Make the most of London

 

Exploring London on foot

Posted by London Guided Walks on Sunday, August 24, 2014 Under: Quirky

“London is a city that needs, that demands, to be explored on foot.”
Geoff Nicholson, The Lost Art of Walking


The pace of London and its people moves so fast that the ability of being able to observe and absorb one’s surroundings certainly requires the speed of travel be slowed down. And what better speed to decrease down to than that of walking? It is a way of actually shifting a state of consciousness.

There are many nooks and crannies of London that cannot be seen and/or appreciated at any other speed or by a different method of transport, Boris bike and Google Street map included. One example of this would be Gwynne Place in Clerkenwell.

The novel Riceyman Steps was written by Staffordshire author Arnold Bennett and published in 1923. This is a richly layered novel set in Clerkenwell, London. The famed Riceyman steps "lead from King's Cross Road up to Riceyman Square". In real life these steps are of Gwynne Place and Riceyman Square is Granville Square.

The vividly realised central characters in the novel are; second-hand bookshop proprietor, Henry Earlforward, neighbouring shop owner Violet Arb and their shared servant, the young and widowed Elsie.

Earlforward inherited the bookshop from his uncle, who died shortly after giving Henry an excitable account of Clerkenwell's history. Is this a foreshadowing?

They key episode of the area’s history is the arrival of the first underground railway in the world. At first, the railway was greatly desired, bringing with it the anticipation of increased commerce and prosperity.

Hopes are shattered as perilous construction work shook foundations and endangered lives and so became feared and loathed. 

"All Clerkenwell was mad for the line. But when the construction began all Clerkenwell trembled. The earth opened in the most unexpected and undesirable places."

If you venture into the square you will see on both the north and south sides of Granville Square that there are evident seems within the brickwork. This is evidence of the houses on the West side of the square once having been removed. This was done in anticipation of the railway. When the space was not required a new terrace was built.

Arnold Bennett suggests that something as powerful and deep as the railway will shake his own characters' lives. The evocation of Clerkenwell, its architecture, history, and indeed the shop itself, induce feelings of claustrophobia. Miser Henry is as securely locked into his world as his coins and notes are locked away in his safe.

Deeply attracted to one another, Henry and Violet marry. The couple spend their 'honeymoon' visiting Madam Tussaud's and it’s Chamber of Horrors. Did they perhaps shiver together when confronted with the wax work of Dr Crippen? They economise on the return tram fare. Is this the second foreshadowing?

Henry's truly 'grand passion,' his miserliness, slowly increases in its presence. When tragedy strikes it’s not due of the dodgy electricity supply but something much more sinister; deeper. It arises from his inability and unwillingness to be anything but rationally devoted to his love of the green stuff. The once bright and cheerful Violet is caught in the web of his obstinacy. After only a year Violet fades and tragedy looms, both as stark reality and metaphor.

Their 24yr old servant Elsie lives in Riceyman Square. She had surprised her employers on their marriage by throwing rice, tying a shoe to the bed and providing a cake. Elsie yearns for the return of her shell-shocked lover, Joe. Only when the Clerkenwell newspaper vendors trumpet "Love and Death" will Elsie and Joe's story resume. Bennett touches the nerve ends with this brilliant novel.

Whizzing down the top of Baker Street you may fail also to notice two brown plaques on Chiltern Court. One reads: “The Arnold Bennett Society Arnold Bennett, author 1867 – 1931 lived, worked and died here, 1930-1931. The second brown plaque reads: The H.G. Wells Society H.G. Wells, author, 1866 - 1946, lived and worked here, 1930 - 1936. 

And so it appears that Arnold Bennett and H.G. Wells were neighbours within Chiltern Court, Baker Street. Now, how do you put those bits together when zooming around and not exploring on foot?

Book a private London guided walk


In : Quirky 


Tags: walking 
comments powered by Disqus

Tags

"online bookings' cpd #earthrise 17th 1930s 50th a abbey adele afternoon afternoon tea age ages alastair ancient and animals annie anniversary apps architecture arsenal art arts attack awards baker bank bankside barbican bathhouses bazalgette bear beasts bexley bishopsgate black blitz bombers books borough bowie breakfast brewery brick bridge britain british bronze bronze age brunch burger burlesque buses cabaret cake canal canary captain carl carol caroline cathedral cemetery cenotaph century chapman charles charlton cheap cheapside cheese childhood chips chiswick chocolate christmas church city city of london clerkenwell cocktails coffee coffeehouses company concert corporate covent covent garden covid-19 crime cross crown cruise danson david day december deptford dick dickens dinner do dock dockland museum dragons dreamtime earth east eat eating eats ecommerce edward edwin egypt end ernst event events exhibition exhibitions facebook fairytale fall family fantastic farringdon february festival film finance fire first fiscus florence folklore food for francis free friars gallery galliard garden george georgian german germany gibb gift grade great greenhithe greenwich group guided guides half hall halsk harle harry potter havering havering hoard hawksmoor hazel heroes hidden highbury hill hilton history holloway homes hot hotel house how i ian ianmcd ice cream icelandic ii iii in india inigo islington italian iv jack jack the ripper james jenny jewels johns jones joseph katharines kelly kenneth kew gardens kids kidstours killer kim kings kingston lambeth lane lewis lights limestone literature liverpool locations londinium london london bridge london's londoners lunch lutyens magnus market markets martyr mary maufe mayfair mcdiarmid measure medical medieval memorial middle millennium mock-tudor modern montague month monument moorgate mosaic murder murderers museum museum of london docklands music musicals n7 national gallery national history museum ned new newcomen news nhs nichols night nightingale nurse of old street oliver open opera paddington pancakes pandemic panoramic park parties path pauls people photo photograhy photography photos pizza places plantation plays plumstead podcast poetry pokemon polly pop poplar prince priory private tours pub public purbeck qe2 queen queenhithe quirky recording reid religion rembrandt renaissance restoration ripper river road rob roman roundhouse royal saga saxon sculpture scupture seacole second serial sewers siemens sir slave smartphone smith smithfield smithfields soap soho somme south southbank southwark spitalfields spy squirrels ss st statue stories street stuart studios subscription sugar summer susan sydenham tate tea term thames thamesmeade the theatre thiepval things things to do thrifty thriftytheatre to tour tours tower trade travel truman tudor tumblety twelfth twist und underground update v&a ve victoria victorian victorian london viking virtual vouchers wales walk walking walks wall war water werner west wharf wheeler whitechapel wilde wildlife willelm william wine winter women wood woodland woolwich world wyatt york 1888 2019 2020

LONDON GUIDED WALKS:

LEARN MORE:

CONNECT WITH US:

USEFUL LINKS:

Site by Hazel  |  Photographs by Hazel or Ian