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Four of the best: books starring Chelsea

In time for this year’s World Book Day on 3 March, we asked the team at John Sandoe, our brilliant local bookshop, to recommend the best books with Chelsea at their core

John Sandoe bookshop on Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea

As one of London’s most beautiful and historic neighbourhoods, Chelsea has played muse to playwrights, poets and authors throughout the centuries, attracting the city’s brightest stars, most brilliant minds and – sometimes – the very best gossip. 

Tite Street, for example, which is just off the King’s Road, is celebrated in Devon Cox’s book as a magnet for the most interesting people in fin-de-siècle London, including a colourful cast of artists, muses, actors, princes and paupers. 

Dan Cruickshank’s highly anticipated book looks at three centuries of life in Chelsea through its remarkable buildings, including churches, military establishments, theatres, restaurants, housing and shops. Meanwhile, Eva Ibbotson’s interwar story is one of romance and wit.

So, from the well-read team at John Sandoe, here are the four best books starring Chelsea…

John Sandoe is open Monday to Saturday 9:30am – 5.30pm and Sunday: 11:00am – 5.00pm;
10 – 12 Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea, London, SW3 2SR; 020 7589 9473

Mrs. Miniver – Jan Struther

The life of a Chelsea matriarch during World War II, which began life as a column in The Times. It was eventually made into a wildly successful wartime film, and Winston Churchill said that Mrs Miniver had been “more powerful to the war effort than the combined work of six military divisions”.

Mrs. Miniver – Jan Struther 
Mrs. Miniver – Jan Struther 

The Morning Gift – Eva Ibbotson

An interwar romance overflowing with wit and charm, by one of our favourite novelists, which contains a memorable scene on Cheyne Walk. A young Jewish woman escapes the fall of Vienna through a marriage of convenience, fleeing to London to await an annulment we increasingly suspect she does not want.

The Morning Gift – Eva Ibbotson 
The Morning Gift – Eva Ibbotson 

Built in Chelsea: Three Centuries of Living Architecture and Townscape – Dan Cruickshank

A thorough and fascinating survey by celebrated architectural historian Cruickshank. This well-illustrated book has just been published and has been much anticipated: like so many other books, its publication was delayed by the pandemic.

Built in Chelsea: Three Centuries of Living Architecture and Townscape – Dan Cruickshank
Built in Chelsea: Three Centuries of Living Architecture and Townscape – Dan Cruickshank

The Street of Wonderful Possibilities: Whistler, Wilde and Sargent in Tite Street – Devon Cox

Finally, a new edition of this splendid book that sheds light on the decadent, complex history of this venerable street. Within years of Wilde praising its “wonderful possibilities”, and Whistler claiming it as “the birthplace for art”, it lost its place at the heart of London’s bohemia, leaving the latter bankrupt and the former in jail. The street in question is, of course, Tite Street, just down the road from Sandoes. Hugely readable.

The Street of Wonderful Possibilities: Whistler, Wilde and Sargent in Tite Street – Devon Cox
The Street of Wonderful Possibilities: Whistler, Wilde and Sargent in Tite Street – Devon Cox

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