With a population that includes 55 different billionaires and a total net worth of $226 billion, London is quite easily the most popular choice for ultra-wealthy city-dwellers in the globe. And of course, nowhere else could be a more fitting playground for them than Chelsea. As one of the capital’s most affluent borough, its residents are neighbours with the likes of Formula One owner Tamara Ecclestone, and Britain’s second richest man Len Blavatnik.
Those that live in Chelsea could reside anywhere in the world if they so choose. And yet, polished character, fascinating history and irresistible charm continue to draw them in. But Chelsea is home to much more than just titans of industry. It is also the only destination where residents and their guests can hope to rub shoulders with royalty at exclusive functions like the Chelsea Flower Show or mingle in the same local hangouts as the well-heeled cast of Made in Chelsea.
Famous residents over the years
Celebrity affiliation is far from a newfound phenomenon for this neighbourhood. Throughout the 1800s, Chelsea was frequented by some of classical art’s most celebrated painters. These included J.M.W Turner, a figurehead of the Romanticism movement who was known for his vivid watercolour landscapes, and James Whistler, an American painter responsible for the tonalism movement.
This affinity with the arts continued between the 19th and 20th century, when Chelsea’s community of painters were joined by literati moving into Cheyne Walk. A single block of flats – Number 122 – became home to the major poet, writer and critic T.S. Eliot, Ian Flemming of James Bond fame, and novelist Henry James, who is widely regarded as instrumental to the transition between literary realism and literary modernism.
Chelsea gained its namesake football club at the turn of the 20th century when it was founded directly opposite its present-day main entrance, in what was then called the Rising Sun Pub (now known as The Butcher’s Hook).
One thing that has persisted throughout the many years is the neighbourhood’s distinct reputation for class. As a result, Chelsea has seen many homegrown talents crop up in more recent memory. To name a few, there has been Rowan Atkinson, known for portraying the roles of Mr. Bean and Blackadder, fashion designer Stella McCartney, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson.
During the latter half of the 20th Century, Chelsea earned the moniker Chelski for its popularity with Russian expatriates. This influx of Russian buyers has only grown all the more prominent in today thanks to favourable currency values, the tier 1 investor visa (or ‘golden visa’) and the completion of exceptional luxury developments like Chelsea Waterfront.
International entrepreneur and philanthropist, Yelena Baturina has also owned property between Chelsea and Holland Park. Baturina made her fortune in construction but has since added hospitality, renewable energy, agriculture and stud farming to her repertoire. Her two daughters have also taken up residence in London, with the eldest, Elena Luzhkova, recently completing a masters in East European Politics at UCL, while the youngest of the two, Olga Luzhkova, is studying interior design in Chelsea.
Over the past 30-40 years, Chelsea and its surrounding boroughs have also seen a sharp rise in interest from Arab clientele. Much of this popularity can likely be attributed to the flagship Harrods store in Knightsbridge, which has drawn domestic and international shoppers through its doors in their droves.
The Arab community has become so well integrated into London, that banks like Goldman Sachs have in-house sharia experts who can structure deals in compliance with Islamic rules.