Following on from the last post and keeping up the festive theme, I thought I’d spend a very wet Wednesday in the warm searching for the home of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Dickens describes Ebenezer’s abode as follows,”He lived in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again.”
So the major clue there is the word “Yard“, but in Dickens’ time there were literally dozens to chose from. Now it would be easy to be completely consumed with a high degree of pedantry at this point, so you have to keep reminding yourself that this is a work of fiction and that Scrooge and his house never actually existed. What is most likely is that the location is an amalgam of various places that Dickens saw in his perambulations around the capital. It is said that the inspiration for the oversized knocker that graced the door to Scrooge’s house, which transforms itself into the grotesque face of his dead partner Jacob Marley was found on a house that he frequently walked past. The house in Craven Street is located not far from Trafalgar Square, some two miles west of Cornhill. Even this has a bit of ambiguity. The story goes that the owner of the property in the 1920s so fed up with people standing in the doorway to be photographed next to it had it removed and stored for safe keeping and it was later sold to a collector of Dickensalia / destroyed during the Blitz.
There is a train of thought by someone who like me garners a bit of cash from relating such trivia as this, that it is a possibility that the location of the property that was to become Scrooge’s house was 4 Brabant Court. It’s a brilliant location, a small cobbled court just off Eastcheap, surrounded by late Georgian and early Victorian buildings. This could well be the building that Dickens had in mind, but I had set myself the task of finding a suitable location for it. The court is some way from Scrooge’s supposed place of business in Newman’s Court. It also does not have a church or a graveyard near to it, more of which later.
Using a few sources, I spent some time checking maps, census’ and trade directories to see if I could come up with a location. If you remember the end of the story, Scrooge calls down to the small boy asking him to fetch the prize turkey from the Poulterers, “In the next street“. Searching the environs around Brabant Court in trade directories I could find no such business’. However you don’t have to look far from Scrooges’ office to find an area that would have been inundated with such purveyors, and that is Leadenhall Market.
Taking the written word as gospel, the next street could be either Lime Street (Yellow) or Gracechurch Street (Blue). Lime Street and surrounding courts yards and alleyways looked promising to begin with but here I come back to two things I mentioned earlier, a church and a graveyard. While Scrooge is waiting for the first spirit to visit him he hears the bell strike the hour from a neighbouring church. The nearest church on the Lime Street side of the map is St Andrew’s about a quarter of a mile away from the market and there is no graveyard in the vicinity. Gracechurch Street has two churches, St Peter’s and All Hallows in fact it has three if you count the nearby St Michael’s, so I focused on this area.
I like to think the Scrooge was miserly enough to worry about conserving shoe leather and so I started to look for a court that had the most direct and the shortest route from his office. I also had a picture in my head, probably from watching the films on TV that the small boy sent to fetch the prize turkey was passing through the court of his way to another destination in the opposite direction, therefore I started to look for locations that had access at either end.
It didn’t take long until I came up with the perfect candidate, Corbet Court. The Court can be reached in a very short time and by a direct route via alleyways that still exist today from Scrooges’ office. As you’ll see from the map it is adjacent to St Peter’s church which ticks the box for the bell that sounds the hour. It also has a graveyard. The final spirit takes Scrooge to a churchyard and shows him his own gravestone, how convenient to be buried next to where you lived. It also leads out onto Gracechurch street directly opposite the entrance to Leadenhall Market. The clincher definitely comes from another line in the book,”They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine-merchant’s cellar“. At number 4a Corbett Court was just such an establishment.
Therefore Ladies & Gentleman I give you number 4 Corbett Court, the home of Mr Ebeneezer Scrooge, to which you reply “Bah, humbug!”