- Sherlock Holmes Museum
- Charles Dickens Memorial
- Cleveland Street Workhouse
- Seven Dials
- Jarndyce Bookstore
- A Christmas Carol Door-Knocker
- Charles Dickens Museum
- Museum Tavern
- Cittie of Yorke
- Thavies Inn
- St. Andrews Church, Holborn
- Some “Lesser Known” London Side Visits
- The Holy Tavern
- Leadenhall Market
- Closing Words Day 5
- Map Day 5
It was the final day of the trip. All the hard work was already done. The Cliffs of Dover hike, the visit to Westminster Abbey, the tour of the National Gallery. Today’s main order of business was the Charles Dickens Museum. Otherwise, it would be a meandering walk checking off the final places on my map. But London is a place where every street and every neighborhood holds historical treasures. It makes the blind squirrel adage seem like an understatement. You don’t have to seek out interesting sites and places. They will come to you in any direction. I was already feeling pretty good that I would be able to compose a couple of nice little blog posts out of the trip. Maybe show a little more obscure side to London instead of rehashing all the same old landmarks that everyone knows. What was still missing for me yet was the captivation. I was certainly enjoying my little readings of Bleak House here and there, but it still felt something of a novelty. So like the little guy in Google Maps that you drop somewhere in the street, I did that with myself and set out to find if destiny had anything in store.
Sherlock Holmes Museum
During my lifetime, I have always been a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. I have read them all and seen many of the movies multiple times. Other than A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations, I couldn’t say the same thing about Dickens. Doyle was 11 years old when Dickens passed away. Although he was Scottish, not English, he carried the torch left by Dickens and helped keep London on the literary map with Sherlock Holmes. It seemed fitting to start my final day in London reminding myself of my reading heritage. The museum itself is just OK. it is worth a visit once, but it is immediately forgettable.
There is also a Sherlock Holmes pub not far from Trafalgar Square. I didn’t visit on this occasion, but I have added it to the map in spirit.
Charles Dickens Memorial
The novelist occupied No. 1, Devonshire Terrace (the scene of many of his literary triumphs) for a period of about twelve years—the happiest period of his life—and there wrote some of the best of his stories, including “The Old Curiosity Shop,” “Barnaby Rudge,” “Martin Chuzzlewit,” “Dombey and Son,” and “David Copperfield,” the latter the most delightful of all his books, and his own favourite. Here also he composed those ever-popular Yule-tide annuals, “A Christmas Carol,” “The Cricket on the Hearth,” and “The Haunted Man.”Frederic George Kitton. “The Dickens Country.” 1905
Just around the corner and down Marylebone Road a few blocks from the Sherlock Holmes museum is this Dickens Memorial marking the location of a former Dickens home, 1 Devonshire Terrace. It is a mural representing characters from some of the famous works written in this home. I am only sure of the two above Dickens head: Scrooge and the Marley door knocker and Barnaby Rudge with his raven Grip. For sure, David Copperfield would be one of the two pairs directly to the right of Dickens’ face. Drop me a comment if you figure them out!
From the memorial, I continued along Marylebone Road until Cleveland Street and then followed it south. Cleveland Street has some interesting pubs like George & Dragon and The King & Queen. However, I did not check either one out.
Cleveland Street Workhouse
Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse…Charles Dickens. “Oliver Twist.” Opening lines.
My first exposure to the term “workhouse” was in Scrooge’s retort to the charity workers visiting his counting house; “Are there no workhouses?”
Dickens spared the town the publication of its name, though he had, without doubt, a certain place in his mind’s eye.Thomas Edgar Pemberton. “Dicken’s London; or, London in the works of Charles Dickens.” 1876
A workhouse was a place for poor people to live and work usually under squalid conditions. Oliver Twist was born in one, and although Dickens never names the town, it is believed that the workhouse on Cleveland Street was the one Dickens had in mind2, particularly because Dickens lived next door as a child.
The workhouse was used as a hospital annex for many years. Today it is a designated historical site and is being renovated3.
I continued in a southeast direction looking for the next site.
If he could only induce whomsoever took him out to take him through Seven-Dials, he was supremely happy. “Good Heaven!” he would exclaim, “what wild visions of prodigies of wickedness, want, and beggary arose in my mind out of that place!”John Forster. “The Life of Charles Dickens, Vol. I-III, Complete.” 1876
The Seven Dials neighborhood was a notorious slum back in Dickens’ time. While it doesn’t appear to be used in any of his stories, it seems to have fascinated him and was mentioned in other writings.
