Southwark and Dickens

Southwark and Dickens

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St George the Martyr (c) Neil Sinclair 2012

Renowned British artist Maggi Hambling has been chosen to design a sculpture commemorating novelist Charles Dickens’s connections with the London Borough of Southwark.

The sculpture will be installed on the recently created pedestrian piazza outside St George the Martyr church at the junction of Tabard Street and Borough High Street.
Hambling, who designed the reclining sculpture of Oscar Wilde opposite Charing Cross Station, was chosen for the Dickens project by a local organisation co-ordinated by the Dickens in The Borough Group.

Known as Little Dorrit’s church because of its associations with the Dickens novel of that name, St George the Martyr is just a stone’s throw from the site of the old Marshalsea Prison.

When Charles Dickens was just 12 years old, his spendthrift father John was imprisoned in the Marshalsea Prison for non-payment of debt. Charles was forced to give up his schooling and work in a boot blacking factory to help support the family. He took lodgings in Lant Street just round the corner from the Marshalsea and visited his father almost every day.

His experiences in the boot polish factory and in living in the crime-ridden and poverty stricken area around Lant Street scarred young Charles for life. But they also informed and shaped many of his famous novels, including those like Little Dorrit and Oliver Twist which are partly set in the Borough area of Southwark.

St George the Martyr, the site of the old Marshalsea prison and Lant Street will be among the stops on Neil Sinclair’s Dickens in Southwark walks on Saturday 18th February and Sunday 25th February.

He’ll also be passing Union Street, one of the roads along which young Charles trudged from the boot blacking factory at Hungerford Stairs on the north bank of the Thames to his lodgings in Lant Street. Charles wrote of passing at the junction of Blackfriars Road and Union Street an ironmonger’s shop that had a distinctive golden dog and pot sign outside.

In another memorial project to Dickens unveiled on the 200th anniversary of his birth, a replica of the dog and pot sign is to be installed outside Rowland Hill house near the site of the original ironmonger’s shop. The original sign, which formerly hung over Hayward Brothers ironmongers, is on display in Southwark’s Cuming Museum on Walworth Road. A new Dickens exhibition charting his early life and times in Southwark is due to open at the museum in May.

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