a pleasant promenade for carriages and pedestrians and further gentrified the area.
By the late 19th century much of the Georgian and Queen Anne style buildings had become dilapidated and were replaced by a new redbrick style that was so iconic it was named after the street – “Pont Street Dutch” style. Some of these buildings can still be seen in Sloane Square today.
But the majority of what you see in the square today is from the development of the 1920s and 30s.
In 1929 the road layout of Sloane Square was transformed from a crossroads to a ’roundabout’ which created an island which was then paved with Yorkstone – from the Pennines near me in West Yorkshire – and planted with plane trees.
Most of the older buildings were replaced by commercial buildings and blocks of flats (the buildings getting higher along with the price of land). The only side of the square which still survived from the mid-19th century was the Peter Jones department store, but that too got a twentieth century makeovr and was rebuilt as 6 storeys of art deco glass and steel, a design concept totally unique in London in the mid-30s.
A modern tube station was built, though this was bombed in 1940. The rebuilt version sports a ‘hat’ of a modern office block on its roof these days. The square also contains the Venus fountain and the Chelsea War Memorial and is home to the Saatchi Gallery and the Royal Court theatre, with the Cadogan Hall concert venue just a few steps away.
I love visiting Sloane Square, and it’s not surprising I’m not the only artist who’s been drawn to the area over the years.
Like the “Pont Street Dutch” architectural style, and the first example of a highrise glass building in London, why don’t you be unique in my “Sloane Square” scarf design (see below in pure silk) from shopblueflamingo.com?
If you’re interested in finding out more about Sloane Square and Hans Town, my information came from:
As always, I love to hear your comments about this blog, please leave them below and I will get back to you. Thank you. Jude x