Blog Archives

Going to ‘town’ | A guide to Jane Austen’s London

Find out where Jane Austen stayed, shopped and socialised during her many visits to London.

Jane Austen
(1870 engraving based on sketch by Cassandra Austen)

Jane Austen (1775-1817) spent most of her years living in Hampshire and Bath, but visited London frequently throughout her adult life. Her favourite brother Henry Thomas Austen (1771-1850) lived in the capital for a lot of his life, while publishing houses were another incentive for the author to visit London.

As well as being a frequent visitor to London, the city also served as inspiration for Austen’s novels. Some of her wealthier characters had homes in the capital, while it often poses as a location for many scandalous scenes. Who can forget Lydia Bennet and Mr Wickham eloping to London and being made to marry in a City church? Or Marianne Dashwood realising Mr Willoughby is engaged to another woman while in the capital with her sister Elinor? While London is full of adventure for some of Austen’s characters, one in particular wasn’t so fond. In ‘Emma’, the title character’s father Henry Woodhouse laments London’s pollution, declaring: “The truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.”

Guide to Jane Austen’s London haunts

Find out where Jane Austen lodged, socialised and shopped during her frequent visits to London.

  • Cork Street

Jane and her brothers are believed to have slept at an inn on Cork Street in Mayfair on her first visit to London in 1796. Cork Street was a short walk from White Horse Cellar on Piccadilly (the present site of the Burlington Arcade) – where Jane was likely to have disembarked as it was a popular coach drop-off for travellers from the south and west of England.

– Cork Street, Mayfair, W1S. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Green Park.

  • 64 Sloane Street

Jane’s older brother Henry and his wife Eliza moved from nearby Brompton (where they lived in 1808) to Sloane Street by the time Jane visited in 1811. Henry was a banker at the time so could entertain his sibling with parties and trips to the theatre. Jane returned for another visit in 1813. Today, the building is Grade II listed and is home to an investment bank, with its façade dating back to a redevelopment by Fairfax Wade in the late 19th century. The original house inside dates back to 1780.

– 64 Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, SW1X 9SH. Nearest station: Knightsbridge or Sloane Square.

  • 10 Henrietta Street

Jane lived with her brother at Henrietta Street during summer 1813 and March 1814. In 1813, Henry was devastated by the death of his wife Eliza. Soon after her passing, Henry moved to rooms above Tilson’s bank on Henrietta Street. Jane and their niece Fanny Knight visited him there in the spring of 1814.

– 10 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8PS. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Charing Cross.

  • 23 Hans Place

Henry moved round the corner from Sloane Street to Hans Place in 1814 – a year after his wife Eliza died. Jane stayed at the house during her visits in 1814 and October-December 1815. Jane was fond of the building and the square’s garden. The author travelled to London in 1815 while she was preparing her novel ‘Emma’ for publication. While there, her brother became seriously ill so Jane remained in the city to nurse him back to health. It is believed this was Jane’s last visit to ‘town’, as she died in Hampshire 19 months later. Today, No.23 has been redeveloped, but No.s 15, 33 and 34, as well as the garden from the original period, still exist. A blue plaque commemorates Jane’s time at the residence.

– Hans Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X. Nearest station: Knightsbridge.

  • Carlton House

During her visit to London is 1815, Jane was invited to the Prince Regent’s (the future King George IV) library at Carlton House by the royal librarian James Stanier Clarke (1766–1834). The latter suggested Jane dedicate ‘Emma’ to the prince, and despite her disdain for the royal, she was in no position to refuse. Carlton House was demolished the following decade, with Carlton House Terrace being erected on the site in the 1820s.

– Carlton House Terrace, St James, SW1Y 5AH. Nearest stations: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus.

Buy some tea like Jane in Twining’s flagship in the Strand

  • Twining’s flagship store

The oldest tea shop in London has been trading on Strand for over 300 years. The Austen family, including Jane, visited the shop to buy their tea. Jane wrote in her diary that her mother Cassandra (1739-1827) had asked her to pick up some Twining’s tea to bring back west. She also refers to the price of tea going up in a March 1814 letter to her sister Cassandra (1773-1845), written from Henrietta Street.

– 216 Strand, Aldwych, WC2R 1AP. Nearest station: Temple. For more information, visit the Twining’s website.

  • Astley’s Amphitheatre

Jane was entertained at Astley’s Amphitheatre during a trip to London and referenced the location in ‘Emma’. The performance venue was opened by Philip Astley in 1773 and is considered the first modern circus ring. Although the Amphitheatre is long gone, a plaque on the site remains today. It makes an appearance in ‘Emma’, as the location of Robert Martin and Harriet Smith’s reconciliation and subsequent engagement.

