Chelsea Old Church

Chelsea Old Church

Coordinates: 51°28′59″N 0°10′15″W / 51.48306°N 0.17083°W / 51.48306; -0.17083

Chelsea Old Church

Old Battersea Bridge by James McNeill Whistler with Chelsea Old Church in the distance on the left.

Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Diocese Diocese of London
Vicar(s) David Reindorp

Chelsea Old Church (aka All Saints) is on the north bank of the River Thames (Chelsea Embankment) near Albert Bridge in Chelsea, London, England. It is the church for a parish in the Diocese of London, part of the Church of England. It is located on the corner of Old Church Street and Cheyne Walk. Inside, there is seating for 400 people. There is a memorial plaque to the author Henry James (1843–1916) who lived nearby on Cheyne Walk. It is now a Grade I listed building. To the west of the church is a small public garden containing a sculpture by Jacob Epstein.

The Reverend Canon David Reindorp is the current vicar of Chelsea Old Church.


Chelsea Old Church dates from 1157.[1] Formerly it was the parish church of Chelsea when it was a village, before it was engulfed by London. The building originally consisted of a 13th century chancel with chapels to the north and south (c.1325) and a nave and tower built in 1670.

The chapels were private property. The one to the north was called the Lawrence Chapel and was owned by Chelsea's Lord of the Manor. The chapel to the south was rebuilt in 1528 as Sir Thomas More's private chapel. The date can be found on one of the capitals of the pillars leading to the chancel, which were reputedly designed by Holbein. There is a statue by Leslie Cubitt Bevis of More outside the church, facing the river.

There is a 1669 memorial to Lady Jane Cheyne. It was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini but executed by an apprentice.

Chelsea Old Church is the only London church to have chained books. They are the gift of Hans Sloane and consist of the so-called "Vinegar Bible" of 1717, two volumes of Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1684 edition), a prayer book (1723) and Homilies (1683).

The church appears in several paintings by James McNeill Whistler and J.M.W. Turner, in all cases little more than a white dot; the church was painted white in the 19th century. For example, the church was depicted in the background of Whistler's Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge, painted c.1872–5.

The church suffered severe bombing during the Blitz of the Second World War in 1941, with the More Chapel least affected. Services were held in the adjoining hospital for nine years. In 1950 the More Chapel was reopened, followed by the chancel and Lawrence Chapel in May 1954 after restoration by the architect Walter Godfrey. In May 1958, the entire church reconsecrated by the Bishop of London, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The Church has been restored in its entirety on its old foundations. It looks quite different from the way it did before World War II, as it is now clad in red brick, whereas it was previously a white building. The brickwork was necessary because so much was destroyed. Some of the tombs inside have been reconstructed, almost like jigsaw puzzles.

In 1978, Jack Leslau wrote an article in The Ricardian suggesting that one of the Princes in the Tower survived, namely Edward V of England, and is buried in Chelsea Old Church. His evidence depends on a complicated interpretation of a painting by Hans Holbein the Younger. Jack Leslau's website expands on this thesis, but no major academic institution endorses the thesis.[2]

In the year 2000, the Museum of London Archaeological Services carried out an archaeological dig at the cemetery [1] .


  1. ^ Chelsea Old Church, Cheyne Walk, London SW3, TourUK, UK.
  2. ^ Holbein, Sir Thomas More & the Princes in the Tower, The Hans Holbein Foundation resource centre for research and development, Vol. V, No. 3., August 2004.

External links

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