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18 Vintage Photos Of Charles Dickens' London

A pictorial tour of how the capital inspired one of our greatest authors.

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1. Bayham Street.

The Dickens family arrived in London in 1822 after 6 years of living in Kent where John Dickens was posted at Chatham Dockyard. They took up residence at number 16 Bayham Street which has been demolished. This humble home is generally thought to have been the inspiration for the Cratchits' home in A Christmas Carol.

2. Lant Street.

John Dickens was arrested for debt in 1824 and all but Charles from the Dickens family were imprisoned in Marshalsea Prison. During this time, Charles took up residence in the back-attic of a house on Lant Street a short walk away from the prison while he works at a shoe blacking factory. Lant Street was in an area known as "The Mint" which was renowned for its overcrowded conditions. Dickens described Lant Street in The Pickwick Papers as having a repose that "sheds a gentle melancholy upon the soul".

3. Marshalsea Prison.

For his entire life, Dickens kept the secret of his father’s imprisonment from the public, telling only a few very close friends. His experience of visiting his family was reflected in the tale of Little Dorrit. In this novel Little Dorrit’s father was imprisoned in Marshalsea and the fictionalised struggle bore great weight in Dickens’s lifelong campaign for social reform.


4. Johnson Street, Somers Town.

John Dickens was released from prison in May 1824 after his grandmother died bequeathing him a sum of £450. The family moved to Johnson Street in Somerstown where they lived for four years. They were evicted for non-payment and moved several times between 1827-33.

5. Gray's Inn.

In 1827 Dickens began work as a junior clerk at the law office of Ellis and Blackmore, in Holborn Court, Gray’s Inn. His time spent there is recalled through Mr. Perker in The Pickwick Papers who has chambers at Gray's Inn. Around this time Dickens then began work as a freelance reporter covering legal proceedings for four years before moving on to political journalism.

6. Doughty Street.

Charles Dickens Museum

During the early 1830s Dickens was full of energy and explored many enclaves of London society. He wrote The Pickwick Papers in 1836 whilst simultaneously editing Bentley’s Miscellany in which Oliver Twist appeared. In March 1837 Dickens moved into number 48 Doughty Street with Catherine, whom he had married the previous year and newly born Charley. He referred to Doughty Street as "my house in town".

7. Devonshire Terrace.

The Dickens family moved into No 1 Devonshire Terrace in 1839. The house has since been demolished but it is remembered by a mural on the Marylebone Road that depicts the characters created during Dickens’s stay there: Ebenezer Scrooge, Barnaby Rudge, Little Nell and her grandfather, Dombey and his daughter, Mrs Gamp, David Copperfield and Mr Micawber.


8. Tavistock House.

In 1851 Dickens moved to Tavistock House, a monumental accomplishment considering his formative years spent at Bayham and Lant Street. It was here that he wrote Bleak House, Hard Times and Little Dorrit.

9. St George the Martyr Church, Borough.

Charles Dickens Museum

St George’s Church still remains as a dominant building in the Borough area just yards away from where Dickens lived on Lant Street. The surviving wall of the Marshalsea Prison adjoins the north wall of the Churchyard and one really has the sense that Dickens knew this area very well choosing to set several scenes from Little Dorrit in and around the Church. The nearby park is now named Little Dorrit Park.

10. The George Inn, Southwark.

The George Inn survives as one of London’s last remaining medieval coaching Inns that Dickens refers to in Little Dorrit and would have visited himself. Unfortunately half of the Inn was knocked down to make way for warehousing to serve the new railway but you can still enjoy a drink in the coffee room in the middle bar where Dickens would have drank.

11. Number 5, Viaduct Chambers.

This is reputedly the house that Dickens used as inspiration for Fagin’s Lair in Oliver Twist. The Artful Dodger and Oliver Twist walk from Islington down to ‘a house near Field Lane’ which was an area renowned for its rookery. The pair would have walked through the public houses of Angel, down St John Street and through Exmouth Market into Farringdon. The area consisted of back alley slums two centuries ago, a stark difference to the furniture design shops and apartments you would find there now.


12. Boats in Limehouse.

As a young boy Dickens would have visited his Godfather, Christopher Huffam, who ran a sailmaking and ship chandler shop there. Drawing on his experiences, he would later set scenes in Our Mutual Friend and Dombey and Son in the area.

13. The Bunch of Grapes, Limehouse.

Charles Dickens Museum

The Bunch of Grapes, now known as The Grapes is a public house on the river Thames in Limehouse, East London, that was immortalised as The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters Tavern in Our Mutual Friend. It was "a tavern of dropsical appearance ... long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. In its whole constitution it had not a straight floor, and hardly a straight line .... It was a narrow lop-sided wooden jumble of corpulent windows heaped one upon another as you might heap as many toppling oranges, with a crazy wooden veranda impending over the water; indeed the whole house, inclusive of the complaining flag-staff on the roof, impended over the water."

14. Staple Inn, Holborn.

Charles Dickens Museum

In stark contrast to the murky trade areas of London is Staple Inn, which lies to the south of Gray’s Inn Road and was originally attached to the Court of Gray’s Inn. It is a rare surviving Tudor building in the heart of London. It was here that Dickens housed Hiram Grewgious in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Dickens described it as "one of those nooks, the turning into which, out of the clashing street, imparts to the relieved pedestrian the sensation of having put cotton in his ears and velvet soles on his boots." The court remains as peaceful now as it was in Victorian London.

15. Lincoln's Inn.

Dating back to the 16th Century, Lincoln’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London along with Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. Dickens houses the sinister Mr Tulkinghorn at No 58, Lincoln’s Inn Fields in Bleak House. This address was in fact the home of Dickens’s great friend and first biographer John Forster.

16. Fountain Court, Temple.

Dickens was a member of Middle Temple, often eating in the grand dining room there. Before he became a successful novelist, Dickens was effectively a law student and so his familiarity with the Inns of Court made them an obvious choice as settings for his novels. In Great Expectations, Pip’s final London residence is in Garden Court in the Temple.

17. The Old Curiosity Shop.

The shop that gives its name to Dickens’s novel The Old Curiosity Shop can be found at 13-14 Portsmouth St. The building itself dates back to the 16th Century, however, the name was added to the shop front after the novel was released.


Charles Dickens Museum

Number 48 Doughty Street was acquired by the Dickens Fellowship in 1923 and it opened in 1925 as the Dickens House Museum. This photograph was taken on the 9th June, when the Museum officially opened.

The Invisible Woman, a biographical film about Dickens' life, is out now on DVD.