– Cornwall Road, Waterloo, SE1 8TW. Nearest station: Waterloo. Read the rest of this entry

Explore Dulwich Village with Metro Girl’s self-guided history walk

Discover the history and sights of Dulwich Village with this special walk.

Dulwich Village Christ Chapel © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018
Today, there is only a few ‘villages’ left in London. Back in the Georgian era and beyond, London as a city was significantly smaller and surrounded by many country villages. As London expanded during the Industrial Revolution, many of these districts got swallowed up by the growing capital. However, there are a few areas, such as Dulwich, Wimbledon and Highgate, left today which have retained their village charm.

One such place is Dulwich Village in south London, which dates back to at least the 10th century. I’ve lived nearby most of my life and am really fond of the village. Of course, the property prices are ridiculous and unattainable for most of us, but it’s a lovely place to visit, eat and drink in. The Dulwich Society have retained a tight control over planning so the likes of Tesco superstores and flashy developers haven’t ruined the village’s Georgian feel. Located just five miles from the centre of London, it’s surprisingly close to the capital and easy to get to with regular trains from London Bridge and London Victoria.

If you’ve ever fancied exploring Dulwich Village, why not try out my self-guided history walking tour with Routey.net. The company is a free online platform offering walking tours created by members of the travel community. My walking tour covers less than 2 miles and includes 18 stops. It can take a minimum of 90 minutes to up to 5 hours if you choose to stop at the Crown & Greyhound pub for lunch or dinner and visit an exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

  • Visit Routey.net for Metro Girl’s Dulwich Village history walking tour. Starting point: North Dulwich station (15 mins from London Bridge). End point: West Dulwich station (13 mins to London Victoria).

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Conservation and colours as the Tusk Rhino Trail comes to the capital

Rhino Trail Covent Garden © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Patrick Hughes’ The Rainbosceros in Covent Garden for The Rhino Trail

If you’ve been in central London recently, you may have noticed some pretty new pieces of street furniture. Twenty one rhino sculptures have been erected near iconic sights as part of the Tusk Rhino Trail. Each piece of art has been customised by international artists, to raise awareness of the rhinos’ plight. These magnificent creatures are under threat of extinction due to poaching and they must be protected.

Rhino Trail St Pancras © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Nick Gentry’s silver rhino at St Pancras

The capital-wide art installation has been curated by Chris Westbrook for the Tusk conservation charity. The sculptures will remain in situ until World Rhino Day on 22 September 2018. The following month, all 21 will be auctioned by Christie’s to raise money for the charity on 9 October.

Artists taking part include Ronnie Wood, Marc Quinn, Gavin Turk, Axel Scheffler, the Chapman Brothers, Charming Baker, Glen Baxter, Nick and Rob Carter, Eileen Cooper, Nancy Fouts, Nick Gentry, Zhang Huan, Patrick Hughes, David Mach, Gerry McGovern, Harland Miller, Mauro Perruchetti, Dave White, David Yarrow and Jonathan Yeo. Locations include Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Guildhall, Marble Arch and St Paul’s. Why not download a map and bring your children rhino spotting.

  • The Tusk Rhino Trail is on now until 22 September 2018. To download the trail map and find out more about the charity’s work, visit the Tusk Rhino Trail website.

For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.

This post is taking part in #CulturedKids, sharing cultural blog posts aimed at children. Thanks to Catherine at Cultured Wednesdays for getting me involved.

CulturedKids

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Follow in the footsteps of the Suffragettes on a London history walk

Guide to London’s landmarks for Suffragette and Suffrage history.

With the current new wave of feminism, women’s rights are rightly a hot topic right now. In early part of the 20th century, London was the focal point of many suffragette demonstrations and protests due to its location as the home of the UK government.

Here’s a guide to London landmarks and monuments from the early 20th century Suffragette movement so you can follow in the footsteps of women who changed British political history.

  • Suffragette Memorial

Bronze sculpture to commemorate the Suffragettes’ campaign for women’s right to vote. The memorial was sculpted by Edwin Russell and unveiled in 1970 with several surviving Suffragettes in attendance. Christchurch Gardens, Victoria, SW1E. Nearest station: St James’s Park.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The Suffragette Memorial in Christchurch Gardens

  • Royal College Of Nursing

This Georgian townhouse, which is now part of the headquarters for the Royal College of Nursing, was originally home to Henry Herbert Asquith (1852-1928), who was Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916. Asquith was opposed to women’s suffrage and as a result became a frequent target of protests. Some Suffragettes chained to themselves to the iron railings outside his home – which still exist today. Ironic, that his home went on to become a place championing career women in the Royal College of Nursing. Royal College Of Nursing, 20 Cavendish Square, W1G 0RN. Nearest station: Oxford Circus.