The stranger who finds himself in ‘The Dials’ for the first time…, at the entrance of seven obscure passages, uncertain which to take, will see enough around him to keep his curiosity and attention awake for no inconsiderable time. From the irregular square into which he has plunged, the streets and courts dart in all directions, until they are lost in the unwholesome vapour which hangs over the house-tops…Charles Dickens. “Sketches by Boz.” Chapter V
I headed north towards the British Museum and towards a fateful encounter.
This is another place that was not on my original map. Since I was reading Dickens’ Bleak House, the name of the bookstore caught my eye as I was perusing Google Maps. I had to wonder if the name of the bookstore was taken from the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce court case in the book. Normally, I don’t frequent the kind of exclusive shops that require you to ring a doorbell and wait to be buzzed in. But I felt in this case, I couldn’t leave this encounter incomplete.
As you enter the bookstore, immediately in front of you and to your right are walls of antique book sets mainly from the late-1800’s by the looks of them. And many of them were Dickens. As I scanned some other shelves at the front of the store, there was clearly a Dickens slant, and the Jarndyce name could not be just a coincidence. A short moment later, the proprietor appeared and confirmed my suspicions.
Keep in mind at this point in my life, the only Dickens books I owned were the three that I just bought at the Cliffs of Dover a few days before. I do collect antique books, antique travel books, but all of these were purchased while I was still living in the USA before 2011. So it had been 11 years, at least, since I had indulged in that hobby. As I was browsing the store, I was not yet fully immersed in the Dickens world but merely skimming the surface of these places I was visiting.
And then I came across a certain book.
As I left the store and headed east to the next destination, the opening paragraph of that book haunted me.
Among the many interesting books that have been published relating to Charles Dickens since his death, more than twenty years ago (it seems but yesterday to some of his admirers), there are at least half a dozen that describe the “country” peopled by the deathless characters created by his genius.
Every minute that passed, I felt like I had stumbled upon a secret society of sorts. What was in this book? Where did the author go? What about the other books? And every minute, the thought of that book still sitting on the shelf back in Jarndyce burned in my brain.
A Christmas Carol Door-Knocker
And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change—not a knocker, but Marley’s face.Charles Dickens. “A Christmas Carol.”
As I was reaching the Charles Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty St., I noticed this door knocker at 18 Doughty St. which got me wondering if the Scrooge door knocker was inspired by a real one.
Later I found this…
…doubtless much that existed in the fancy, or real thought, of the author still remains, as the door-knocker of No. 8 Craven Street, Strand, the conjectured original of which is described in the “Christmas Carol,”Francis Miltoun. “Dickens’ London” (1903)
8 Craven Street would be a block behind the current Sherlock Holmes pub mentioned above, but the original building no longer exists. However, fascinatingly, a photo of the door knocker was published in The Harmsworth Magazine Vol.1 No.2 back in 1898-99.
Charles Dickens Museum
The Charles Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street was Dickens’ home from 1837-39. Here, he did most of his work on Pickwick Papers, and the primary exhibit focuses on the influence that this piece or work had on London society, especially in the formation of leisure clubs.
It was the perfect place to purchase a copy of The Pickwick Papers.
Speaking of purchasing books. It was then that I made up my mind to walk back to Jarndyce. But first, I wanted to have a beer to help convince myself that I was doing the right thing.
The Museum Tavern has been named such since 1762 due to it’s proximity to the British Museum8. It would have existed during Dickens’ life, but the only literary figure associated with it is Karl Marx9. I ordered a St. Austell Tribute and began the final process of deciding on the book.
After the beer, I marched over to Jarndyce, rang the doorbell again, and sealed my fate. I secured the book in my backpack and headed east along High Holborn.
Cittie of Yorke
Cittie of Yorke is an exquisite Tudor-style pub, whose current incarnation was built in 1923-245. The sign on the front indicates that a pub has stood here since 1430 making it a contender for the oldest in the city. This, of course, also makes it a tantalizing candidate as a Dickensian pub. The name Cittie of Yorke was introduced in the 1980’s. The question is what was it called during Dickens’ time?
The pub sits on the west-side of the Holborn entrance to Gray’s Inn, which is one of the four Inns of Court in London, or organizations of barristers. On the east-side during Dickens’ day, was Grays Inn Coffee-House. You can find a print of it here. In this print, you can see only a small portion of a building on the west-side, but there is no clue as to what it is.
