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There is a secret side to London that can be found off the beaten path. These are not your average tourist spots.
The first can be found through a walking tour in and around Old Town London and are specific to Charles Dickens and his great works of literature.
There are a few paid tours of “Dickens London”, but luckily I found an amazing website that outlined a tour with detailed directions. The website is called Walks of London.
I also highly recommend literary guide books. The books I recommend are no longer in print, but can be found used inexpensively online. The books are older, but unlike travel guide books, these books remain current in the information they provide. They don’t provide hours or admittance rates, they give information about where authors/characters lived and socialized, which will not change. Also, England is all about it’s history, and they will not be tearing down bits of their most famous landmarks any time soon.
The first book I recommend is A Literary Tour Guide to England and Scotland by Emilie C. Harting. The second book is The Literary Guide and Companion to Southern England by Robert M. Cooper. He also has books for Middle and Northern England that his wife compiled from his notes after his death. You can find both on Amazon right now.
I took the info from the Walks of London website and simplified it a bit and wrote it all down in my Moleskin London City Notebook. This was my low tech option. Remember this was 2008, I didn’t have a smart phone yet and barely used my phone internationally because of fear of being charged. Now there are many apps that will allow you access to the same information quickly all on your smart phone or tablet. But, I liked using my Moleskine book. It was small. It had the underground map, maps of the entire city, a street index, places to write itineraries, hotel information, restaurant recommendations and spots to journal. You wouldn’t have to worry about reception or wifi connection. I’ve learned from visits to many cities, that you CANNOT expect to have decent cell reception in every city you visit, big or small. So, you may want to be prepared just in case. And, it is a nice memento from your trip.
Here are the highlights of what you will see on your London Dickens Walking Tour:
As mentioned in Edwin Drood…
Where Pip and Herbert Pocket lived in Great Expectations.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go inside since it was closed the day we did the tour, but it is where in Bleak House Dickens had Mr. Snagsby live and work and the building was later named “Dickens House”.
Also mentioned by Dickens in Bleak House.
Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Many houses around the square are notable.
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Dates back to 1567, but apparently there is some controversy as to whether this is the actual one Dickens based his book on or not.
Where the orphaned Neckett children lived in Bleak House and more memorable perhaps, this is also where Mrs. Lovatt’s Pie Shop was in Sweeny Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Marks the boundary between London City and Westminster. It is also where Fleet Street ends.
Old London Streets and Garden Court
Garden Court is where Pip from Great Expectations was living when Abel Magwitch appeared and informed him that he was the anonymous benefactor who changed Pip’s life.
Temple Church Cloisters
Temple Church is the original “Round Church” that The Knights Templar built in 1185. It has undergone renovation due to bomb damage in WWII. But, it still feels like you are walking back in time when you enter through these cloisters into the garden and see this beautiful building for the first time.
Outside of Temple Church
Inside Temple Church
Walking into the church felt so solemn. I am thankful they allowed photography inside. We got some beautiful shots of the interior.
Oliver Goldsmith’s Grave
The reason the Temple Church is on the tour, other than it being there when he was alive, is that you can find the grave of one of Dickens’ favorite authors as a child and a great influence to his writing here.
St. Dunstan’s Church
St. Dunstan’s Church is most notable to me as it is mentioned in
A Christmas Carol
“Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good Saint Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of –“God bless you, merry gentleman! May nothing you dismay!” Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”
The clock dates back to 1671 and is also mentioned in David Copperfield.
As mentioned by Dickens in Our Mutual Friend.
Those are the highlights from the Dickens Walking Tour that my husband and I took. There is actually much more than you can see and do, so go check out the London Walks website and dive in to the literature and history of London!
Craving more British or Literary Travel? Check out my other World Travels posts!
Have you found hidden secret spots of London? Share in the comments section below!