Interview with Henrietta Caledon by Menno Meyjes
MM: Could you introduce yourself?
HC: My name is Henrietta Caledon, I am an interior decorator and an artist.
MM: You have done a map of Chelsea Riverside, cool, why a map?
HC: Alison Jackson, an award winning BAFTA artist who is also the councillor for Chelsea Riverside was keen to permanently record the incredible amount of talent that has Lived or worked in this tiny ‘pizza slice’ shaped area of Chelsea, which in the 1880’s and 1890’s secured its international name as the Art Centre of London.
MM: Are maps something you specialise in?
HC: Absolutely not
MM: Why you then?
HC: There was not a large budget and I did it for free and RBKC paid only the expenses.
MM: Is the map accurate?
HC: I went with the following definition: A map is a symbolic depiction emphasising relationships between space and objects and regions.
MM: I know that Sir Mick Jagger is getting on a bit, but I don’t remember him living next to Thomas Carlyle?
HC: In fact Sir Mick has lived in a different house altogether on Cheyne Walk for the past ten years. Alison was keen to have a record of the talent that has lived or worked here over the centuries. It is a screenshot over time.
MM: In 1917 May Morris, the daughter of William Morris coined the phrase “The gilded desert” to describe Chelsea, what did she mean?
HC: My interpretation is that May Morris was describing the newly gentrified environs of Chelsea at that time, which was fast becoming a lot less bohemian.
MM: And what made you say yes to Alison Jackson?
HC: It is hard to say no to Alison, and I feel so fortunate to have lived in Chelsea most of my life and to have been given this opportunity to give something to the community in perpetuity, with gratitude and acknowledgement of the amazing place that I have had the privilege to live.
MM: Where have you lived in Chelsea?
HC: I was born in London in the middle of the swinging sixties, I first lived at Chelsea Park Gardens, then St Luke’s Street followed by Paultons Square, I have lived in Petyt Place for over 27 years.
MM: I really like the map.
HC: Thank you, it has been a labour of love.
MM: The predominant colour is blue, why did you choose this?
HC: I just felt that blue is the colour synonymous with Chelsea. Chelsea china and porcelain is blue, and of course, so is Chelsea Football Club. Turner and Whistler were inspired by the river and the sky reflecting on the water. It was the delicate shades of light and its shadows which were distinctive, especially when the weather was bad. The boatmen were instructed to wake the Artists if they thought that the light was good, sometimes it was the moonlight, a storm, or a sunset or sunrise.
MM: I see that you have placed the blue plaques on the map, but I have never seen cream plaques before?
HC: I invented the cream plaques as a way of showing all the other talented people who have lived and worked in Chelsea Riverside.
MM: So you made them up?
HC: Yes, they don’t exist.
MM: The map also shows the history of the area?
HC: I am not an academic or a historian and I realised quite early on that I needed to carry out the research myself in order to understand it. I pounded the streets and was very lucky that so many experts on Chelsea were very enthusiastic and helpful, and I am thrilled that the Royal Academy have asked for a copy to add to their distinguished Archives.
MM: So you did the research yourself?
HC: Yes, so please forgive any inconsistencies… I spent the most fascinating afternoon with Bill Wyman who is extremely knowledgeable about Chelsea, he has written an incredibly detailed book about Chelsea which I hope will be published soon. There is an extensive list of people who have helped with this on the website.
MM: The map is hanging in Ropers Orchard Garden?
HC: In the centre of Ropers Orchard Garden is a sculpture by Gilbert Ledward RA called ‘Awakening’ and I feel as if we are reawakening this sunken garden by the Thames. A replacement cherry tree is being planted to commemorate the Queens platinum Jubilee and the Queens Green canopy as the ancient one died last year.
Ropers Garden is a magical place It was originally an orchard given by Sir Thomas Moore in the 1521 as a wedding present to his daughter Margaret and son in law William Roper. It was bombed by a parachute bomb in April 1917 and restored as it is now after the war.