BRUNO – THE KINGS ARMS
Horace Walpole, for example, adjudged it one of the ﬁve best
representations of animals in classic art. No wonder that Mr.
Jennings is known for all time as Dog Jennings.
Chelsea, of course, has always had its famous characters, but
probably none were more famous than that highly individual
couple, Thomas and Jane Carlyle.
Thomas, as is well known,spent half a long lifetime grumbling about the state of England
in general and about the state of his health in particular. His
wife, Jane Welsh Carlyle, grumbled too, and it was in their Chelsea
home that she indited a biting letter to her spouse on the subject
of her inadequate house-keeping money.
But let’s get back to dogs and to Bruno in particular. And as
we sink a pint we can watch him do his act. It’s well worth watching,
I can tell you.
They did before it was blitzed, but it is certainly now one of the
least inspiring examples of London Underground architecture,
rivalling its near neighbour, Notting Hill station, in dullness.
Sloane Square Station
Fortunately you are not forced to gaze too long at the shanty that
goes by the name of Sloane Square Station, since you can actually
get a glass of beer on the platform. Depressing though the station
is, take a look around as you wait for your train. You will see a
huge pipe overhead, crossing from north to south. In that huge
pipe is the ignominious channel of a rivulet, older than all of us,
known as the West Bourne; it bubbles up from the springs and ponds
of Hampstead Heath.
The rivulet makes its way southwards to
the Thames, via St. John’s Wood, Paddington, Hyde Park and
the Serpentine, under Knightsbridge and so by the eastern side
of Sloane Square, where it apparently gets lost.
I should think it unlikely that many passengers at Sloane
Square know that overhead is a river!
Chelsea, as we have already seen in our travels, is very old,
dating back to the eighth century when it is said to have been the
centre of King Oﬁ’a’s “Govemment”. Important councils were held
there between 787 and 824.
Edward the Confessor
In the eleventh century Edward the Confessor granted a manor
in Chelsea to the Abbey of Westminster. Later history is perhaps
too well known even to be lightly touched on here.
But it would not be proper in a book dealing with pups not
to recount the story of Dog Jennings, as told in a book called The
Lure of Chelsea.
The man who will be for ever known as Dog Jennings was born
in 1731 and for several years occupied a house which is now known
as No. 96 Cheyne Walk. In his younger days Jennings went to
Italy ,in a dark corner of a shop in a narrow street in Rome he noticed,
concealed behind a pile of rubbish, a piece of sculpture which was,
at his request, disinterred and brought out into the light of day.
The ﬁnd proved to be “a large marble ﬁgure of a crouching dog,
the limbs ﬁnely proportioned, the ﬁgure noble, the sculpture worthy
of the best age in Athens pet-feet but for some slight damage
to the muzzle, which he had repaired for a triﬂe. Alcibiades’ famous
tailless dog, he christened it, and (‘said Jennings) “a ﬁne dog it
was and a lucky dog was I to purchase it”. It cost him £80, including
its carriage to England, where it became a celebrated feature of
The acquisition brought Mr. Jennings a measure of fame.