  • Minnie Lansbury’s Memorial Clock

Minnie Lansbury (1889-1922) was a leading Suffragette, having joined the East London Suffragettes in 1915. She was elected alderman on Poplar’s first Labour council in 1919. She died of pneumonia in 1922 after falling ill while spending six weeks in prison for refusing to levy full rates in Poplar. A clock in her memory, originally erected in 1930s and restored in 2008, hangs on Electric House in Bow. Electric House, Bow Road, Bow, E3 4LN. Nearest station: Bow Church or Mile End.

  • Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett’s home

Suffolk-born Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929) was an important figure in the fight for women’s rights and took a more moderate approach to campaigning. From 1897 until 1919 she was president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), with supporters known as suffragists. She lived and died in a house on Gower Street, with a blue plaque unveiled in 1954. 2 Gower Street, Bloomsbury, WC1E 6DP. Nearest station: Russell Square or Goodge Street.

Read the rest of this entry

Nice to see ewe: Follow the Shaun In The City trails around London

Books About Town 2014 | Follow a literary trail around London

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The Mary Poppins bench by Darel Seow is located outside St Paul’s Cathedral

Just like the streets of New York City are renowned as the location to thousands of films, the lanes and roads of London are home to many a literary creation. Some of English literature’s most memorable characters have walked the streets of our iconic city, such as Mary Poppins, Oliver Twist and Sherlock Holmes.

After the success of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic mascot trails around London, Wild In Art teamed up with the National Literacy Trust this summer to create an interactive street art project which promotes literacy. Over 50 benches, shaped as open books, were created by different artists depicting different stories and characters.

The benches have been dotted around London in four areas – Bloomsbury, the City Of London, Greenwich and the South Bank from Waterloo to Tower Bridge. After the exhibition ends on 15 September, the benches will then go up for sale at a public auction at the Southbank Centre on 7 October, with proceeds going to the Literacy Trust.

Earlier this week, I followed the City Trail from the Tower Of London to St Paul’s Cathedral, taking photos when possible (when people weren’t sitting on them!). Here’s a gallery of just some of the benches.

  • Books About Town finishes on 15 September 2014. For more information and maps of the trails, check out the Books About Town website.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


For Metro Girl’s blog on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics mascot trail, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Charles Dickens’ London: Retrace the author’s steps at these historic locations

A guide to Charles Dickens’ London landmarks – where he lived, worked and socialised.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (circa 1865) by Mason & Co.
Image from Penn State Special Collections

Nearly two centuries after Charles Dickens’ first works were published, the author is still considered a legend in the literary world and is still read by millions across the world in many different languages. Many visitors (and residents) come to London in search of Charles Dickens every year. Sadly, many of the locales he frequented or wrote about are long gone, but there are still some homes in existence and sites for those wanting to make a Dickensian pilgrimage. Metro Girl has composed a list of where to find your own Dickens experience. To help you find them, they have been marked on the map below.

  • Charles Dickens Museum

Dickens lived in this Bloomsbury house from March 1837 until December 1839 when he wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. He had a three-year lease on the property, costing £80 a year. Now a museum, the Georgian house contains many artefacts and rare editions. Open daily 10am-5pm. Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 2LX. Nearest station: Russell Square. For more information, visit the Museum website. For Metro Girl’s review of the museum, click here.

  • Westminster Abbey

Charles Dickens was buried in Poets’ Corner on 19 June 1870 – five days after his death. This went against his own wishes to be buried in his home county of Kent in Rochester Cathedral. Westminster Abbey, 20 Dean’s Yard, Westminster, SW1P 3PA. Nearest station: Westminster. For more information, visit the Westminster Abbey website.

Ye Olde Chershire Cheese © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

  • Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

This famous pub on Fleet Street has stood on the site since the 16th century, with the present building rebuilt after the Fire of London in 1666. As a young reporter, Dickens is known to have drunk here and also featured the establishment in his novel A Tale Of Two Cities. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, 145 Fleet Street, EC4A 2BU. Nearest station: Blackfriars.

  • Charles Dickens’ Coffee House

A café on the ground floor of Dickens’ former offices at No. 26 Wellington Street near Aldwych. The building housed the author’s offices for his weekly magazine All The Year Round and he also resided in an apartment in the building following his separation from wife Catherine. 26 Wellington Street, WC2E 7DD. Nearest station: Covent Garden.

  • The Old Curiosity Shop

This 16th century shop was actually named The Old Curiosity Shop after Dickens’ 1840/41 novel of the same name was published, probably in a bid to cash in. However, given that Dickens lived in the area for many years, it is likely he visited it. Regardless, it’s unusual to have such an old shop still in use. The Old Curiosity Shop, 13-14 Portsmouth Street, WC2A 2ES. Nearest station: Holborn. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on the full history of the shop.

