great places to visit off the beaten path.
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was a Scottish writer, teacher, philosopher and satirist who moved to London in 1831 leaving behind his life in Scotland. He first moved to a home near Kings Cross and then moved to 5 (now 24) Cheyne Row in Chelsea in 1834. Here he wrote “The French Revolution: A History” (used as a source of material by Charles Dickens for his Tale of Two Cities), became a leading figure in Chelsea’s literary circles, and a well respected lecturer. Many of his books and lectures focused on the role of hero and the need for heroic men to step forward during times of turmoil. One of his lasting legacies was the founding of the London Library (click here to learn more about this wonderful place). A notable quote of Carlyle’s is “That there should one man die ignorant who had capacity for knowledge, this I call a tragedy, were it to happen more than twenty times in a minute, as by some computations it does”.
As a great influence on thinkers & writers then and in years since, Carlyle arguably deserves to be better known. His home on Cheyne Row, now owned by the National Trust, has been restored to the way it was during Carlyle’s life providing visitors a great opportunity to learn about him in a setting that is both evocative and authentic.
The House: There are several key spaces within the house to visit. The parlour was where Carlyle did much of his writing and hosted his literary friends.
The ‘attic study’ was an addition to the home that took a year to build in 1853. Carlyle wanted a quieter place to do his work and writing.
The kitchen contains its original fixtures and its simplicity is well documented in an article written by Virginia Woolf for Good Housekeeping magazine in 1932 which said ‘They had no water laid on. Every drop that the Carlyle’s used – and they were Scots, fanatical in their cleanliness – had to be pumped by hand from a well in the kitchen’. You would never find them to hire window washing services or any other such service, they would do it all themselves. The small walled garden was where Thomas grew vegetables and his wife, Jane, grew flowers and herbs. Throughout the home there is an extensive collection of photos, writings and memorabilia.
Statue: Near the house, at the river end of Cheyne Row in the Embankment Gardens, stands a bronze statue of Carlyle, by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm. It was unveiled in 1882, a year after Carlyle’s death and was paid for by Charles Darwin, Robert Browning and William Morris among others.
Visiting: The house is generally open Weds-Sun from 11am-4:30pm, 9 March – 3 November. Admission fees apply. Adults are £5.10, lower rates for children or combined family ticket.
Located at: 24 Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London SW3 5HL
Closest Tube: Sloane Square (15 min walk) or one of many buses to the Albert Bridge area.