London: Step by Step – Old Curiosity Shop

 
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The Old Curiosity Shop

Walking around an ancient capital city like London is a pleasure.

As well as enjoying the sights, smells and sounds, you still have to have your wits about you. And be ready to take in the enormous amount of history around you. The weather was perfect for walking. No rain and intermittent sunshine. I took the tube from Shepherd’s Bush to Covent Garden where a lift takes one from the bowels of the earth to the street above.

“Covent Garden” (covent was the Middle English form of the word convent) was the name given, during the reign of King John around 1200, to a 40-acre patch of land in London, bordered by St. Martin’s Lane and Drury Lane. In this quadrangle the Abbey or Convent of St. Peter, Westminster, maintained a large kitchen garden throughout the Middle Ages to provide its daily food. Over the next three centuries, the monks’ old “convent garden” became a major source of fruit and vegetables in London and was managed by a succession of leaseholders by grant from the Abbot of Westminster.

Covent Garden is now a market complex for clothing, restaurants and buskers. Then to Drury Lane theatre and into a café opposite for a piece of cheesecake. It’s important to enjoy a scheduled morning tea, especially when walking around a major international capital.

I popped down a side street view the Roman Baths and then to Mary Le Strand – a church that now stands in the middle of a main road. I visited Victoria House to read the Australian. Then to the Old Curiosity Shop which is still open for business, located at 13–14 Portsmouth Street, Westminster, in amongst the London School of Economics. Charles Dickens wrote a novel titled, ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ and the plot follows the life of Nell Trent and her grandfather, both residents of The Old Curiosity Shop in London around 1825.

The building dates back to the sixteenth century, but this name was added after the novel was released, as it was thought to be the inspiration for Dickens’ description of the antique shop. At one time it functioned as a dairy on an estate given by King Charles II to one of his many mistresses. It was made using the wood from old ships and the building survived the bombs of Second World War.

Then Lincoln Inn Fields – a park like area with tennis courts. Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the largest public square in London, England. It is thought to have been one of the inspirations of Central Park, New York. It takes its name from the adjacent Lincoln’s Inn.

Lincoln’s Inn is separated from Lincoln’s Inn Fields by a perimeter wall and a large gatehouse. The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn is one of four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar.

Enough of the law and gardens. And on to Ye Olde Chesire Cheese.  It is one of a number of London inns to have been rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. There has been an inn at this location since 1538. While there are several older pubs which have survived because they were beyond the reach of the fire, or built of stone, Ye Olde Chesire is attractive because of its gloomy charm. On the right of the front door there is a list of all the monarchs who have reigned in England during the inn’s time.

Well, I had covered some history and quite a few kms. Time for afternoon tea back at Shepherd’s Bush.

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