England

London – William Blake

The great 18th century English poet, William Blake, died 190 years ago, today.
Blake was influenced by the ideals of the French and American revolutions and was a non-conformist who was opposed to organised religion. He was buried in the Dissenter’s burial ground in Bunhill Fields.
There is a memorial window to William Blake in Wesley’s Chapel, across the road from Bunhill Fields.

London Wesley Chapel 1

London – Bloomsbury 3

The area surrounding Russell Square is closely associated with the Bloomsbury Group, that collection of writers, philosophers and artists that was so influential in the first half of the 20th century. The poet, T.S. Eliot, was on the periphery of this group with Virginia and Leonard Woolf publishing his poem “The Waste Land” in 1923.

T.S Eliot’s later poems were published by Faber and Faber, the company where he also worked as an editor. Faber and Faber were located in a building, on the north western corner of Russell Square, which is now part of the University of London.

ts-eliot-plaque-london

Dickens in Rochester 2

Across the road from the Bull Hotel is the 17th century Guildhall which is now a museum. In Great Expectations, Pip is apprenticed to Joe Gargery in the Guildhall, with Dickens describing the building as a “queer place with pews higher than a church”.

Visiting the Guildhall today you can still see its ornately decorated rooms, plus recreations of scenes from the Victorian era, and a display and diorama about Dickens. There is a very evocative display about the Hulks, old warships that were moored in the Medway River and used as floating gaols. Magwitch, the convict who attacks Pip in the beginning of Great Expectations, escaped from one of these prisons.

Guildhall Rochester

 

Dickens in Rochester 1

A few years ago we visited the cathedral town of Rochester in search of connections to Charles Dickens.

The great author spent some of his childhood and a lot of his adult life in places near Rochester, so it’s not surprising that different parts of the town appear in several of his novels. What is surprising though, is that the centre of Rochester has remained largely untouched into the 21st century, and you get a real sense of what Dickensian England was like when you wander its narrow streets.

Dickens set some of the opening scenes of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, at the Bull Hotel on Rochester’s High Street. Dickens sometimes stayed in this old coaching inn which was built in the late 18th century.

Rochester is only 50km south east of London and is easily reached by train from London’s Victoria Station.

Bull Hotel Rochester