London is ancient. The Romans built a settlement sometime after 43AD and called it Londinium but historians argue there is evidence of a town before that. Currently London is home to 8.63 million people and is the setting of countless stories. I’ve visited the location of three well known stories set in London to see how they compare to their literacy counterpart.
Number One – The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
This building is a stone’s throw away from the London School of Economics and in Dickens’ novel is home to Nell and her Grandfather. In the novel (set in 1825) the shop sells various odds and ends until Nell’s Grandfather gambles it away. The building is still in Victorian style (apart from the words “Immortalized by Charles Dickens” written on the front) but now sells vintage shoes.
If you want to visit the shop it can be found on Portsmouth Street behind the Peacock Theatre a short walk from The Strand.
Number Two – Sweeney Todd of Fleet Street
Supposedly these two buildings were the home of Sweeney Todd and his partner in crime Mrs Lovett. If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Sweeney Todd, it goes like this (with various alterations) Sweeney Todd sets up shop as a barber in Fleet Street, kills his clients and gives the bodies to Mrs Lovett who bakes them in pies and sells them to her unsuspecting customers. Claims that Sweeney Todd was a real person remain unproven as no proof exists although rumours of dead animals baked into pies were common. One of the most recent adaptations of this story is the Tim Burton film Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street starting Johnny Depp released in 2007. If you want to visit this building above it can be found on Fleet Street number 186 next to St Dunstan’s Church.
Number Three – 221B Baker Street.
221B is, of course, home to Sherlock Holmes the world’s only consulting detective. I don’t mean this 221B Baker Street…
Or this one…
The author of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published the first Sherlock story in 1887 in which Sherlock’s address was 221B Baker Street. At the time the house numbers on Baker Street didn’t go as high as 221. There was an upper Baker Street which had a house numbered 221 but the description in the stories doesn’t match the location. More recently Upper Baker Street and Baker Street were merged into one and the location of 221 fell under a branch of the Abbey National bank who hired someone to answer Sherlock’s fan mail. (Best. Job. Ever) The Sherlock Holmes museum is actually at numbers 237-241 but since the bank closed in 2005 all post for 221B is sent to the museum.
All of the locations above are within travelling distance of each other and popular tourist attractions (Fleet Street less so as very little of Sweeney Todd remains) Have you visited any of these locations? What did you think?