Explore the City's Ancient Alleyways in the Footsteps of Charles Dickens
Continue up this street.
Look to your left. Do you see the iron railings of the small churchyard of the former St Peter's Cheapside? Keep going while I tell you about it.
The former St Peter's was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Next to the churchyard, there used to be a coaching inn called the Cross Keys. This is where Charles Dickens arrived in London for the first time. His father had lost his job in Chatham and had moved to London. The 12 year old Dickens was left behind to finish the school term in Chatham. He then took the lonely journey by coach to this inn to rejoin his family. This experience was used in 'Great Expectations' when Pip arrives here by coach from Kent to have tea with Estella. At the heart of the novel is the cruel revenge the ageing Miss Havisham tries to extract on the male sex for her being jilted. She leads Pip on to fall in love with her beautiful protégé, Estella. Estella marries another man as Miss Havisham had planned and Pip is devastated. To cut a long story short, Miss Havisham dies and her plans are revealed. Estella's husband abuses her but also dies and all ends happily in the final version of the novel. Dickens was persuaded to change his first unhappy ending by friends who thought the public would prefer this. Many think the original poignant ending was more in keeping with the rest of the novel. In this ending, Estella remarries and she and Pip have a final meeting in Picadilly where they say a sad farewell. Both are left disappointed in their great expectations.
Carry on to the main road ahead, Gresham Street.