February 5, 2014
We’ve finished our special looking at 10 fictional character addresses in London so here’s a quick recap of the series. We’ll be launching a new special series next week…
January 29, 2014
In this, the final in our series looking at fictional character addresses, we take a look at the home of Lord and Lady Bellamy and then the Holland family from the two TV series of Upstairs Downstairs.
The first five series, which ran from 1971-1975, followed the lives of the somewhat ill-fated Bellamy family and spanned the period from the early 1900s until 1930.
The second, short-lived, incarnation, which the first series of which aired on the BBC only a couple of years ago before the second in 2012 (after which it was cancelled), picked up the story six years later.
It follows the lives of the Hollands, who take up residence in what had been the Bellamy’s residence at 165 Eaton Place in Belgravia (Jean Marsh, one of the original show’s creators who played head parlour maid Rose in the original series, returned as housekeeper – the only original cast member in the newer series).
There is an actual Eaton Place in Belgravia but it doesn’t go up to number 165. The original series used a house located at 65 Eaton Place for exterior shots (they added a 1 to the front of the 65 although no interiors were shot here) although the newer series apparently used a property based in Leamington Spa.
The property at 65 Eaton Place, meanwhile, was apparently part of a development built in 1824 by renowned builder Thomas Cubitt on the orders of the 2nd Marquess of Westminster, Richard Grosvenor.
Among the many real residents over the years (when the property was no longer used as a single home but had been divided into flats) was the rather scandalous Lady Alexandra Metcalfe, youngest daughter of Lord Curzon, a former Foreign Secretary and Viceroy of India.
We’ll launch a new special series next Wednesday.
The adventurous, wealthy and rather mysterious Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days, is noted in the book’s first line as living at “No. 7 Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814”.
It’s from there that he and his delightfully named French valet, Passepartout, set off on their breakneck trip around the world after Fogg, a “doubtful” Londoner who was a member of the Reform Club based nearby in Pall Mall (“and that was all” – his history was something of an unknown), makes a £20,000 bet that he can travel around the world in just 80 days – a bet which sees him travel by everything from trains to elephants and overcome all sorts of obstacles as he attempts the feat.
But back to London and Savile Row in the inner west London area of Mayfair. The Irish-born playwright and MP Richard Brinsley Sheridan did indeed live in Savile Row – but at number 14 rather than at number 7 (and he died in 1816, not 1814 as claimed in the book).
There is a plaque on the townhouse mentionig Sheridan’s residence (but not Fogg’s) which today is occupied by tailors Hardy Amies. Amies himself purchased the property, which was restored in 2009, in 1947, reportedly with the backing of Cary Grant’s ex-wife, actress Virginia Cherril.
For more on Savile Row’s history, see Henry Poole: Founders of Savile Row – The Making of a Legend.
December 18, 2013
He secretly listens in – via an open window – while Mrs Darling tells bedtime stories to her children – Wendy, John and Michael – but during one visit loses his shadow and it’s on returning to claim it that he meets Wendy and, well, you know the rest…
Peter Pan is most famously associated with Kensington Gardens – it’s here that we are first introduced to the character of Peter in the book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (in fact there’s a rather famous statue of him there to this day, pictured above) – it’s most often assumed that the Darling’s house must be nearby.
But, in fact, the book Peter and Wendy never states where the Darlings’ house is located exactly – just that it is at number 14 in the street in which they live – while in the 1904 play the address is given as “a rather depressed street” in Bloomsbury. Barrie explains that he placed the Darlings’ house in Bloomsbury because Mr Roget (of Thesaurus fame) once lived there and “we whom he has helped to wend our way through life have always wanted to pay him a little compliment”.
Worth noting, however, is a property at 31 Kensington Park Gardens. Once the home of the Llewellyn Davies family, family friend Barrie was a frequent visitor here and in fact went on to adopt the five Llewellyn Davies children following the death of their parents in the early 1900s. The property, which is divided into a series of flats, is, as a result, said to have been something of a model for the Darling’s house.
Barrie, himself, meanwhile, owned a house at 100 Bayswater Road – not far from Kensington Gardens where he first meet the Llewellyn Davies family – but, interestingly, had previously lived in Bloomsbury. The house is marked with a blue plaque.
Another Peter Pan-related address we have to mention is that of the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children to which Barrie gave the rights to receive royalties from Peter Pan in perpetuity. You can arrange for a tour of the hospital’s Peter Pan-related memorabilia.
For more on the story behind the writing of Peter Pan, see Andrew Birkin’s book, J.M.Barrie and the Lost Boys.
December 4, 2013
Once at the heart of one of London’s most infamous rookeries or slums, Saffron Hill – located between Holborn and Clerkenwell – is forever associated with Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel, Oliver Twist, and in particular with the arch criminal Fagin.
In the text, Fagin’s den is located “near Field Lane” (the southern extension of Saffron Hill beyond Greville Street) and it is here that Fagin’s young associate, Jack Dawkins (better known as the Artful Dodger), takes Oliver after first encountering him.
