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The Cross Keys Pub

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

Oldest pub in Chelsea 🍻

The Cross Keys pub sign in Chelsea, London.
The Cross Keys Pub in Chelsea

Even though the Cross Keys pub has been around for over 300 years, I only found out about it yesterday.

It is Chelsea's oldest pub, established in 1708, and – unlike many – its name has never changed. The Cross Keys has a very strong connection with literature and the area has always been a popular place for many famous writers: just across the road, there is impressive Carlyle Mansions, which is nicknamed the "Writer's Block".

The street’s name comes from Scottish historian, Thomas Carlyle, who had a great influence on Charles Dickens. Carlyle and his wife arrived from Scotland in 1834 and settled, for the rest of their lives, at 24 Cheyne Row. Although it is now temporarily closed, their house now serves as a museum.

I gathered several bits of interesting information from my trip to the Cross Keys Pub:

The Cross Keys Pub memorial plaque on the wall.
The Cross Keys Pub Memorial Plague

American author, Henry James, lived at Number 19 Carlyle Mansions just across the street. The famous poet, T. S Eliot, occupied Number 24 from 1946 to 1957 and his bedroom was immediately beneath the room where Henry James died.

Another exciting find for me was that the British writer, Ian Flemming – well know as the creator of James Bond – also lived there in the 1950s.

The author and politician, Erskine Childers, lived at Number 10. His most famous work is the spy novel, The Riddle of the Sands. It was about German plans for an invasion of Britain, written in 1903 (concerningly prophetic!).

Finally, English playwright and novelist Somerset Maugham lived in Flat 27.

Obviously, it seems the area has always been very popular with writers! This helps to explain just why the pub was so popular with them in particular. Both Dylan Thomas, and Agatha Christie enjoyed a few pints at the Cross Keys.

The pub is not only famous by its literary visitors, though. English romantic painter, William Turner, American artists, John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler, and Jamaican singer and songwriter, Bob Marley, were among the happy customers. There is a memorial plaque that can be found on the building which is undoubtedly a signficant literary landmark in London.

📍1 Lawrence St, London SW3 5NB

The nearest station is South Kensington Underground Station. 🚆⁠ ⁠

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