One website indicates that Grays Inn Coffee-House occupied 19-22 Holborn from 1851-1861 (22 Holborn is today’s address of Cittie of Yorke). Then in 1861, the Coffee-House occupied only 19-21 Holborn6 (which is today the address range assigned to a Tesco Express). So for at least part of Dickens lifetime, it might have been a coffee house. Another website simply gives the coffee-house the address 20 Holborn7. The address of the gate building (called Lady Hale Gate) is shown as 21 Holborn on Google Maps. The coffee house is mentioned in David Copperfield.
The well-known shops, however, with their cheerful lights, did something for me; and when I alighted at the door of the Gray’s Inn Coffee-house, I had recovered my spirits.Charles Dickens. “David Copperfield.” Chapter LIX
Regardless of the ‘so close yet so far‘ results of my research, the pub is an absolute gem. Not a great place to read a book due to the dim lighting, but the atmosphere is perfect for having a quiet contemplative beer and meal. It may not be Dickensian but it certainly is a place that feels like it.
Meanwhile, it was a good opportunity to admire the book I had just purchased from Jarndyce.
A Week’s Tramp in Dickens Land by William R. Hughes from 1892. “Tramp” is one of those words that today feels so out-of-date. But of course, it would indicate traveling from place to place. In other words, exactly what I was in the middle of doing. I could almost hear ghost voices saying “Look son, you didn’t need to try to figure all this out on your own.” And I was mesmerized by the paragraph that followed the one which I already mentioned above.
Probably the pioneer in this class of literature was that comprehensive work, Dickens’s London, or London in the Works of Charles Dickens, by my friend, that thorough Dickensian, Mr. T. Edgar Pemberton, 1876; this was followed by a very readable volume, In Kent with Charles Dickens, by Thomas Frost, 1880; then came a dainty tome from Boston, U.S.A., entitled, A Pickwickian Pilgrimage, by John R. G. Hassard, 1881. Afterwards appeared The Childhood and Youth of Charles Dickens, by Robert Langton, 1883, beautifully illustrated by the late William Hull of Manchester, the author, and others—a work developed from the brochure by the same author, Charles Dickens and Rochester, 1880, which has passed through five editions. Next to Forster’s Life of Dickens…William Richard Hughes. “A Week’s Tramp in Dickens-Land.” (1892)
And the list went on and on; book titles all about Dickens-inspired travels. The bookshelf of my mind started to fill in title by title and I saw this beautiful seductive image of a book collection. It was THAT moment when these blog posts were truly born. It was that moment where I knew that I had been neglecting my love for books for too long, and casually reading Bleak House a few pages at a time in pubs was not going to be sufficient. I knew too little of Dickens’ works. Some things had to change.
I could have spent the rest of the day sitting in that booth soaking in the atmosphere pondering my discoveries. I had only a couple minor Dickens sites left, but I also felt the freedom of that awakening, as if my mission had been completed. Now I could just roam and wander for the rest of the afternoon while the reality finally set in. I knocked the last two Dickens sites out in short order.
The house in Thavies Inn had bills in the windows annoucing that it was to let, and it looked dirtier and gloomier and ghastlier than ever. The name of poor Mr. Jellyby had appeared in the list of bankrupts but a day or two before…Charles Dickens. “Bleak House.” Chapter XXIII
Thavies Inn is one of the original ten Inns of Court but by Dickens’ time, it had already been converted to private residences. In one of these lived the Jellyby’s in Bleak House.
St. Andrews Church, Holborn
Peffer is never seen in Cook’s Court now. He is not expected there, for he has been recumbent this quarter of a century in the churchyard of St. Andrews, Holborn, with the waggons and hackney-coaches roaring past him all the day and half the night like one great dragon.Charles Dickens. “Bleak House.” Chapter X
Peffer was the former partner of Mr. Snagsby, a law stationer in Bleak House.
Some “Lesser Known” London Side Visits
With all of the Dickens sites on my map complete (supposedly), I then decided to make a trajectory back towards my hotel, but meandering anywhere that looked interesting. The result was an eclectic assortment of sites which in some cities would be major highlights, but in London, they are more relegated to the obscure.
Holy Sepulchre Church
Church where Captain John Smith of Pocahantas fame is buried.
William Wallace Memorial
This is the site near where William Wallace was executed.
St. Bartholomew the Great (Great St. Barts)
A medieval church tucked away behind an old gate. This church has been used in several movies and TV shows as well as holding the 2005 memorial service to William Wallace on the 700th anniversary of his execution10.
