Slaidburn Street is a cul-de-sac just off the King's Road - on the less fashionable side of Chelsea, not that anywhere in this quarter of London is exactly down-at-heel. The houses are imposing, on three floors, but compact.
It's about the only corner of Chelsea where you stand a chance, just a chance mind you, of getting a Victorian house for less than a couple of million. Slaidburn Street 'has always been considered the poor relation of Chelsea', an estate agent declared back in 2004. Not that poor nowadays, to judge by the smart cars and roof gardens.
The street was built initially as a short stub of houses in about the 1860s, close to Cremorne Gardens which flourished as one of London's most popular pleasure gardens. It was, by reputation at least, a red light area.
The closure of Cremorne Gardens in 1877 seems to have done little to salvage Slaidburn Street's standing. In the Booth survey at the end of the century, the street stood out as being coloured black, representing the lowest of the seven social categories. In the survey's notebooks, Slaidburn Street is described as 'a cul-de-sac, asphalt-paved, one of the worst streets in Chelsea and I should say one of the worst in London - drunken, rowdy, constant trouble to police: many broken patched windows, open doors, drink-sodden women at windows.'
The pattern of multiple occupation described in Trouble in Porter Street - with two or three households to each house - appears to have persisted into the 1960s and '70s. General Sir Roy Redgrave, whose account of the street in which he lived is posted below, remembers the last of the houses with outside loos and no bathroom being modernised in the '80s.
The blank wall at the end of the street doesn't hide a railway line, as in Porter Street, but simply seems to have been a curiosity of estate development in the area. It may have been to quarantine neighbouring streets from Slaidburn Street's undesirable reputation. Who knows!
The pub at the end of the street in Sommerfield's account, 'The Clarendon', was indeed a local boozer - but was later done up, became known as Swift's but is now (late 2012) a Paddy Power bookmaker. On the opposite corner is a gentlemen's barber shop. And on the south side of King's Road, just opposite Slaidburn Street, is a Cooperative supermarket.
The street seems to have survived the Second World War largely unscathed. There is some infill housing suggesting bomb damage, but Slaidburn Street fared a lot better than much of Chelsea's World's End (the district is named after a pub) which got hit badly in the Blitz. The World's End estate, just across the road, was built in the 1960s and '70s on the site of Cremorne Gardens, and is less gentrified than you might expect given the address.
There is still just a hint, at this end of the King's Road, of the mystical, hippy, alternative fashions and lifestyles which once gave it a world renowned reputation. But that never seems to have made much of an inroad in Slaidburn Street. A.W.