With 2012 marking Charles Dickens 200th anniversary there will be plenty of celebrations of the life of this very special Briton. Most of Footprints of London’s walks have a Dickens connection at some point, and my walk “All Change at Kings Cross” is no different.
In Our Mutual Friend, Reginald Wilfer talks about the area that is now Goods Way as “a tract or urban sahara, where tiles and bricks were burnt, bones were boiled, rubbish was shot, dogs fought and dust was heaped by contractors”. This description was from before the great goods yards and food warehouses that were built by the railway companies in the mid 19th century. However few years ago this description might also have been appropriate, the closure of the goods yards making this quite a desolate spot. However things are changing fast, with the opening of the University of the Arts in the old granary building adding a lively touch to Goods Way.
St Pancras Old Churchyard is mentioned in A Tale of Two Cities as a place where body snatchers practiced. As the place where Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein mourned her mother, and where many graves were dug up to build the railway line, there are lots of associations with the dead being disturbed. Theres even a present day coroners court.
However theres another Dickens connection in the churchyard. Dickens schoolmaster M. L. Williams Jones is buried there, though he doesnt seem to have inspired the young Charles – he writes of his school – “I had no advice no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support of any kind from anyone” This was at the Wellington House Academy in Hampstead, where the sadistic headmaster was the inspiration for Mr Creakle in David Copperfield.
I’ll be exploring the area again on November 26th – click here for more details and tickets