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London Literary Locations: Our Mutual Friend

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 42 months ago
London Literary Locations: Our Mutual Friend
Book 1 Ch 1: "In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark Bridge, which is of iron, and London Bridge, which is of stone". We will be precise about the year: our Mutual Friend was written 1864-65; Cannon Street station, which the bridge in the photo serves, opened 1866.
Book 1 Ch 1: "In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark Bridge, which is of iron, and London Bridge, which is of stone". We will be precise about the year: our Mutual Friend was written 1864-65; Cannon Street station, which the bridge in the photo serves, opened 1866.
Book 1 Ch. 8: "Mr Boffin... glanced into the mouldy little plantation, or cat preserve, of Clifford's Inn". These days Clifford's Inn is considerably more genteel.
Book 1 Ch. 8: "Mr Boffin... glanced into the mouldy little plantation, or cat preserve, of Clifford's Inn". These days Clifford's Inn is considerably more genteel.
Book 1 Ch. 1 Duke Street St James's, where Twemlow lives "over a livery stable yard". Photo from Google Streetview.
Book 1 Ch. 1 Duke Street St James's, where Twemlow lives "over a livery stable yard". Photo from Google Streetview.
Book 1 Ch. 6: The Grapes in Limehouse was the inspiration for "The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters, already mentioned as a tavern of a dropiscal appearance".
Book 1 Ch. 6: The Grapes in Limehouse was the inspiration for "The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters, already mentioned as a tavern of a dropiscal appearance".
Book 1 Ch. 6: inside The Grapes - "The wood forming the chimney-pieces, beams, partitions, floors and doors of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters seemed in its old age fraught with confused memories of its youth".
Book 1 Ch. 6: inside The Grapes - "The wood forming the chimney-pieces, beams, partitions, floors and doors of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters seemed in its old age fraught with confused memories of its youth".
Book 4 Ch. 4: Bella Wilfer and John Rokesmith are married at "Greenwich Church", presumably St Alfege's.
Book 4 Ch. 4: Bella Wilfer and John Rokesmith are married at "Greenwich Church", presumably St Alfege's.
Book 2 Ch. 12: "Rogue Riderhood dwelt deep and dark in Limehouse Hole, among the riggers, and the mast, oar, and block makers, and the boat builders, and the sail-lofts, as in a kind of ship's hold stored full of waterside characters". This is a rough approximation of where Limehouse Hole was.
Book 2 Ch. 12: "Rogue Riderhood dwelt deep and dark in Limehouse Hole, among the riggers, and the mast, oar, and block makers, and the boat builders, and the sail-lofts, as in a kind of ship's hold stored full of waterside characters". This is a rough approximation of where Limehouse Hole was.
Book 1 Ch. 5: The Boffins live "over Maiden Lane way - out Holloway direction". Photo of the modern Maiden Lane Estate by Gary Kinsman.
Book 1 Ch. 5: The Boffins live "over Maiden Lane way - out Holloway direction". Photo of the modern Maiden Lane Estate by Gary Kinsman.
Book 3 Ch. 16: Reginald Wilfer works at a counting house "in the drug flavoured region of Mincing Lane".
Book 3 Ch. 16: Reginald Wilfer works at a counting house "in the drug flavoured region of Mincing Lane".
Book 2 Ch. 5: Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren go to live with Mr Riah at Pubsey & Co on St Mary Axe
Book 2 Ch. 5: Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren go to live with Mr Riah at Pubsey & Co on St Mary Axe
Book 1 Ch. 8: Mr Lightwood's office is by the "dismal churchyard" of the Temple church. At first we thought he must mean this lovely spot, but on closer inspection found there was a building there until a bomb fell in 1941.
Book 1 Ch. 8: Mr Lightwood's office is by the "dismal churchyard" of the Temple church. At first we thought he must mean this lovely spot, but on closer inspection found there was a building there until a bomb fell in 1941.
Book 1 Ch. 8: Perhaps Dickens was thinking more of this for Lightwood’s office, but still hardly “dismal”.
Book 1 Ch. 8: Perhaps Dickens was thinking more of this for Lightwood’s office, but still hardly “dismal”.

It's a tough call to try to decide which Dickens book to hunt down all the real-life London locations for. Do you go with Little Dorrit and focus on the Marshalsea? Great Expectations? The Old Curiosity Shop? Oliver Twist? In the end we went for Our Mutual Friend, which switches between the watermen of Limehouse, the legal men of the City and wealth of the West End.

We've photographed some of the mentioned locations, many of which would be unrecognisable to Dickens today, and mapped them and the others. We've given the chapter numbers so you can look up the references yourself, should you be so inclined. (Warning: includes the odd spoiler.) Thanks to Gary Kinsman from the Londonist Flickr pool for the photo of the Maiden Lane Estate.

If you want to know about the locations of Dickens's books, the Our Mutual Friends project has six walks you can follow yourself or read about other authors' experiences of them.


View Our Mutual Friend in a larger map

Read about other books we've mapped and photographed.

Last Updated 21 June 2013