Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Christmas Music - God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

DC Editor Adam takes a listen to God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen


God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen dates back to at least the 17th Century. 


The earliest known printed edition can be found in a broadsheet dating from around 1670.


Its London connection?


It's the carol being sung through Scrooge's letterbox in A Christmas Carol





"The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of

“God bless you, merry gentleman! May nothing you dismay!”


Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost. At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived."



It's a course of action he goes on to regret later in the story…


“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.”


Six versions of God Rest You Merry Gentlemen for you to enjoy…










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Monday, 10 December 2018

Bob Cratchit's Commute From Cornhill to Camden in A Christmas Carol





DC Editor Adam writes…

A couple of Christmases ago, in honour of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's impoverished clerk in A Christmas Carol, I attempted to trace his footsteps on his journey home from Scrooge's Cornhill office to his humble abode in Camden Town.


Here's Bob (pictured) whooshing down the slide at Cornhill in a Tube doodle I made on the way to the start of the walk.



No precise details of his journey are listed in the text of A Christmas Carol, so here's the route I planned before setting off…







And here's the route I ended up following…






It's probably not as direct a route as that Bob himself would have chosen, but I tailored it to go through my beloved Clerkenwell.



On the way I snapped a few piccies of Bob Cratchit's London Christmas past, present and yet to come. I hope you enjoy them. Happy Christmas!



Christmas Present: Bob would have known the Royal Exchange…


… and the Mansion House (without cranes, buses and vans, of course)…




… here's a more contemporary view




Xmas Yet To Come… 1 Poultry, which replaced the English Gothic splendour of the old Mappin & Webb building. 



Mappin & Webb had yet to set up shop at Poultry in 1843 (when A Christmas Carol was published) but was already a going concern having been founded in Sheffield in 1775.




The view from London Wall looking toward Camden Town… slightly (ahem) obscured in the 21st Century


St Paul's – part of Bob's Xmas Present surrounded by the architecture & transport of his Xmas Yet To Come




Xmas past… 18th century headstones in Postman's Park


Little Britain – and we nod to Great Expectations as we pass




St Bartholomew-the-Great… and its literary neighbour…







Given Dickens's subject matter, was it a coincidence that I should happen upon the HQ of Save the Children in St John's Lane EC1 along the route of my Bob Cratchit stroll?


Or was it my own version of a Christmas visitation?



It's Save The Children's Christmas Jumper Day on the 14th December 2018. Here's how to join in…








Onward to Clerkenwell Green…


Past AND Present – a father explains to his daughter what these weird red cupboards are all about on Clerkenwell Green



Spirit of Xmas Past: Do you recognise this place?

Scrooge: Recognise it?! I was apprenticed here!

My own Christmas past… 34 Clerkenwell Close (pictured above) is the first office in which I worked in London. The building is a former ink factory and it was from here that I first explored London on foot, stumbling upon so many Dickens locations in my lunch hour wanders that golden hindsight tells me that every day was a literary fireworks display.

This is where I fell in love with London and I will find any excuse to pass through this most wonderful of London neighbourhoods.

A tree grows in Clerkenwell

Scrooge asks: Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons? On the right of the shot above stood Clerkenwell Prison – or The House of Detention. Torn down in 1890, the vaults still exist, beneath what was the playground of the Hugh Myddleton School, now flats. In the 1860s, the prison looked like this…


Next, my route went via…



… and past George Gilbert Scott's St Pancras hotel…



… via the British Library…



This excellent British Library film looks at The Origins of A Christmas Carol


On to Somers Town…  



… and St Mary's Church, a building personally familiar to the young Dickens, who lived at Cranleigh Street…



… in conditions far from affluent. The plaque was unveiled in 2013 by actor Simon Callow. 



All told it was a walk of some 3.7 miles. So Bob's commute was at least 7 miles on foot every day.





Here's another link to Save the Children.



If any of you Daily Constitutionalists end up doing your own version of Bob's walk, do drop me a line at the usual address, send me your pics, or leave a comment below…

Merry Christmas!




From the London Walks Podcast Archive… A Christmas Carol. Listen here…











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Saturday, 8 December 2018

Christmas Music… Little Donkey In Denmark Street

DC Editor Adam writes…


Little Donkey

On a visit to Chappell Music Publishers in Denmark Street in 1959, songwriter Eric Boswell had a chance meeting with wartime chanteuse Gracie Fields. 




Fields' career was in the doldrums and she was looking for a hit song to put her back on top. Boswell offered her Little Donkey.




The song was also recorded by Bethnal Green's very own Beverley Sisters and the popularity of both versions ensured that the song reached No.1 on the sheet music sales chart at the end of 1959. The sheet music sales chart carried more prestige than the record sales chart back then.





Northern lass Fields' Columbia recording made number 20 in the hit parade, outdone by our pride of the East End – the Beverley Sisters scored a number 14 hit for Decca.

In 1960 Dutch singing duo Nina and Frederick took it to No.3 in the UK chart.



The Beverleys, Gracie Fields and three other versions of Eric Boswell's Little Donkey for you to enjoy…







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Friday, 7 December 2018

Christmas Shopping on the Village In Piccadilly Tour

DC Editor Adam writes…

I'm out-and-about leading the Village In Piccadilly Tour with London Walks this Monday 10th December. 

Of all the tours I lead for London Walks, this is the one with the very best Christmas shopping options. To whet your appetite, here are just TWO of the many lovely shops I'll be pointing out along the way…



Harvie & Hudson Shirtmaker



Harvie and Hudson is the only remaining company still in sole ownership of the original families in the bespoke shirtmaking trade in Jermyn Street, London. Thomas George Harvie and George Frederick Hudson set up the business in 1949.

In the 1960s H&H revolutionsed Jermyn Street by branching out into vibrant colours and introducing their signature bold stripe.


And they are still going strong!

I always look forward to a trip to Harvie and Hudson, where I buy my waistcoats and I'm delighted to see they've started a nice line in snuff handkerchiefs, not so easy to acquire these days with the near extinction of the old school tobacconist.



Find Harvie & Hudson here…




Prestat Chocolates




Prestat's chocolate shop was founded in 1902 and was Roald Dahl's favourite. And he should know a thing or two about chocolate!




Here's a short preview for the tour…







Join me for A Village In Piccadilly Monday 10th December 2.30pm meeting at Piccadilly Circus tube (by Eros). The tour costs £10/£8 pay on the day or book now via Pay-A-Tour





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