Thursday, 13 October 2011

Alternative London Catherine Johnson






Today, people, join me on a sort of virtual walking tour of London. A brief canter past some of the buildings that have featured or at least been reflected in some of my books. London is wonderful. There is so much to see and the past is just there under the skin of the present.
In this blog I'm going round some of the buildings that inspired me and this is the first; Bevis Marks Synagogue in the city. It is the oldest Sephardi synagogue in London built in 1701 and perfectly stunning. I am an old atheist but this is one of those buildings which could convince me to believe anything. It's open to the public at specific times and it's well worth a visit. I visited often when I was writing Hero, about a girl whose Jewish and African American family were boxers. www.bevismarks.org.uk


Next up, and not so far on foot is wonderful Wilton's Music Hall in Graces Alley just at the western end of Cable Street. That's the front door there. It is stunning inside, barley sugar twirly cast iron pillars, no harsh modern lighting, a definite, tangible link to the past. It is the oldest surviving Music Hall in London and completely magical. Hoxton Hall is good too, but not so old and crumbly. www.wiltons.org.uk

This is inside Hoxton Hall, you can just imagine Marie Lloyd singing The Girl I Love, in there. www.hoxtonhall.co.uk
I wrote Stella, about a Music Hall fortune teller because of these places, and if you can't get to see a production in either of these these buildings try and get a look round if you can. You won't be disappointed.


That lovely smoking room over there is inside the Dennis Severs House in
Spitalfields, a sort of recreation of a Georgian house which, if you're lucky
enough to visit on a quiet day can send you right back into a different time. It's not a museum more an experience, and in candlelight with the sounds of a hansom cab rattling along outside is not to be missed. It's my Nest of Vipers parlour, with Cato and Addy just left to scout for a mark...
www.dennissevershouse.co.uk

Finally my latest historical story needed a visit here, the Old Operating Theatre just across London Bridge. From the days when an operation was pure life and death drama and surgeons, showmen. This is where my new protagonist , Ezra McAdam begins his story, and although he's not working at Guys' Hospital, I imagine the one at Barts wasn't much different. If you're going, be aware the Operating theatre is in an attic and the stairs are narrow and very steep.
www.thegarret.org.uk
Happy sightseeing!

13 comments:

Catherine Johnson said...

please excuse my unlinky ability am shamed, did think I got it right too...

JO said...

Oh joy - a virtual walking tour. Walking is simply the best way to see cities - especially when you get lost. That way you find the exciting corners - and often meet the best people.

H.M. Castor said...

Catherine - I lived in London, off and on, for nearly ten years and never saw any of these places. Doh! Thank you so much for this post and the wonderful photos - each place looks intriguing and inspiring. I can appreciate from the pictures alone why they have provided material for your books. How much more stunning they must be in the flesh. I'm on a mission now - have to see them.

malrostan said...

Great post, Catherine and great pictures. If you ever decide to organise a real world walking tour, let me know. I'll definitely come with you.

Catherine Johnson said...

*Rubs hands together* History girls agm in Wiltons I think....

mary hooper said...

Lovely, Catherine. Two of my favourite places and three that I'd never heard of. Trip planned immediately...

K.M.Grant said...

I shall now use these places to impress, with an airy "If you're going to London, you should see ...' (I'll be sure to plug your books, Catherine, at the same time.) I feel I should hunt out similar places in Glasgow. Thank you for a revelatory post.

Linda B-A said...

Thank you so much for this, Catherine. I am also addicted to walking around London but living on the west side of the city I have managed thus far to avoid all bar one of the buildings you mention. Am particularly drawn to the Dennis Severs House in Spitalfields - I love it when curators enhance their exhibits with sounds. (On my side of London I think they've done a brilliant job with the recently restored Kew Palace.)

Mark Burgess said...

Dennis Severs' house is a real treat for anyone remotely interested in the 18th or 19th century and a brilliant contrast to the National Trust way of doing things. I visited a long time ago and chatted with Dennis. He was truly passionate about his house and lived in it until his untimely death.

Penny Dolan said...

Great post. Cities are so amazing when you look beyond and above the shout of the brands & signs. Knew none of these places and am fascinated by the sound of them all.

Nicky said...

Fantastic - so much I've never seen.

The Virtual Victorian said...

Wonderful - I'll be blogging on Wilton's soon as well. It is the most inspiring place - and as you say, very crumbly - but that only adds to its charm.

adele said...

This is super, Catherine...thanks for taking us round.