Dickens Champions: Our trip to London
1 June 2012 / 0 Comments
Our Dickens Champions, Immaculate Conception Book Group, went on a day trip to London to discover Dickens - here's what they got up to:
Lots of excited chatter and lashings of cake? Absolutely! With Dombey and Son now under our belts and being half way through our second Dickens novel The Old Curiosity Shop, a trip to London to follow an official Dickens walk and also visit the wonderful Dickens exhibition at the Museum of London was an absolute must.
Thirteen of we Dickens Champions namely, 'Lucretia Ashdown', 'Louisa Chick', 'Miss Betsy Kenny', 'Ninetta Pead', 'Sophy Wackles Verdon', 'Aged P Wellicombe', 'Mrs McStinger O'Connor', 'Wackford Squeers Pierce', 'Mags Havisham', 'Dora Counihan', 'Little Nell Lindfield', 'Polly Toodle Primrose' and' Madame Pam Defarge' caught the train from Southampton to Waterloo at 9am on Saturday May 12th.
Almost immediately, we netted ourselves a Dickensian character, who having being relaxed and settled at his table since Bournemouth suddenly found himself surrounded by and next to 13 middle aged women and their rucksacks and bags. After a while he joined in the infectious conversation!
Alighting the train we made our way over Waterloo Bridge, had coffee at the South Bank and then spent the next few hours exploring Dickens' London before our 4pm entry slot at the Dickens Exhibition at the Museum of London which was a wonderful insight into his life and his London. The day ended with a bite to eat at the reasonably priced 'Le Pain Quotidien' on the South Bank and then our train journey home. We would highly recommend this walk to other Dickens Champions.
Do the Dickens Walk
Start: Tower Hill Station (Circle and District lines)
Finish: Barbican Station (Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City Underground Lines)
Length: 2 miles
Duration: 2.5 hours
Points on Walk
On leaving Tower Hill Station, look to the left at The Tower of London. 1841, Bowyer Tower caught fire. Major Elrington , the officer in charge, ordered that no one should be admitted to the Tower. Unfortunately, his commands were carried out to the letter and no firemen were allowed in until it was too late!
Turn immediately left into Trinity Square. Keep going ahead, passing Trinity House on your right. Immediately after No.10, go right into Muscovy Street, turn right again into Seething Lane, having passed the bust of Samuel Pepys. Cross to the left side, outside the gates of St. Olave's Church.
St. Olave's Church. In his essay "the City of the Absent" in The Uncommercial Traveller, Dickens describes this as "one of my beloved churchyards........I call it Saint Ghastly Grim" (look at the skulls above the gate)
Go left into Hart Street, go right along Mark Lane. After All Hallows Staining, veer left along Star Alley. Follow as it sweeps right into Fenchurch Street, TURN LEFT. Take first right to pass through Fen Court. Dickens made this comment in The Uncommercial Traveller, "Rot and mildew and dead citizens formed the uppermost scent..."
Turn left into Fenchurch Avenue, left along Lime Street, then right into Leadenhall Place.
Leadenhall Market designed in 1881 by Horace Jones - Dickens mentions its predecessor in Pickwick Papers, Dombey & Son and Nicholas Nickleby.
Continue through the market, go over to Gracechurch Street (this is where Elizabeth Bennet's aunt and uncle Gardiner lived Pride and Prejudice) and keep ahead into St. Peter's Alley.
St Peter upon Cornhill. Dickens described this as_ "the church of the great golden keys"_ in The Uncommercial Traveller. The churchyard is also mentioned in Our Mutual Friend.
Follow the alley as it bends right at the end turn left into Cornhill. The alley features in A Christmas Carol. After the Church of St. Michael, take the second left into Ball Court. Pass though the passageway to the left, then turn left again. These alleyways feature in A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge's Counting House could be found.
Continue along the alley, passing the George and Vulture on the right.
The George and Vulture became Mr.Pickwick's London base. In Dickens' time it would have been known as "Thomas's Chop House". See if you can find the brass plate.
From the George and Vulture, go right along St. Michael's Alley, then right at the arched brick passageway of Bengal Court, pass through an enclosed courtyard, then turn right along Birchin Lane. Arriving back on Cornhill , go over the crossing, then bear left , then first right into Royal Exchange Buildings. Opposite the bust of Julius Reuter, go left through the gates into the Royal Exchange. Queen Victoria opened the present building in 1844.
Once inside, ascend any of the corner stairways to view the artwork of several Victorian artists, including Lord Leighton. References to this building feature in Sketches by Boz, A Christmas Carol, Little Dorrit and Great Expectations.
Having passed through the Royal Exchange, descend the steps, bear left into Cornhill, keep ahead through the narrow Popes Head Alley to arrive at Lombard Street. Dickens' first love, Maria Beadnell, lived in this street.
Continue right over Lombard Street, passing the Church of St. Mary Wolnoth. (Ask Carole about Fr Ignatius).
Cross over King William's Street, straight ahead along St. Swithun's Lane, take the first right into Mansion House Place and left into St. Stephen's Row.
Turn right into Walbrook (worth visiting St. Stephens), continue ahead over Queen Victoria Street and Poultry, via two sets of traffic lights. Bear left, then first right into Grocers' Hall Court, left into Dove Court, right into Old Jewry, then left into Frederick's Place. We will find a street of elegant houses that were built by the Adam brothers.
Exit Frederick's Place, go left along Old Jewry, into St. Olave's Court, left into Ironmonger Lane, swing immediately right through the white tiled Prudent Passage. Turn right onto King Street and on into Gresham Street, enter the courtyard of the City of London Guildhall. On show are works by John Everett Millais, Daniel Maclise, Lord Leighton.
Cross the courtyard from the Art Gallery and enter the Guildhall. The Guildhall is mentioned in Pickwick Papers.
Exit the Guildhall, bear right across the courtyard, continue through the barrier onto Gresham Street. Second left onto Wood Street, where the Cross Keys Inn once stood (where Dickens stayed as a small boy when he first arrived in London).
At the end of Gresham Street, turn right onto St Martin Le Grand, over the pelican crossing , bearing right along Aldersgate Street to the roundabout where, on the left, is the stairwell up to the Museum of London.
Once finished, get tube from Barbican.
Watch out for our Dickens Champions' blog posts as they read their way through Dickens during 2012.
Read about how the Immaculate Conception Book Group met Claire Tomalin.
See more photos on our Facebook page.
Reading Dickens in your reading group or book club? Get in touch or post a comment to let us know how you're getting on.