As Oliver is led down Saffron Hill, Dickens records his thoughts and it’s worth quoting to get a flavour of the place as he saw it: “A dirtier of more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours. There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade appeared to be heaps of children, who, even at that time of night, were crawling in and out at the doors, or screaming from the inside. The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the general blight of the place, were the public-houses; and in them, the lowest orders of Irish were wrangling with might and main. Covered ways and yards, which here and there diverged from the main street, disclosed little knots of houses, where drunken men and women were positively wallowing in filth; and from several of the door-ways, great ill-looking fellows were cautiously emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed or harmless errands.” (Oliver Twist, p. 55, Vintage, 2007)
Saffron Hill, known as London’s Italian quarter in the 19th century, takes its name from the saffron which was once grown here but which was not to be seen by the time Dickens’ wrote his book. As well as Fagin’s lair, the street is also home to salubrious pub The Three Cripples, Bill Sikes’ favoured watering-hole (The Three Cripples was apparently the name of a lodging house in Saffron Hill during Dickens’ time – it was located next to a pub called The One Tun) .
It’s worth noting that this is only one of many addresses in London associated with Dickens’ characters but the ill-fated Fagin does stand out as one of his most memorable.
PICTURE: Saffron Hill as it is now.
For more on Dickens’ London, check out Alex Werner’s Dickens’s Victorian London: The Museum of London.
November 27, 2013
A vast expanse of forested parkland in south-west London, Wimbledon Common is also home to the burrow of those pointy-nosed furry (and extremely environmentally-friendly) creatures known as The Wombles.
Created by the late author Elisabeth Beresford, the Wombles apparently have their origin in a walk Ms Beresford took with her children on the Common during which one of them referred to their location as Wombledon Common.
The Wombles of Wimbledon Common – who include Bungo, Orinoco, Tobermory, Miss Adelaide, Madame Cholet, and Great Uncle Bulgaria – appeared in more than 20 books written by Beresford with the first, The Wombles, published in 1968. They’ve also starred in a couple of TV series, made a number of other TV appearances, released some albums and even had their own stage show and a movie, Wombling Free, released in 1977.
Much of the action in the books takes place on Wimbledon Common (which along with the adjoining Putney Common covers some 460 hectares) where they all live in a burrow, recycling rubbish they find discarded by humans.
Features of Wimbledon Common include the Wimbledon Windmill Museum (see our earlier post on it here) and a number of ponds including Rushmere Pond which lies close to Wimbledon Village and probably has a medieval origin.
For more on Wimbledon Common, check out www.wpcc.org.uk.
For more on London’s parks and gardens, see David Hampshire’s London’s Secrets: Parks & Gardens.
November 20, 2013
This is one property for which there is no ‘real’ address – 17 Cherry Tree Lane doesn’t exist except in the pages of PL Travers’ books about Mary Poppins (and the many subsequent adaptions including the famous 1964 musical film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke).
But we do know that the home of Mr and Mrs Banks – the couple who hired Ms Poppins as a nanny for their children Jane, Michael and baby twins John and Barbara – is believed to have been located somewhere in London – possibly somewhere to the north-west of the city close to The Regent’s Park and within an easy commute of the Bank of England (pictured) where Mr Banks worked.
While some of the locations featured in the book and the film – such as the Bank and, of course, St Paul’s Cathedral (remember the lady who fed the birds?) – do exist – there is also at least one residential property related to Mary Poppins which does as well.
According to Ed Glinert, author of Literary London, the model for Admiral Boom’s house a little further along Cherry Tree Lane – you may recall him firing his cannon on the 1964 film – can be found in Admiral’s Walk in Hampstead. The property was apparently once home to the nineteenth century architect George Gilbert Scott.
November 13, 2013
OK, so the debate may continue over whether Sweeney Todd was an actual person (according to author Peter Haining, the real Todd, born in Brick Lane, is supposed to have been hanged in 1802) or a fictional character, but, suspending that debate for the moment, we’re including the infamous Fleet Street barber in this list.
Known as the “demon barber of Fleet Street”, Todd first appeared in literature as a murderer in the Victorian serial, The String of Pearls: A Romance, published in a weekly periodical, and soon became a staple of the Victorian theatre, later appearing in numerous plays and films including the 2007 Johnny Depp vehicle, Sweeney Todd.
His MO usually involved cutting his unsuspecting victim’s throat and then, using a specially constructed barber’s chair, dropping the body into the cellar. There, he and his associate, Mrs Lovett, would rob them (alternatively, other versions have him dropping the customers into the cellar first and then, if needed, finishing them off).
Mrs Lovett would then dispose of the remains by baking them into pies and selling them via her pie shop located nearby in Bell Yard. The story goes that the cellar was linked to nearby Bell Yard via tunnels.
Sweeney Todd was supposed to have terrorised London in the late 18th century and his barber shop was apparently located at 186 Fleet Street in London – right next to St Dunstan-in-the-West. The site is now occupied by a former newspaper office – that of the Dundee Courier (pictured above, left).
For Peter Haining’s book on Sweeney Todd, see Sweeney Todd: The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
November 6, 2013
The address might not immediately ring a bell but it will when we tell you this was the home of London’s most famous bear, Paddington.
