Oliver Twist. London Bridge, Great Fire of London, The Monument, Dickens London Tour.
Leave Monument Station via the Fish Street Hill exit. Turn right and walk to the:-
Monument itself, which is 202 feet (61.6 metres) high, and the tallest isolated stone column in the world. It was built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the ‘dreadful visitation’ of the Great Fire of London (c.1666), which began in Pudding Lane, which is the adjacent street. Dickens mentions the Monument several times. In Martin Chuzzlewit, Tom Pinch gets lost in London and then finds himself ‘hard by the Monument’. He is about to ask the attendant for directions when a couple arrive and pay their ‘tanner’ (sixpence) to ascend to its viewing platform. Having let them in through the ‘dark little door’, the attendant sits down and laughs, ‘They don’t know what a many steps there is! It’s worth twice the money to stop here.’ Should you be considering a similar ascent, the spiral stone staircase has 311 steps, but the view from the top is worth the effort.
Continue down Fish Street Hill. Cross Lower Thames Street, bear right and pause alongside the church of:-
St Magnus the Martyr, which was constructed between 1671 to 1676. Before the rebuilding of London Bridge (1823–31), during which its location was moved upriver, the churchyard had formed its roadway approach. In Oliver Twist, as Nancy heads for her secret meeting with Mr Brownlow and Rose Maylie on London Bridge, Dickens notes how the tower of old Saint Saviour’s Church (passed later), ‘and the spire of Saint Magnus, so long the giant warders of the ancient bridge, were visible in the gloom… ’. A few remnants of the old bridge can be seen in the churchyard, whilst a detailed model of it is displayed inside the church.
Exit left from the churchyard. Walk under the bridge. Go left up the steps and follow the signs marked ‘London Bridge West Side’. Arriving on the bridge, go right at the bus stop and cross the bridge, about which Dickens wrote many times, sometimes referring to the old one and sometimes to the 1832 reconstruction.
It was over the former that Pip in Great Expectations walked in agonies of despair upon hearing that Estella was to marry Drummle. David Copperfield was ‘wont to sit, in one of the old stone recesses watching the people going by, or to look over the balustrades at the sun shining in the water and lighting up the golden flame on top of the Monument’.
On arrival on the opposite side, take the stairs on the right (an arrow points to Glaziers Hall), and at the bottom, pause to look at the only remaining arch of John Rennie’s 19th-century bridge.
The rest was shipped off to America when the present structure was built between 1967 and 1972. It was on the steps of the old bridge that Nancy’s fateful meeting with Mr Brownlow and Rose Maylie took place in Oliver Twist. Here she betrayed Fagin, Sikes and Monks and was overheard by Noah Claypole. When Sikes learnt what she had done, he murdered her at his house in Bethnal Green, not on the steps of the bridge, as the plaque on the wall here states wrongly.