Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Charles Dickens' London

Good morning!

On my visit to London last week, we had a lovely walk around some of the oldest parts of the City - in my last post I shared some photos of the new, shiny, financial district skyscrapers.  Very impressive, and I find them quite beautiful.  Not everyone agrees, I know, and that is fair enough.  Of course London has found itself being re-figured on many occasions -  by fire (1666), Blitz (1940) and more recently terrorism (early 1990s, as well as the July 2005 bombings).  Of course this has had the most awful impact on people, whose lives have been shattered, but also the very fabric of the city bears witness to these historical events.  In that many of the old buildings are no longer there for us to see and ponder upon.  Certainly in the early 1970s the banks of the Thames bore clear witness to the multiple bombing raids of the 1940s, the river was lined with bombed-out warehouses.

However, dig deep enough and you can find some atmospheric remains of the past, just tucked away in the back streets behind the glitzy new buildings, just waiting for you to stumble upon them.

Since the age of 8 I have been fascinated by the works of Charles Dickens, all spurred on by taking part in a Christmas play at primary school "A Christmas Carol".  We didn't have a TV then, so reading was my main form of entertainment.  Oh, how I loved to read (and still do!!).  I particullary devoured the works of Dickens, with A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist being particular favourites.  He is my favourite author of all time, his descriptive writing makes me feel as if I am actually there in the scenes he is writing about (I do have a lively imagination!).  As I love to walk the streets of London, and love Dickens I bought a little book from Amazon last year detailing walks around the old parts of the city that Dickens used for inspiration for settings in his work.

One day I will go to London on my own and take some of these walks - it probably sounds awful of me as a wife and mother, but I want to really be able to drink in the atmosphere without distraction or having to explain.  However, when returning from the museum visit en route to the Tower, I spotted this churchyard gate...

the churchyard beyond is the one that inspired this passage from
 A Christmas Carol:

Scrooge hastened to the window of his office, and looked in. It was an office still, but not his. The furniture was not the same, and the figure in the chair was not himself. The Phantom pointed as before.
He joined it once again, and wondering why and whither he had gone, accompanied it until they reached an iron gate. He paused to look round before entering.  A churchyard. Here, then; the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a worthy place. Walled in by houses; overrun by grass and weeds, the growth of vegetation’s death, not life; choked up with too much burying; fat with repleted appetite. A worthy place!  The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. He advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape. “Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?” Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood. “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!” The Spirit was immovable as ever.  Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, especially when I looked up to see the sculpture above the gate

These skulls were there to remind the rich and poor alike of how they would eventually end up!  Dickens loved this churchyard and apparently nicknamed this church "St Ghastly Grim - with the attraction of repulsion".

Just for a few minutes I felt like I had been drawn back into those well-thumbed pages of Dickens I have loved since such a young age.  I couldn't hang around long as DH (who is an engineer so doesn't really understand such things) was keen to get to the Tower so that he could have a coffee, but I was so, so pleased to have happened upon this little treasure.

Since coming home I have been leafing through my book of Dickens Walks, daydreaming about the day when I can actually follow some of them. 

In the meantime, I am clearing the kitchen in readiness for the gas engineer to come and do the annual service for the boiler - back to reality!! 

Have a lovely day, Helenxx 


  1. When we were in Durango, Colorado, I picked up a book called Walking Durango that was a historical walking tour. While the kids stayed in the hotel and watched the World Cup finals, I did the walking tour on my own, at my own pace, so I completely get where you are coming from. :) Have a great week. Tammy

  2. How wonderful, helen. I love Dickens too and the settings have always captured my imagination. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Oh a fellow Dickens fan, I thought I was the only one.......... I think I used to walk (run) past that church yard on the way to work in the seventies.
    Julie xxxxxxxx


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