From Oliver Twist to David Copperfield, Charles Dickens’ classics are known and loved the world over. London’s cobbled passageways, storied landmarks and iconic bridges are a backdrop to many of his plots, and a few corners of the British capital have remained exactly as they are described in his books. Literary guests staying at The Montague on the Gardens can flip back through the pages of time to uncover the London that Charles Dickens inhabited. Here’s where to find the monuments and museums across the city that tell the famed writer’s tale.
Setting the scene
Charles Dickens’ novels encapsulate the sights, sounds, and smells of 19th-century London. He lived in the bustling British capital for most of his life and often ambled its streets, covering many miles each day. The Industrial Revolution was in full throttle, reshaping the city’s class system and infrastructure, while Dickens was making his observations and developing his characters.
The Grapes, Limehouse
With its fascinating 500-year history, it’s no wonder olde-worlde tavern The Grapes was frequented by a young Charles Dickens when he visited his godfather in 1820, and in subsequent years. Resting on the pebbles of Limehouse Reach, the characterful pub is thinly veiled in the opening chapter of Our Mutual Friend. “A tavern of dropsical appearance… long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. It had outlasted many a sprucer public house...” The Grapes’ cosy back parlour is the ideal spot to curl up with a Dickens book and a well-poured pint.
Time-forgotten London landmarks
London’s heavyweight attractions feature regularly in Charles Dickens’ works. London Bridge appears in a total of nine novels, while the majestic dome of St Paul’s Cathedral is referred to in 13. Other memorable locations referred to by the author are Covent Garden Market and the Old Bailey, the Tower of London and the Bank of England.
The Charles Dickens Museum, Bloomsbury
Dickens’ family home, where he lived with his wife Catherine and raised the eldest three of their 10 children, now hosts the fascinating Charles Dickens Museum in London. Within striking distance of The Montague, the family moved into 48 Doughty Street a few months prior to Queen Victoria’s reign commenced in 1837. At the home’s heart is the novelist’s famous study, where he masterminded an exceptional body of newspaper articles, journal essays, and stories—mostly by candlelight and always with a quill. Dickens drew inspiration from his family, servants and a select list of prestigious dinner guests.
Smithfield Market, Farringdon
In Oliver Twist, Dickens paints a vivid picture of Smithfield’s cattle market: “…the whistling of drovers, the barking dogs, the bellowing and plunging of the oxen, the bleating of sheep, the grunting and squeaking of pigs, the cries of hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling on all sides..." Today, a working meat market jostles in the wake of Dickens’ live-cattle enclosures, serving prime cuts to the well-heeled restaurants in the vicinity.
Trace literary history across London in the footsteps of Charles Dickens while staying at Red Carnation Hotels’ The Montague on the Gardens.