National Geographic : 1972 Jan
By JAMES CERRUTI ASSISTANT EDITOR Photographs by Ch ls aADAM WOOLFITT Chelsea Londonis Haven of Individualists TEN MINUTES from London's whirling Piccadilly Circus, by the Tube, as Lon doners call their subway, lies a "village" so unlike the rest of London that even other Londoners tour it. Chelsea, though now a part of London, has always remained a place apart, a little world where bold individualism and defiant eccentricity prevail-an enclave where Britannia waives the rules. From his home in Chelsea Sir Thomas More, author of Utopia and Lord Chancellor of England, went to the block for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the church after his marriage to Anne Boleyn. In Chelsea Jonathan Swift, scribe of Gulliver's bitter travels, fulminated against the human race. In Chelsea painter James McNeill Whistler immortalized his mother and his mis tresses, while his friend Oscar Wilde infused British drama with shocking wit, and was shockingly arrested on a morals charge that ruined his life. Upon Chelsea's dynamic stage, these and many others have played the high tragedy and low comedy that tend to befall people who defy convention-and the whole wide world has come to watch. Today the flamboyantly beautiful "dolly birds" who stroll the King's Road, Chelsea's garish Main Street, un-clad in superminis or flimsy hot pants, embody an obvious, fleet ing aspect of Chelsean rebelliousness. The born-and-bred Chelseans, who stubbornly resist efforts to dislodge them from their 150 year-old cottages to make way for tower OSE MEETS ROSE as horticulturist Harry Wheatcroft (above) sniffs a blossom at the annual flower show in Chelsea, the London "village" where gentility abounds even as eccentricity flourishes. A leather-clad youth (opposite) provides his own splash of color as he strolls the King's Road.