The UK: a great place to research!
I explored sites within my upcoming novel, The Queen’s Viper, including the former location of Chelsea Place and the Tower of London along the River Thames. Although I don’t have a time machine to support the rule “write what you know,” there’s an artistic vibe to be gleaned from a visit to modern London.
The Queen’s Viper contains a scene set in the estate house Chelsea Old Manor, also called Chelsea Place. It was one of the residences of Tudor Princess Elizabeth. The future Queen lived there as a ward of the Dowager Queen Katherine Parr and her husband Baron Thomas Seymour. Queen Anne of Cleaves also died in the house on July 16, 1557.
A “Manor” was a segment of land over which an appointed Lord held jurisdiction, called a demesne (unless the King held the manor himself). In exchange for military service to the Crown, the Lord owned the land and the people within it. From this 1200-1800 acres, the Noble collected taxes and food for the King and his court, with a cut for himself. A Noble might own more than one manor.
In Tudor time, the Chelsea Manorial demesne contained both the original medieval house of the manor and the larger Tudor estate house, both set apart from the small village for the demesne’s peasants. The name of the manor was previously recorded as Chelceth, Chelchith and Chelsey. It originates from the Anglo-Saxon language.
It is recorded in the Norse Domesday Book under the ownership of Abbot Gervace and the Convent of Westminster. The Abbot later gave the Manor to his mother, thus beginning its private ownership. King Henry VIII acquired Chelsea manor in 1536. Today, it is part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
I visited the site where Chelsea Place once stood. Queen Elizabeth I’s childhood home demolished after it’s last occupant, Lord Sloane, died in the 18th Century. In its place, the owner of the manor lands, Lord Cheyne, built prominent row houses. The Tudor building existed where houses No. 19-26 Cheyne Walk now stand, and remnants of the garden remain in the mews, although I don’t think it has public access.
Cheyne Walk is within sight of Albert Bridge, and lies adjacent to a very busy street (Chelsea Embankment, A3212), separated by a narrow strip of public garden. Flowing beside them is the Royal River Thames. The houses on Cheyne Walk have been home to several prominent figures across centuries of English history, including musicians Sir Keith Richards (at No. 3) and Sir Mick Jagger (at No. 48), Manchester United Footballer George Best, designer of the 19th Century Thames Tunnel Sir Marc Brunel, and publisher-philanthropist Sir George Weidenfeld (no I didn’t knock on his door!), among many others.
If you’re visiting, the nearest underground stop is Sloane Square on the Circle and District Lines. It’s also a short distance from the lovely Battersea Park on the other side of the river. Nearby are several other tourism-worthy sites including the restored Chelsea Old Church (which belonged to the Tudor manor house) and the Chelsea Physic Garden. The garden, unfortunately, was closed for a private function on the day of my visit. A 25 minute walk north takes you to the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.