This post is intended for use with the Literary London walking tour and smart learning activities.
The current dining house is on the site of a tavern and rooming house that features in Dickens’s first novel The Pickwick Papers, serialized in 1836-7, commissioned following the success of Sketches by Boz. Note the bust of Dickens through the restaurant window.
Much of The Pickwick Papers takes place elsewhere and Mr Pickwick and his companions travel from inn to inn but The George and Vulture is often mentioned in the work.
Mr Pickwick is the victim of a frivolous court case and Dickens had earlier worked as a court reporter at Doctor’s Commons, which specialised in probate and divorce, and as a reporter in parliament. His hatred of corruption, obfuscation and delay stems from this time. As a reporter he was also tasked with crossing London from one end to the other, walking for hours through London’s teeming streets. His ability to observe and note down the peculiarities of people from all walks of life was helped by this early work.
“The morning of the thirteenth of February […] was a busy time for Mr Samuel Weller, who was perpetually engaged in travelling from the George and Vulture to Mr Pecker’s chambers and back again, from and between the hours of nine o’clock in the morning and two in the afternoon, both inclusive.”
“What is Nathaniel’s address, Mr Pickwick?”
“The George and Vulture, at present,” replied that gentleman.
“George and Vulture. Where is that?”
“Sun Court, Cornhill”
On the way to St Mary Woolnoth look out for a plaque commemorating the location of Edward Lloyd’s coffee house on no.16 Lombard Street, the forerunner of Lloyd’s of London. Note the golden Gresham Grasshopper above Martins Bank, founded by Thomas Gresham in 1563, and as you walk west, Pepys’s favourite coffee house, Elford’s, in Exchange Alley, now Change Alley, to your right. Also on Exchange Alley were Jonathan’s and Garraway’s coffee houses where shares trading took place. A fire in 1748 destroyed The George and Vulture, Garraway’s, Jonathan’s and the Jerusalem coffee houses. At the end of Lombard St we come to the church of St Mary Woolnoth (1716-1727), designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and mentioned in The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot in 1922.
Aspects of this place to think about
- The role of coaching inns and taverns in a society dependent on the horse
- Life in Victorian London – what might the location you’re standing in now have looked like? What sounds, smells and sights would you have seen?
- What forms of observation are peculiar to your work? What aspects of society do you see at work that others might not see?
- How much of your time do you spend in the streets? How different was this in Dickens’s time?
- Women in coffee houses, pubs and taverns
Content available at the location, about the place or area
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Img by Francis Hopkinson Smith (1838-1915) – http://www.reusableart.com/d/2046-3/buildings-04.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25169185