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‘A Christmas Carol’… London Locations

As the festive season approaches, I always enjoy returning to one of my favourite Charles Dickens novels- A Christmas Carol’.

First edition cover for 'A Christmas Carol'.

First edition cover for ‘A Christmas Carol’.

During his celebrated career, Dickens wrote many Yuletide stories, including A Christmas Tree (1850), The Child’s Story’ (1852) and What Christmas is as We Grow Older’ (1851).

However, A Christmas Carolwritten in a matter of days and first published on the 19th December 1843, remains his seasonal masterpiece.

At its core, the tale is one of a once decent man who has gradually become corrupted by money, spurning true love in favour of a lust for all things fiscal.

Ebenezer Scrooge, as played by Sir Patrick Stewart in a 1999 adaptation.

Ebenezer Scrooge, as played by Sir Patrick Stewart in a 1999 adaptation.

This moral fairy-tale is spiced up with lashings of Christmassy imagery… and of course a bunch of persuasive ghosts, who guide the wretched miser towards a glorious redemption…

Original illustration depicting the Ghost of Christmas Present paying a visit to Scrooge in his London home...

Original illustration depicting the Ghost of Christmas Present- paying a visit to Scrooge in his London home…

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Like the vast majority of Dickens’ novels, many of the scenes featured in A Christmas Carol are planted firmly within specific London locations.

In the opening lines, the reader is told that “Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to.

Change‘ in this case is a shortened nickname which Victorian Londoners gave to the ‘Royal Exchange‘ the vital hub of commerce (now converted into a luxury shopping mall) which overlooks Bank Junction.

The Royal Exchange, Bank Junction- the early hub of commerce which is referred to in the opening lines of Dickens' classic Christmas tale.

The Royal Exchange, Bank Junction- the early hub of commerce which is referred to in the opening lines of Dickens’ classic Christmas tale.

Ebenezer Scrooge’s counting house is based right in the heart of the City on an allyway off of Cornhill, moments way from the Bank of England. 

Cornhill today (image: Google Streetview).

Cornhill today (image: Google Streetview).

Scrooge doesn’t have to commute very far to work; his haunted house being located a short walk away at 45 Lime Street; a twisting lane linking Leadenhall and Fenchurch Street.

Lime Street today (image: Google Streetview).

Lime Street today… looking far sunnier than Scrooge’s day! (image: Google Streetview).

In the story, Scrooge’s Lime Street dwelling is described as being:

A gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had little business to be…

The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands…”

It is in this sombre location that Ebenezer Scrooge has his first taste of the hauntings that are about to follow… as the ghostly face of his long-deceased partner, Jacob Marley, briefly materializes on the door knocker.

This eerie scene was wonderfully portrayed in the famed 1951 adaptation, starring the late, great Scottish actor, Alastair Sim:

Lime Street has changed considerably since Dickensian days.

Today, it is home to the towering headquarters of Lloyds Insurance; a glistening piece of architecture which was unveiled in 1986 and has been celebrated for its ultra-modern appearance ever since…

Lloyds Building, Lime Street (image: Wikipedia).

Lloyds Building, Lime Street (image: Wikipedia).

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Returning to the novel, Bob Cratchit- Scrooge’s downtrodden clerk and proud father of sickly child, Tiny Tim, lives north of the City in Camden Town.

Bob Cratchit holding his son, Tiny Tim. In 'A Christmas Carol', Bob and his beloved family reside in Camden...

Bob Cratchit holding his son, Tiny Tim. In ‘A Christmas Carol’, Bob and his beloved family reside in Camden…

Today of course, Camden is famed for being hip, cool and trendy; a hive of colourful markets and bustling bars.

One of Camden Market's many tucked away corners...

One of Camden Market’s many tucked away corners…

In Dickens’ time however, Camden Town was a poverty-ridden slum.

The area towards the east of Camden- around Agar Grove– was especially notorious. In 1851, Dickens described the area as being:

A complete bog of mud and filth with deep-cart ruts, wretched hovels, the doors blocked up with mud…the stench of a rainy morning is enough to knock down a bullock.

A Victorian depiction of the Agar Town slum...

A Victorian depiction of the Agar Town slum…

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Thankfully, there is another far more cheerful connection which Camden can claim to share with A Christmas Carol

In 1992, The Muppet Christmas Carol‘ was released in cinemas.

A Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992

To the uninitiated, an adaptation of the classic tale starring Kermit the Frog and a host of muppets may sound rather unconventional.

However, the film actually does a terrific job of capturing the true spirit of Dickens’ original story; the melancholy, the spookiness, the redemption and joy.

And the link with Camden?

Well, not far from Camden High Street there runs a quiet, cobbled street called Oval Road.

From 1990 to 2005, Oval Road was home to the ‘Jim Henson Creature Shop; a studio in which countless muppets were lovingly created for an array of movies and TV shows.

Jim Henson's former Muppet workshop on Oval Road in Camden.

Jim Henson’s former Muppet workshop (now converted into an apartment block)  on Oval Road, Camden (image: Google Streetview).

It was in Camden therefore, that the huge cast of muppets featured in the following, uplifting clip were born! (Please note though; Sir Michael Caine is very much real!)

Merry Christmas!

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One response

  1. […] A Christmas Carol’ London Locations – A View From The Mirror looks at locations from the famous Dickens work. […]

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