Little slices of London's history

Bob Marley, Oakley Street and the Welsh connection

I see that a blue plaque commemorating Bob Marley has been unveiled today; it marks where Marley lived with his band the Wailers in 1977 at 42 Oakley Street, in Chelsea. The album contains some of his Marley’s best-known songs, like Three Little Birds, Jamming, and One Love. I wonder how many plaques, as this one was reported to be, have been delayed because the person they were honouring lied about where they lived. Apparently it took a while to finalise this plaque because, apart from the fact that Marley was not registered in phone directories or electoral registers, he gave a different address during an arrest for cannabis possession in 1977 to prevent the police from searching the house in Oakley Street.

Naturally I went to my various sources to find out about Oakley Street and the name and I discovered that this street could have featured in my Welsh connections street names, the text of which you can read here. (But first, I should say I completed the Wye Valley Mighty Hike in aid of Macmillan, and I did so in 9 hours and 12 minutes. Thank you again to everyone who sponsored me as I raised nearly £1,600. My fundraising page is still open so if anyone wants to sponsor me, they can do so here:

It seems that the 9th-century Welshman Elystan Glodrydd, founder of the fifth Royal Tribe of Wales, was also the father of Cadwgan ap Elystan. He, in turn, was the ancestor of the Cadogan family, owners for centuries of much of Chelsea. The Cadogan connection comes from the daughter of Sir Hans Sloane: Sir Hans bought the Manor of Chelsea in 1712 and divided it between his two daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, and their heirs. Many of the street names in the area are from the family’s names, such as Oakley Street from Lord Cadogan of Oakley, who married Elizabeth.

Sir Hans, who gives his name to Sloane Square, was a member of the Royal Society, and a fellow of the College of Physicians. The British Museum was founded with his collection, which he had spent much of his life accumulating, and he was responsible for introducing cocoa to England. You can read more about Sir Hans in a post about some of his London connections here.

But back to Chelsea; the name of which has vexed various people over the years. 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 Caelic hythe. Or Chelchith. In which case 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’.

Finally, it could be from Chesil ea, which means ‘isle of shingle’, and is thought to be the same etymology as Chesil Beach in Dorset.

6 responses to “Bob Marley, Oakley Street and the Welsh connection”

  1. Of course I have to add Oakley Square, NW1, near to where I lived in Camden. (I know you are not just doing ‘Oakleys’, but I couldn’t resist it)
    Well done for completing the walk. I was happy to be able to sponsor you.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Thanks, Pete for the comment and also for the sponsorship. I think you have lived and worked in just about every corner of London! All the best, Elizabeth

      1. I never lived east of Stepney, north of Camden, west of Harrow, or further south than Bexleyheath.
        But that pretty much covers Greater London as it was in my day! 🙂 🙂

      2. I would definitely call that pretty much every corner of London! 😄 🧭

      3. That’s true! I was being a bit silly. 🙂

About Me (and my Obsession)

My obsession with London street names began in the early 90s when I worked in the Smithfield area and happened upon Bleeding Heart Yard. In my wanderings around London, I kept adding to my store of weird and wonderful street names. Eventually it was time to share – hence my blog. I hope you enjoy these names as much as I do.
– Elizabeth


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