Dickens Curiousity Shop © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The Old Curiosity Shop in Holborn

 

Marshalsea wall Borough © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The remains of Marshalsea Prison in Borough

  • Angel Place (Marshalsea Prison – demolished

A brick wall is all that is left of Marshalsea Prison, where Dickens’ father John was imprisoned for debt in February 1824 when the author was just 12. Two months later, his mother and his three younger siblings also ended up at Marshalsea. Dickens, who was working at Warren’s blacking factory at Hungerford Stairs in Charing Cross at the time, visited them at the prison every Sunday until he was able to move closer at lodgings at Lant Street (the road is now home to a primary school named after him), a few minutes walk away. He used his experiences to write Little Dorrit, where the main character is born at Marshalsea. The prison was closed in 1842, although many of the buildings remained in use by small businesses throughout the Victorian era. Today, Angel Place is an alley running along the brick wall leading from Borough High Street (near the John Harvard Library) going down to Tennis Street (near Southwark Coroner’s Court), SE1. Nearest station: Borough. For the history of the prison, click here.

  • Gray’s Inn

After leaving Wellington House Academy, Dickens got a job as a junior clerk working in the offices of Ellis and Blackmore at Holborn Court in Gray’s Inn in May 1827. He worked there for 18 months, before leaving to become a reporter. The site of Holborn Court is now known as South Square. To access South Square, you can walk through Gray’s Inn Gate on High Holborn – next to the Cittie Of York pub. South Square, Gray’s Inn, Holborn, WC1R 5HP. Nearest station: Chancery Lane. For more information about Gray’s Inn, visit their official website.

  • Holborn Bars (Furnival’s Inn – demolished)

The Holborn Bars building is built on the site of Furnival’s Inn – a 14th century Inn of Chancery which was attached to Lincoln’s Inn. Dickens rented rooms at the Inn between 1834 and 1837, during which time he worked as a political journalist and started to write The Pickwick Papers. Unfortunately, the Inn was demolished in 1897, with Holborn Bars being built on the site soon afterwards. Holborn Bars, 138-142 Holborn, EC1N 2NQ. Nearest station: Chancery Lane. (see a sketch of Furnival’s Inn from 1830).

  • 15 – 17 Marylebone Road (1 Devonshire Terrace – demolished)

Dickins and his family lived at 1 Devonshire Terrace in Marylebone from 1839 until 1851. The building was demolished in the late 1950s and now an office block called Ferguson House stands on the site. A mural of Dickens has been carved into the wall, featuring the author and some of his creations, including Scrooge, Barnaby Rudge, Little Nell and Granddad, Dombey and daughter, Mrs Gamp, David Copperfield, and Mr Micawber. 15-17 Marylebone Road, NW1 5JD. Nearest stations: Regent’s Park or Baker Street. (see a photo of 1 Devonshire Terrace in 1957).

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The Dickens mural on 15-17 Marylebone Road – the site of his former home 1 Devonshire Terrace, which was demolished in the 1950s

  • 22 Cleveland Street

Dickens lived in this house as a boy on and off from 1815-16 and 1828-31. The Georgian building was a few doors down from the Cleveland Street Workhouse – which is believed to have inspired the workhouse where Oliver Twist was living at the beginning of the novel. The Grade II-listed, 18th century Workhouse building still exists, but is under threat of demolition. To find out about the campaign to save the Cleveland Street Workhouse, click here. Cleveland Street, W1T. Nearest station: Goodge Street.

  • Chandos Place and Charing Cross Station (Warren’s Blacking Warehouse – demolished)

The site of the TGI Fridays restaurant on 6 Chandos Place was one of the two locations of Warren’s Blacking Warehouse, where Dickens had to work 10 hour days to pay for his board after his father John was imprisoned at Marshalsea from 1824-25. Initially, Dickens worked on Hungerford Stairs, near the present site of Charing Cross station, where he earned six shillings a week pasting labels on bottles of boot polish. He later worked slightly north at the site on Chandos Place. Dickins hated his time there, which inspired many of his later tales. Today, a blue plaque is on the TGI Fridays building commemorating him. Nearest station: Charing Cross.

  • Le Méridien Piccadilly Hotel (St James’ Hall – demolished)

The Le Méridien Piccadilly Hotel stands on the site of St James’ Hall – where Dickens gave his last public ‘Farewell Readings’ in March 1870 – less than three months before his death. St James’ Hall was a Victorian, Gothic designed music hall which stood on the quadrant between Piccadilly and Regent Street. It was demolished in 1905, with the Piccadilly Hotel built on the site four years later. 21 Piccadilly, W1J 0BH. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus.


For more of Metro Girl’s blog posts on London history, click here.

To retrace William Shakespeare’s steps in London, click here.

photo credit: Penn State Special Collections Library via photopin cc