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Posts Tagged ‘Bleak House’

London Walking Tours – Walk With Dickens

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Charles Dickens knew London intimately and Walks around the Victorian metropolis truly inspired his work.

 He had a photographic memory for the streets, buildings and people he encountered on his numerous ramblings around the Capital.

To read his books is to be transported back in time and it is still possible to stand at certain London locations with a Dickens book in hand and see those locations through the eyes of the great novelist.

For example, just off Fleet Street you will find Middle Temple and Inner Temple. These are two of London’s four Inns of Court, the places where Barristers (the wigged and robed lawyers) have their chambers. Dickens wrote of the Temple that you can read on its gates “who enters here leaves noise behind” and that description really does hold true to this day.

Several of our London walks explore this wonderful “time slip” part of London, but you can also explore it on your own by taking the tube to Temple Station, going left and up the steps, turning right at their top, over the crossing, off which turn right, and just keep ahead till you reach the gates of The Temple.

Another location that has changed little since Dickens day is Lincoln’s Inn, another of the Inns of Court. Our Dickens London Christmas Walks tend to explore this area, but it also features on our regular Dickens Tours as it was in Lincoln’s Inn Old Hall that the foggy introduction to Bleak House begins.

These are just two of the many parts of London covered by Richard Jones’s book Walking Dickensian London which is available from Amazon.

Exploring Paternoster Square – London walks

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Standing in the middle of Paternoster Square and looking up at the mighty and glorious dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, you can’t help but draw breath in wonder and the splendid vision that unfolds around you.

Paternoster Square, which we cover on several of our London walks, is a lovely mix of old and new London.

On one side of the square is an arched gateway which is Temple Bar. It is the only one of London’s City gates to survive and gives you an idea of what London would have looked like when it was a walled and gated City.

Temple Bar used to stand at the junction of Strand and Fleet Street, a little to the west of its current location. For over two hundred years the daily life of London moved in and out through this gate.

It was built in 1672 and designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the same man who designed St Paul’s Cathedral, which towers over you as you stand in Paternoster Square.

It was the gate that separated the City’s of London and Westminster and the statues that you see on it are of James 1st and Anne of Denmark, plus Charles 1st and Charles 11.

From 1684 it was put to a somewhat gruesome use with parts of the bodies (usually the heads) of traitors being displayed on spikes above its arch. One enterprising tradesman actually set up a stall alongside Temple Bar and rented out telescopes for half a penny to enable people to get a closer look at their favourite or most infamous traitor!

In 1805, for the funeral of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson,  Temple Bar was covered in black velvet as a tribute to the great Naval hero. Nelson, incidentally, is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

But, by the 1870′s, London’s traffic was increasing and Temple bar was something of a hindrance to the smooth passage of the horse drawn. vehicles. Charles Dickens in his novel Bleak House refers to it as “that leaden headed old obstruction” and he pretty much reflected the attitude of London as a whole. Thus is 1878 it was taken down and moved to Theobald’s Park in Hertfordshire, the mansion of the brewing magnate Sir Henry Meux.

Over the next hundred years it was vandalised and allowed to fall into ruin. But, in 2003 when Pater Noster Square was being rebuilt, The Temple Bar Trust brought it back to central London and it was erected close to St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren’s greatest legacy to the City of London.

The room over the gate can even be hired for private dinners by approaching the Chapter House of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which will be the subject of a later blog and which features, along with Temple Bar on our Historic City of London walks.