How Chelsea's King's Road Got Its Name

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 29 months ago
How Chelsea's King's Road Got Its Name

In its 1960s heyday, Chelsea's King's Road was the epicentre of London's fashion and music scene. Today, it's more often associated with the independent boutiques frequented by ageing Sloane Rangers and the Made in Chelsea cast. But was there ever a royal link as the moniker suggests?

Photo: Antony***

What's in a name?

King's Road in Chelsea does — or did — exactly what it says: it used to be the King's Road.

King Charles II had the road built in 1694, apparently encouraged by his mistress, Nell Gwynn, with the intention of linking St James's Palace to Fulham, and beyond Fulham to Kew.

It remained a private road until 1830, for use exclusively by the monarch and their privileged companions.

Although Henry VIII was the first to drag Chelsea up from its humble beginnings as Cealc-ho — old English for chalk wharf — by building palaces for himself and his plentiful ladies in the area, the construction of King's Road helped the area even further on its way to exclusivity.

Officially King's Road runs from Sloane Square down to the junction with Waterford Road in Fulham, where it becomes New King's Road all the way down to Putney Bridge. The majority of visitors tend to stick to the eastern end, where the upmarket shops, boutiques and restaurants are.

King's Road trivia

So now you know about the history of the road, what more can we tell you about it? How about these little nuggets:

  • The first UK branch of Starbucks opened at 123 King's Road in 1998.
  • A lion used to live on King's Road, specifically Christian the lion, who was purchased from Harrods and lived with his owners on until he outgrew SW3 and was rewilded in Africa.
  • Led Zeppelin's record label Swan Song Records was based at 484 King's Road from its inception in 1974 until the company closed in 1983 (the label's launch party was held at Chislehurst Caves).
  • Chelsea's World's End estate takes its name from King James II, who considered the area to be the end of the world when he used to ride down King's Road.  
  • King's Road was home to the world's first artificially frozen ice rink. The Glaciarium opened in January 1876 in a temporary tent just off King's Road, and by March the same year it was relocated to a permanent building at 379 King's Road. It closed two years later.
Vivienne Westwood's World's End shop, Chelsea. Photo: Bruno

Last Updated 30 June 2016