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Dickens
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This publication has been produced by the
City of London – a uniquely diverse
organisation with three main aims: to support
and promote the City as the world leader in
international finance and business services;
to provide high quality local services and
policing for the Square Mile; and to provide
valued services to London and the nation as a
whole. We are one of the most significant art
sponsors in the UK and run the City Information
Centre by St Paul’s. We hope Dickens might
look on us more favourably were he to see us
at work today. We have produced this
publication in association with The Charles
Dickens Museum and Dr Tony Williams whose
assistance is gratefully acknowledged. All
archival images are copyright of the museum.
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk
www.visitthecity.co.uk

Dickens’s
‘Magic Lantern’
Discover the city
that was his home
and inspiration

The Charles
Dickens Museum
48 Doughty Street
London
WC1N 2LX
020 7405 2127

The Charles Dickens Museum in London is the
world’s most important collection of material
relating to the great Victorian novelist and
social commentator. The only surviving London
home of Dickens (1837-39) was opened as a
Museum in 1925 and is still welcoming visitors
from all over the world in an authentic and
inspiring surrounding. Visitors can see paintings,
rare editions, manuscripts, original furniture
and many items relating to the life of one of
the most popular and beloved personalities of
the Victorian age. The Museum is open daily
10.00-17.00. Last admission is 30 minutes before
closing. Adults: £6.00, Concessions: £4.50,
Children: £3.00, Families: £15.00
www.dickensmuseum.com

Dr Tony Williams, author of this walk, read
English at the University College of Swansea
and did post-graduate research at Birkbeck,
University of London. He was Joint General
Secretary of the International Dickens
Fellowship and a Trustee of The Charles
Dickens Museum. He is Associate Editor of
The Fellowship’s journal and an Honorary
Life Member of the Dickens Fellowship. He
presented a series of programmes on Charles
Dickens’s London and was consultant for
Charles Dickens’s England on SkyArts2. He is a
Research Fellow in the School of Humanities
at the University of Buckingham, involved in a
project to have all of Dickens’s journalism
online, edited and accessible to all users by
2012, the bicentenary of Dickens’s birth.

Walking route
Start

Doughty Street to Clerkenwell

The Charles
Dickens Museum

London, its streets and its
people, provided an enormous
inspiration for the writings of
Charles Dickens. Indeed, when
away from London he found it
difficult to write ‘in the absence of
streets… A day in London sets me up
again and starts me. But the toil and
labour of writing, day after day, without
that magic lantern, is IMMENSE!!’

Blackfriars tube
station is closed
until late 2011

The Charles Dickens Museum 1 at
48 Doughty Street was Dickens’s home from
April 1837 to December 1839. It opened as
The Dickens House Museum in June 1925.
Charles and Catherine Dickens had been
married for one year when they moved here
with their baby son Charley. During their
residence two daughters were born: Mary in
March 1838 and Katey in October 1839.
Dickens’s beloved sister-in-law Mary Hogarth
died here in May 1837 aged 17. Here,
Dickens completed Pickwick Papers and
Oliver Twist, wrote Nicholas Nickleby and
Memoirs of Grimaldi and began work on
what became Barnaby Rudge.

Finish

(Letter to John Forster, 30 August 1846)

This route has been devised to bring
together many of the places that inspired
the works of Charles Dickens. From start to
finish it will take about 90 minutes at an
average walking pace. You can also dip in and
out of sections of the route as most of the points
of interest are grouped closely together.

He was within a short distance of essential
images which helped form his fiction and his
creation of a vision of London. Between 1837
and 1839, this rising star of the literary world of
the new Victorian London lived, in his
“frightfully first-class family mansion, involving
awful responsibilities”, and with his glittering
social circle of admiring guests and friends,
close to poverty, crime, the law, the

abandoned and neglected child, and the
prison. They were images from which he
could never escape, and they constitute a
powerful part of the world of contrasts and
extremes that is so much Dickens’s London.

Mount Pleasant

Go south from outside the Museum and
turn left into Roger Street. Cross over
Gray’s Inn Road into Elm Street. Ahead of
you is the Mount Pleasant Post Office.

Cross Farringdon Road near to The Betsey
Trotwood and go along Farringdon Lane
towards Clerkenwell Green. 5

The Clerkenwell
Sessions House

Mount Pleasant 2 is used by Dickens for irony,
as the home of the Smallweed family in Bleak
House, “always solitary, shady and sad,
closely bricked in on all sides like a tomb” .
Looking towards Farringdon Road you see
the vast Post Office complex, established
there in 1900.

From Clerkenwell Green walk to
Clerkenwell Road and turn right, following
it across Farringdon Road. Turn left into
Saffron Hill and immediately right into
Hatton Wall. Walk to the junction with
Hatton Garden, turn left and continue to
number 54.

If Dickens had stood in that spot, he would
have seen the Middlesex House of Correction
(or Coldbath Fields Prison) which was on that
site from 1794. When it closed in 1877 it
housed 1,500 prisoners. The site was
transferred to the Post Office in 1889.
Dickens’s friendship with the reformist prison
governor George Chesterton, enabled him to
see the treadmills, the “wheels” in operation,
as he describes in “The Last Cab-driver” in
Sketches by Boz (1836). Whilst Newgate, the
Fleet, the Marshalsea and the King’s Bench
Prisons all figure strongly in Dickens’s writing, it
is this one, just around the corner from his
home, with which he had early contact. That
he did not make it the subject of a sketch but
turned to Newgate as his subject is because,
he says in a letter from December 1835, “the
Treadmill will not take the hold on a man’s
interest that the Gallows does.”
Walk to the junction of Mount Pleasant
and Farringdon Road and turn right.

The Betsey Trotwood

Farringdon Road 3 follows the course of the
River Fleet, since 1766 one of London’s
underground rivers. The construction of
Farringdon Road in 1845-6 cut through some
of London’s most infamous slums and in 1863
the Metropolitan Railway came into the area.
The modern pub named after David
Copperfield’s aunt, The Betsey Trotwood,
reminds visitors that the Dickensian
associations are strong. On your left, on the
other side of the road, is Pear Tree Court 4 ,
thought to be the site Dickens has in mind for
Oliver Twist where Oliver sees the Artful Dodger
and Charley Bates pick Mr Brownlow’s pocket.

Originally a green space in a semi-rural village,
very few vestiges remain of the ‘green’. The
cattle trough acts as a reminder that this area
was en route to Smithfield Meat Market and
cattle would be driven through the streets to
sale and slaughter there. The Clerkenwell
Sessions House (1779-82) features in Oliver Twist
as the destination of Mr Bumble the Beadle’s
visit to the city.

Into the lower depths

Great Saffron Hill
This area figures in
the range of
inspirations leading
Dickens to write his
minor masterpiece
A Christmas Carol.
In September 1843,
he had visited a
ragged school here
and was powerfully
struck by the horrors
he witnessed. The
children were
already thieves and
prostitutes, illiterate,
diseased and


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