• LOCATION 12 | Charles Dickens from Furnival's Inn to Doughty Street

    Brownlow Mews

    Now turn right on this small, cobbled street. This is Brownlow Mews.

    As you walk, take a moment to appreciate how quiet it is. Mews were originally the unsalubrious back streets behind wealthy houses. They were where the stables and coach houses were and where animals were kept. The word "mews" comes from the French verb "muer", which means "to moult". This is because the original Royal Mews was where the king's hunting birds were kept during their moulting season.

    Although most people only know about A Christmas Carol, Dickens actually wrote five Christmas books. One was called The Chimes, and was written while Dickens and his family were living in Genoa, in Italy. Its title was inspired by all the church bells around their Genoese home - although the story itself is set in London. In The Chimes, the main character, Trotty Veck, invites a lost stranger to spend the night at his home in a mews and apologises for living in such a poor, humble home.

    Today, in contrast, mews houses are amongst the most expensive properties in London. It’s often believed that this street, Brownlow Mews, was named after Mr Brownlow in Oliver Twist. Actually, it was the other way around. The street takes its name from the wealthy Brownlow family, who once owned the land in this area. Dickens liked the name and used it for his character.

    Dickens often took inspiration from the people and places he encountered on his long walks around London. When Dickens was very stressed he would walk for miles. In the 1850s, when his marriage was in trouble, he walked all night from his house in central London to his house in Kent. That’s over thirty miles.

    Continue to the end of this street.

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Charles Dickens from Furnival's Inn to Doughty Street