Museum of the Order of St. John
The south Gate of St. John’s Priory, lately repurchased by the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, was built as we now see it by Sir Thomas Docwra, Prior in 1504. It is a fine specimen of perpendicular architecture. On the outside are two shields adorned with the arms of the Order and of Docwra.Augustus John Cuthbert Hare. “Walks in London.” 1883
The Order of St. John were Hospitaller knights and crusaders who provided medical care for pilgrims to the Holy Land.
The Holy Tavern
The final pub of my Dickens London visit is this homage to the Order of St. John. There is no Dickens link here but the Holy Tavern website gives the location’s interesting history. This was one of my favorite pubs of the entire trip due to the historical neighborhood, the medieval character and the quaintness of the pub itself.
“Do you know the poulterer’s in the next street but one, at the corner?’ Scrooge inquired.
‘I should hope I did,’ replied the lad.
‘An intelligent boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize turkey that was hanging up there?—Not the little prize turkey: the big one?’
‘What! the one as big as me?’ returned the boy.
‘What a delightful boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!’
‘It’s hanging there now,’ replied the boy.
‘Is it?’ said Scrooge. ‘Go and buy it.”Charles Dickens. “A Christmas Carol.”
After I got back to my hotel, I discovered that one Dickens site had been missed yesterday, and that was this marketplace adjacent to Cornhill. The most likely candidate for the location of this poulterer from A Christmas Carol would have been this market, although it is never mentioned by name. Today the market contains some trendy restaurants. So with a mild case of OC, I hopped on the Tube and within a few minutes, I could cross it off my list.
Closing Words Day 5
From the moment I arrived home from London, I began to seek out books to add to my collection, finding more and more not mentioned in A Week’s Tramp, mainly because they were published later. I was astounded by the genre that existed, whether it was about Dickens or Old London. There were many authors who were inspired to connect with this world and keep it alive as the sites were disappearing year by year. At the same time, I continued thru Bleak House and eventually finished it. At close to 800 pages, my brain had plenty of time to acclimate to the 19th century lingo and writing style. And today, I am reading David Copperfield. I don’t have to go hunting for them in a bookstore anymore as I now own at least three different copies of each Dickens title in my collection, some four. Admittedly it has become an obsession of sorts, but I have a long way to go to collect the travel books. Most of the anecdotes used to spruce up these blog posts come from some of those books. Others are e-publications which I have found on wonderful sites like Project Gutenberg, iTunes Books, and Google Play Books. They have served their purpose as I set about to replace them with the real thing. A dusty old book with a dusty old smell, a worn corner here and there, a spine holding up after all these years, and sometimes not, covers and art work whose elegance cannot be matched in today’s books, perhaps the scribble of a date and a name of someone in some far-away village who long ago cherished the book. Books have become a great love again. And all because one day I decided to plan a trip to London, and I asked What shall it be about? And I replied Beer and…. Somewhere in my mind, the name Dickens popped into my head. Then Shakespeare, and Churchill, and the names of Kings and Queens, and yes even Jack the Ripper. But apparently because of some quirk in an American’s DNA or some intangible comfort I feel every Christmas Eve watching A Christmas Carol or because there was something about Dickens that made me think of beer, the choice seemed already to be made. I still have a few words to say about the trip which will come out in the near future, but as I sit here putting the final words to the heart of the trip, I am feeling a sense of loss, of closing the book as it were on my journey after the joy it has been writing these posts. At the same time, I can be excited at the prospect of expanding this theme outside of London and carrying on the long tradition of tramps into Dickens-Land. In the meantime, whether you read these posts word for word or just skimmed thru looking at the photos or anywhere in between, thank you for stopping by, because that is really what makes these journeys complete.
Map Day 5
- Yellow: A site or pub with a Dickens link or a strong anecdotal link
- Black: A site or pub which does not have a Dickens link
- Purple: A highly recommended pub which does not have a Dickens link
- Red: A site or pub with a Dickens link which I missed and would like to have included.
- “The Dickens Country” by Frederic G. Kitton (1905)
- Oliver Twists Workhouse Discovered (www.telegraph.co.uk)
- “A Week’s Tramp in Dickens-Land” by William R. Hughes (1891)
- Backstory of High Holborn’s Cittie of Yorke (www.onlondon.co.uk)
- Grays Inn Tavern (pubwiki.co.uk)
- London Coffee Houses
- Museum Tavern London (whatpub.com)