A Christmas Carol in the Heart of London
Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843 and the universal story about love, charity and family is still gripping our imaginations today.
Dickens was inspired by what he saw on the streets of London around him, growing up in poverty and later using what he had to start charities for Londoners who needed him most. We can vividly imagine the streets of London on the pages of his books, and it’s no different in A Christmas Carol. We’ve taken a closer look at some of the possible locations in the story.
Newman’s Court, EC3
‘What’s Christmas-time but a time for paying bills without money, a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer?’
Scrooge’s money-lending office is where we are first introduced to the man himself, along with his underpaid and long-suffering clerk, Bob Cratchit. Dickens wrote that when Bob leaves for the day, he exits the office via Cornhill in the City of London, suggesting Scrooge’s place of work is in Newman’s Court – in a tiny alley overlooked by St Michael Cornhill church. In Cornhill you’ll now also be able to find the Counting House pub.
Simpson’s Tavern, Ball Court, EC3V
‘It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep a distance’
It’s Christmas Eve and Scrooge isn’t going to spend it with family. He heads off alone to his ‘usual melancholy tavern’, and although Dickens never says the name, it’s likely that it’s the nearby Simpson’s Tavern on Ball Court. You can still visit it today – London’s oldest chop house which has been open since 1757.
Lime Street, EC3V
‘You will be haunted, by three spirits’
Scrooge arrives home on Christmas Eve, the night he will be greeted by the three spirits. His house is the perfect setting for such an encounter, described by Dickens as a ‘gloomy suite of rooms in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be…one could scarcely help fancying it might have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again’. With this description, and the directions Scrooge gives to the passing boy on Christmas Day, it’s believed that the house lies in the vicinity of Lime Street, a narrow, winding road hidden between Fenchurch Street and Leadenhall Street – now in the shadow of the Walkie Talkie and the Lloyds of London buildings.
Bayham Street, Camden, NW1
‘A family very worth sharing Christmas with’
Bob Cratchit and his family, including Tiny Tim, quite possibly resided in Camden – which would have been quite a commute from the City at the time, and an area of extreme poverty. Dickens’ family also lived in Bayham Street before his father was sent to debtors’ prison.
The Royal Exchange, EC3V
‘I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may change the way the world spins’
It’s the job of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to show Scrooge what will happen if he doesn’t change his ways. In the book, Scrooge is taken to the Royal Exchange by the third spirit – what was then the City’s main financial hub – and he is horrified to see that when he dies, his business associates discuss his death casually and talk about the fact that no one will attend his funeral.
Leadenhall Market, EC3V
‘And Scrooge ran out into Christmas Day morning and he was a very different Scrooge than the one who left his door the morning before’
On Christmas Day, Scrooge awakens transformed and asks a passing boy to fetch him a prize turkey and have it delivered to the Cratchits. It’s very likely this would have been purchased in Leadenhall Market which was London’s go-to place for buying fowl.
If you’d like to explore Dickens’ London and its connections to A Christmas Carol further, we’re giving you the chance to win a hand-drawn Dickens walking map thanks to The Literary Map Company, along with a pair of tickets to see our production of A Christmas Carol in January. Head over to our Twitter page to find out more.