‘Twas the night before Christmas…

Well, okay, yes, technically this is two nights (GMT) before Christmas. In any event, this day in London history: 23 December 1823 saw the anonymous publication in the Troy, New York Sentinel of a poem called A Visit from St. Nicholas.

Santa ClausThe opening line has pretty much become the unofficial name of the poem and eventually (about 14 years after it first appeared in print), the poet was acknowledged at Clement C Moore.

There is, indeed, a connection with London: New Yorker Moore was born on the Chelsea estate of Manhattan, owned by his maternal grandfather, Major Thomas Clarke. Moore was the the son of Bishop Benjamin Moore and Charity Clarke; Charity inherited the Chelsea estate, which later passed to Moore. The Major was a retired British veteran and had named his house after the Chelsea Royal Hospital, built by Wren, and now home to the Chelsea Pensioners.

The name Chelsea itself is steeped in mystery, or at least debate. The area was once an Anglo-Saxon settlement, and that’s where most people cease to agree. Variations on what it was once called include Chealchythe. Or Chesil ea. Or Caelic hythe. Or Chelchith. It seems you pays your money and you takes your choice.If Chealchythe, Caelic hythe, or Chelchith, then the ‘hythe’ ending indicates a wharf or a landing place. Chealchythe is taken to mean ‘chalk landing place’: as in, where chalk was delivered, not a landing place made out of chalk. Caelic hythe means ‘cup-shaped landing place’, while Chelchith could mean ‘cold landing place’. Chesil ea, on the other hand, apparently means ‘isle of shingle’.

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