First appearing in A Bear Called Paddington published on 13th October, 1958, Paddington Bear was the brainchild of Michael Bond, who was apparently inspired a couple of years earlier when he spotted a lonely teddy bear sitting on a shop shelf in a store near Paddington Station (a bear which he subsequently bought and gave to his wife as a Christmas present).
In the books, Paddington – who is typically depicted wearing a blue duffel coat, old hat and Wellington boots – was found at Paddington Railway Station by the Brown family with a note asking that he be looked after (he had been a stowaway on board a ship from Peru, put their by his Aunt Lucy who had gone to a retirement home in Lima).
Naming him Paddington after being unable to say his Peruvian name (it turns out later to be Pastuso), the family take the bear back to their large semi-detacted home at 32 Windsor Gardens, just around the corner from the station (his room ends up being located at the top of the house).
A Windsor Gardens does actually exist but it apparently has no connection with the Browns’ address which is said to have been wholly imaginary. The real Windsor Gardens is a tiny and rather unappealing cul-de-sac off Harrow Road, between Notting Hill and Maida Vale, and doesn’t even have a number 32.
Paddington, known for his love of marmalade, went on to appear in 13 books by Bond – selling more than 30 million copies around the world – and has been the subject of numerous other versions and spin-offs and even a couple of TV series. There’s also a movie in the works with a projected release date of Christmas 2014 and he’s also depicted in a statue by Marcus Cornish at Paddington Station.
For more on Paddington, see www.paddingtonbear.com.
PICTURE: Lonpicman/Wikimedia Commons
Since we’re talking about the homes of detectives, we’ll continue on that trend with a look at the home of Agatha Christie’s creation Hercule Poirot as it appears in the TV series of the same name (now in its 13th and final season).
The Belgian-born detective, who featured in some 33 novels and 65 short stories, rose to the rank of the police chief of the city Brussels before the outbreak of World War I forced him to leave his home for England. There he met up with his friend Captain Arthur Hastings – they had apparently previously met – and undertakes some government work before eventually embarking upon his new career as a private detective.
He subsequently moves into an art deco flat which becomes his workplace and home at 56B Whitehavens Mansions (he apparently chose the building based on its symmetry). In the TV show, the art deco block chosen to represent this building is the Grade II-listed Florin Court, located on the eastern side of Charterhouse Square in Smithfield.
Actually built in 1936 – well after Poirot apparently moved in – the nine floor building has a curvaceous facade and boasts some 120 flats along with a basement swimming pool and rooftop garden. Interestingly, last July there was a fire in a first floor flat causing the entire building to be evacuated.
Poirot apparently lived in a couple of different apartments in the building and was also known at times to reside in The Savoy Hotel and The Park Lane Hotel.
PICTURE: Goodwillgames/Wikimedia Commons
October 23, 2013
Today we kick off our new Wednesday series with a look at some of the most famous addresses in London where fictional characters once lived. Most, if not all, of the addresses we’ll look at are not fictional in themselves – they do actually exist – but the characters said to have lived there owe their lives solely to the imaginations of their creators and the readers and audiences who have loved and admired them.
To kick it off, we take a quick look at what is certainly the most visited address of a fictional character in London – 221b Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes and his associate Dr John Watson.
So, to somewhat recap, the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has Holmes and Watson living at this address from 1881 (it becomes their address in the first book featuring them – A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887) to 1904 when Holmes retired (Watson was not a continual presence here, moving in and out a couple of times).
What’s interesting is that the address now belongs to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, although in terms of the other numbers in the street, this is actually located between numbers 237 and 241 (in a street which was, prior to the 1930s, known as Upper Baker Street).
What is now number 221 is a 1930s art deco building formerly known as Abbey House (but this would have been 41 Upper Baker Street in 1887). It was the headquarters of Abbey National which had a long-running dispute with the museum over the right receive mail at the address 221b (since the closure of Abbey House in the early Noughties, the museum has received the mail).
It should be noted that there are also numerous other theories over the ‘real’ location of 221b Baker Street – in particular one which suggests the real address is opposite the former location of Camden House in Baker Street, thanks to a reference in The Empty House.
The museum, which is located in a house built in 1815, is set up as it was in Holmes’ day and contains his first floor study, filled with artefacts relating to the many cases he solved – including his famous pipe as well as his deerstalker hat, magnifying glass, violin, and the wicker chair which was used in Sidney Paget’s famous illustrations.
Other rooms include Dr Watson’s small second floor bedroom and the housekeeper Mrs Hudson’s room.
Worth noting is that there is also reconstruction of Holmes’ study at The Sherlock Holmes pub, located at 10-11 Northumberland Street in Westminster. This had been created for the Festival of Britain in 1951 by the Marylebone Borough Library and Abbey National and was located at Abbey House. For on this, check out the Westminister Libraries & Archives site.
WHERE: The Sherlock Holmes Museum, 221b Baker Street (nearest Tube station is Baker Street); WHEN: 9.30am to 6pm daily; COST: £8 adults; £5 children (under 16); WEBSITE: www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk.