Walking Dickensian London Marylebone to Marble Arch is one of several routes described by Richard Jones in his marvellous book Walking Dickensian London. By following the text we learn about Dickens and his life. But we also encounter the stories of other great figures of the 19th century.
Unlike most of London, Marylebone is more or less based on a grid system. The area was developed by two aristocratic families in the 18th Century. Today much of the freehold property of Marylebone is still controlled by these two family estates; Howard de Walden and Portman.
Marylebone was originally Tyburn parish mentioned in the Domesday Book and valued at 52 shillings (£2.60, $3.40). Tyburn became Marylebone after St Mary’s Church was built in 1400 on the banks of the bourne (stream). With time it became corrupted to Marylebone. Find out more about the history of Marylebone.
The walk starts at Great Portland Street Station
On the opposite side of Marylebone Road to the station is Holy Trinity Church. Built in 1828 and designed by Sir John Soane. Originally constructed to celebrate the victory at Waterloo, it welcomed such noteworthy figures as the Duke of Wellington, Florence Nightingale, Turner and Gladstone.
Behind Holy Trinity Church is a relatively new building, the Whitehouse Hotel built in 1936. The hotel replaced an older building where Dickens had temporary lodgings in 1844. It was here that he finished the last instalment of Martin Chuzzlewit.
Just along the road is a water fountain. My companion remembers drinking from a tin cup when attached to the fountain. Unfortunately water no longer flows.
A blue plaque in York Terrace commemorates Charles Wyndham (1837-1919) who founded the West End, Wyndham Theatre. When in the US he acted alongside John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s assassin.
Back across Marylebone Road
Dickens lived next door to St Marylebone Parish Church for many years.
The Dickens family christened their son here. Charles went on to describe the ceremony in Dombey & Son as well as Mr Dombey’s second marriage. The poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning were also married here.
Next door to the church is 1 Devonshire Place where a plaque commemorates Dickens’ home from 1839-1851. It was in this house, now an office block, that he wrote The Old Curiosity Shop, Martin Chuzzlewit, A Christmas Carol, Dombey & Son and David Copperfield.
Continue down Devonshire Place to Upper Wimpole St where you’ll find a plaque to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The creator of Sherlock Holmes set up an ophthalmic practice here. He had so few patients that he whiled away his time creating the famous detective.
At number 50 Wimpole St there is another plaque. The poet Elizabeth Browning
was successfully wooed here by Robert Browning. Elizabeth’s father refused consent to the marriage which took place anyway at St Marylebone Parish Church. The couple spent most of the remainder of their life together in Italy.
Dickens Friends and Further Characters
Dickens character Lord George Gordon from Barnaby Rudge had his London residence at 64 Welbeck St. Round the corner at 18 Bentinck St the Dickens family lodged in 1833.
Captain Marryat (1792-1948) was a novelist of Naval and Children’s fiction who served in the navy from the age of 14. Marryat had an adventurous life. By the time he was 23 he’d become a naval captain. Two years later he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He went on to guard Napoleon on St Helena and was awarded the French Legion D’Honneur. After resigning from the navy and living in Belgium Marryat’s most famous book, Midshipman Easy, was published. The book was an immediate success. Whilst in Canada in 1837 he fought with the British to quell a rebellion.
In 1839 Marryat returned to London where his literary circle included Dickens. By 1841 the two men were firm friends.
Manchester Square and beyond
Halfway through the Walking Dickensian London Marylebone tour passes Manchester Square and Hertford House. This was the home of the Marquis of Hertford in the 19th century and the Wallace Collection from the beginning of the 20th.
William Thackeray in his famous novel, Vanity Fair, portrayed the 3rd Marquis of Hertford as the Marquis de Steyne. This hateful characterisation was considered so close a resemblance that the threat of libel suppressed publication of issue 11.
Portman Square was the fictional home of the Podsnap family from Our Mutual Friend. The Podsnaps have become a synonym for middle-class complacency and condescension with an over-regard for social propriety.
Cross Baker St and continue to Gloucester Place to find another property occupied by Dickens. Here at number 57, Dickens began Our Mutual Friend in 1857.
Number 63 Gloucester Place was occupied by Dickens friend, Wilkie Collins.
Dickens and the scandal of Ellen Ternan
Dickens’ acting career was at it’s peak in 1857 and so was his infatuation with Ellen Ternan. Collins and Dickens took a play on tour in the north of England where Ellen also happened to be on stage. Eventually Dickens left his wife who had born 10 children for Ellen or Nelly as she was more commonly called.
The first home of the Barretts in London was just round the corner at 99 Crawford Street.
The family moved here in 1835 and Elizabeth complained about the dirt and pollution to a friend.
Before arriving at 39 Montagu Square and the home of Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) from 1873-1880 you’ll see a plaque at No 34 that commemorates John Lennon’s stay at the address in 1968.
The adjacent Bryanston Square was Dickens setting for Mr Dombey in Dombey & Son.
The last leg of the Walking Dickensian London Marylebone.
Continue down George Street to Edgware Road. Here in 1849 Dickens and his friend Mark Lemon were walking when Lemon was pickpocketed. Lemon and Dickens gave chase and apprehended the young thief. The thief claimed he recognised Dickens from their time in gaol together. Needless to say, this caused merriment in court and the pickpocket received 3 months hard labour.
Lemon (1809-1870) was better know for founding Punch and The Field. In addition to these successful magazines he wrote over 60 plays.
At the end of Edgware Road sits 2 Connaught Place, the home of Randolph Churchill (1849-1895) and the young Winston.
The final London residence of Dickens was at Hyde Park Place. The building has been demolished and rebuilt many times. Decide whether it’s an improvement on Churchill’s old home on the opposite side of the road.
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