Lemuel Gulliver, the ‘hero’ of Jonathan Swift’s 1726 book, Gulliver’s Travels, wasn’t a native Londoner but moved to the city for work and lived in several different locations before embarking on his famous voyage to the land of Lilliput.

lemuel-gulliverAccording to the book, the Nottinghamshire-born Gulliver studied at Emanuel College (sic) in Cambridge before he was apprenticed to London surgeon known as James Bates after which he spent a couple of years studying in the Dutch town of Leiden (spelt Leydon in the book).

Returning to England briefly, he spent the next few years voyaging to the “Levant” before returning to London where he “took part of a small house in Old Jewry” (Old Jewry lies in the City of London runs between Poultry and Gresham Street) and married Mary Burton, daughter of a Newgate Street hosier.

His master Bates dying, however, a couple of years later and with a failing business, he took up the position of surgeon on two different ships and it was when he eventually returned to London that he moved to Fetter Lane – which runs north from Fleet Street – and then from there to Wapping where hoping to retire from the sea and “get business (presumably he meant medical cases) among the sailors”.

But it was not to be and so, in 1699, Mr Gulliver set off on the voyage accounted in the famous book.

The name Fetter Lane, incidentally, has nothing to do with fetters (ie chains) – see our earlier post for more. And it’s also worth noting that the author, Jonathan Swift, also visited and lived in London at various times of his career – we’ll take a more in depth look at his experiences in a later post.

PICTURE: Lemuel Gulliver, depicted in a first edition of Gulliver’s Travels/Wikipedia.

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Old-Royal-Naval-College

When the makers of the 2010 Jack Black movie Gulliver’s Travels were looking for suitably grand buildings to represent the Lilliputian capital, they turned to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the World Heritage-listed site made a grand backdrop for the film in which a supersized Black plays Gulliver, the hero of Jonathan Swift’s book (incidentally Blenheim Palace near Oxford also makes an appearance in the film).

It’s not the first time, of course, that the location has featured in recent films – in fact, such has been its popularity that Empire asked last year whether it was the most popular film location in the world.

Other films in which the Old Royal Naval College appears have included The Dark Knight Rises (where it features in the epilogue), Les Miserables (where the buildings represent a part of a Paris featuring a gigantic wooden elephant which is home to the street urchin Gavroche), and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (where the spectacular Painted Hall, designed by Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, represents the King’s palace).

It has also appeared in both of the recent Sherlock Holmes films as well as a host of others – everything from The Mummy Returns to The Madness of King George and Charlotte Gray.

For more on the history of the Old Royal Naval College, check out our previous post here and here.