A Taste of 19th century Literary London – 12 places I visited 

(In chronological order):

1. St Paul’s Cathedral

Although St Paul’s doesn’t seem to be in any of the books I’m studying and it was built before the time period I’m interested in, the fact people would’ve gone there in the 19th century is what makes it relevant; one of my tasks is to write a story based in London so it is one of the places I’ve been considering as a backdrop.

I was with my dad and one of his facts was that churches/cathedrals were built to be the tallest buildings in the area in order to remind people of the (then) power of the church as you would be able to see them from miles away.

Unfortunately I could only take photos from the outside, as photography was not allowed inside – and being the goody two shoes I am, I didn’t sneak any photos when I went in.

2. Museum of London

I was actually bitterly disappointed because I was hoping the museum would provide the bulk of my research. There was very little of anything for 1850-1890.

However, I managed to find a book with some good information in the gift shop. I was very tempted to buy a top hat or deerstalker…until I saw the £45 price tag.

3. Old Session House

Not much to say about this, neither of us knew the building was undergoing renovation from 2014-2017 and we couldn’t even see the outside because it was covered up. It was the site where the “Artful Dodger involves Oliver Twist in a pick-pocketing incident” (source: see second link).

4. Exmouth Market

I went here to get a sense of what it would be like to be passing through a busy market area. There are several exotic restaurants now and some artisan type cafes. I can’t remember the name of the one we ate at, nor do I need to; lunch was an overpriced cheap-tasting sandwich. I’ll stick to Subways from now on.

5. Spa Fields

I wouldn’t recommend going here, it was a bit rundown, there were irresponsible dog owners and a bunch of scary men smoking by the entrance of the park.

6. Former workhouse on Cleveland St

We tried to take a taxi here as otherwise it would’ve been a 37 minute walk. But the taxi driver seemed angry and had no clue where he was going so just drove around clocking up the cost of the ride…

Anyway, this site is speculated to be the workhouse in Oliver Twist. All you can see (at the moment, anyway) are the walls enclosing the building which have been boarded up. Seems like a tip from what you can see through the hole in the gates but standing in front of it reminded me of how lucky we are to have official support systems like the NHS.

7. Cavendish Square

By contrast, the park in the middle was not too bad. Strange statue of a naked woman with a block for a head though. The houses around the square looked pretty expensive, which makes sense since in Robert Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Cavendish Square is where Dr Jekyll lived.

8. Carnaby Street

This is in Soho, the area where Mr Hyde was situated. Again, there’s regrettably not much left to see that is from the 19th century as there are now numerous shops everyone is familiar with that line the street. It’s only the upper parts of buildings with the old windows and ornate structures that you no longer get on houses today, and the side streets with lanterns sticking out that look remotely old.

9. Museum of London Docklands

This was probably the most informative of the places I visited, it had a bit more I stuff from the late 1800s. The great thing about these museums is that they are free.

10. Leadenhall Market

My second favourite place on the list, it was colourful and another stunning example of Victorian architecture. Just walk around or sit down and admire the atmosphere. I imagined what type of people were sitting outside Pizza Express, trying to emulate the narrator in Edgar Allen Poe’s Man of the Crowd. I also found out on the day that the market was used as Diagon Alley in Harry Potter!

11. Dennis Servers’ House

It was an underwhelming visit. The way the experience was orchestrated, in a way, stifling. The house was candle lit to add to the sensory experience. There were people on each floor directing you and you weren’t allowed to take photos or talk. I thought it would be a guided tour but the only thing I gained from this is what an old house is like. No facts. I even got called “madam” when I accidentally wandered into a room in the ‘wrong’ order. The house did seem very authentic at least.

12. Spitalfields Market

It’s located in Shoreditch I think and Oliver Twist supposedly lived in South Shoreditch.

Amongst the modern restaurants (like Wagamamas) there were stalls, and on the nearby streets were some quaint shops.

By the way, last clip in the video is of a bar name that I was amused by. Yes, I have some juvenile humour.

I don’t even like London itself, do you? Either way, go out and do something new and learn stuff this summer!

Notes: I couldn’t upload the video of my trip here so I had to post it on YouTube:  https://youtu.be/brlkp2ecpKQ and featured image and gallery photos are mine.

A lot of the places were linked to Dicken’s Oliver Twist and this existing list of places to visit was very useful: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1L8K6nQCj9PKyciEEfYBdfhjqzQk&hl=en

Today’s song: Jesus of Suburbia by Green Day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNKPYhXmzoE) which is off a rock playlist someone made for me which I love listening to when I’m travelling.


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