Sunday 1 January 2023

'A Christmas Carol' festive ride.

Last Friday, I was to join a select band of the lovely night ride to the coast peeps for a ride that would take us on a journey to some of the locations associated with 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens. The meeting point was the always convenient Hyde Park Corner. Our ride leader was night ride to the coast veteran Nick, who in addition to leading longer overnight rides, occasionally offers themed rides such as this one. 

London seemed a little quieter this morning - perhaps the run up to the New Year and people off work accounting for it. After some catching up, enjoying a cup of tea and watching the Household Cavalry doing their usual thing, we headed off in search of locations with something to do with, 'A Christmas Carol.'

'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens is quite possibly his best known work - and many might say their favourite. The appeal is of course that is it set during the Christmas period, recalling the story of old skinflint, Ebenezer Scrooge who changes his ways. It first appeared in 1843 and was said to have taken Dickens only six weeks to write. There have been several versions on both stage and screen and many great actors who have taken on the role of Scrooge, but in my opinion the greatest version bar none is 'A Muppet Christmas Carol.' 

Heading north from Hyde Park Corner we soon arrived at Bloomsbury, passing the British Museum. 

Our first location was Great Ormond Street Hospital. One of its first benefactors was none other than Charles Dickens. When the hospital was in need of more funds, it turned to Dickens who gave a whole evenings performance of his selected works, some of which involved him reading extracts of 'A Christmas Carol.'

Dickens lived at 48 Doughty Street, a Georgian terraced house, for a couple of years. During these two years he wrote 'Oliver' and 'Nicholas Nickleby.' He completed 'The Pickwick Papers' and worked on 'Barnaby Rudge.'

Outside the museum was a chap who could have been dressed in semi-Victorian attire. (I think it was the tartan trousers that did it. It turned out that he was someone who merely liked wearing tartan trousers).

Heading towards St Paul's Cathedral, I again felt that London was uncharacteristically quiet as there were few cars. I could have believed it to be a Sunday morning. 

Just in front of St Paul's, Tim (another veteran night ride to the coast ride leader and purveyor of the best halfway stop refreshments) pointed out that somewhere there was a while tile with 'Tim' carved onto it. For a few moments we had a look but sadly we could not find it. Next time I am there I will have another look. 

In Stave One of 'A Christmas Carol' it is highlighted to the reader again that 'Marley was dead' and St Paul's Churchyard is mentioned. 

Arriving at Cornnhill, The Royal Exchange building was where the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, stops by a group of businessman discussing someone who has died the previous night. They do not seem that bothered with one wanting to know what the deceased has done with his money - and not much more. 

In the opposite direction to The Royal Exchange stands, The Mansion House - in Dickens time and now -  the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. In the book Dickens describes the stark contrast to Scrooge's attitude to Christmas with that of the Lord Mayor. 

In the book after his clerk Bob Crachit heads home on Christmas Eve, Scrooge does the same but stops off at a tavern on the way. One possibility is Ball Court. 

Getting to this was a little Harry Potter-like and I can only image what it would be like to saunter this way after dark!

Once through the Harry Potter-like alley you arrive at Simpsons. This establishment has been serving city types since 1757, and would have been around when Scrooge was making his way home. 

The end of the alley was not a disappointment and I will return at some point to see what it is like inside. 

Through another alleyway and almost doubling back on ourselves as, The George and Vulture in St Michael's Alley. Of all the taverns it is likely that this is the one Scrooge would have visited. Dickens was a frequent visitor and it featured in 'Pickwick Papers.' Even more evidence is the fact that just before Christmas each year, descendants of the author gather in a room in the upper tavern to enjoy a Christmas luncheon. 

The nearby St Michael's Cornhill is a possible contender for the mention of a 'gruff old bell...always peeping silly down on Scrooge out of a gothic window in the wall...'

Not far away, Leadenhall Market was almost certainly the location that on Christmas morning, Scrooge awakes to find he has not missed Christmas Day, asking a small boy whether the prize turkey is still hanging up in the window of the poulterer in the next street. It was almost certainly here where the boy in the story was hold to go and buy it.  The current market replaced the old one in 1881 and you can still see the large hooks outside many of the shops that used to have geese and turkeys hanging from them.

The final location was Branbant Court. There is strong evidence pointing to Dickens having this building in mind for the home of Scrooge as he mentions that Scrooge had to grope his way through the darkness of the yard. A lovely house it is too. 

We crossed the river heading south and the group retired to a quieter tavern for some refreshments. I headed back across the river and north to NW8 and as I did, I had selected songs from 'A Muppet Christmas Carol' playing at the back of my mind.

This was to be my last adventure of 2022 and what a fitting end it was. A lovely route, ride and great company. Many thanks to Nick.

As I type this, it is now 2023 so a happy new year to you all. I do hope that I will go on many more adventures in 2023. 

Until next time, stay safe out there people!


  1. Great and very accurate, well written account, it was great fun wasn't it? Thanks for writing.

  2. I really enjoyed this, are you related to CD?your write up is superb.sorry we missed it. M and M ( Kent)

  3. Thanks for such nice photos and commentary to go with them. A very pleasant ride.


Thank you for leaving a comment.