Is the thought of my heroine, Cassie, when told where another character in my novel lives. Yet, before our Bookwalk took us to look at the enviable address, we had some more medieval ground to cover, specifically the 14th century Jewel Tower. This remnant of the Abbey, which stood next to the Abbey moat, now stands on Abingdon or ‘College’ Green opposite Parliament. It is part of the Palace of Westminster, although set apart from Barry’s Victorian pile and Westminster Hall and it plays a crucial role in Plague.
The Tower, made of Kent rag-stone, stands on ground considerably lower than the ground which surrounds it, a testament to its great age. It is open to the public, though not at the present moment. We entertained a rather bored-looking set of professional camera men set up in their familiar interviewing place on the Green, by doing our own ‘pieces to camera’ both in front of the Jewel Tower and the Victoria Tower, one of the few parts of the Palace of Westminster not covered in scaffolding or sheeting. Returning to Parliament Square, we went past the Abbey itself and entered Great Smith Street, then Little Smith Street, into that maze of small alleyways with buildings belonging to the Abbey and the Church.
Great College Street was our destination, where Westminster School buildings run into the 14th century boundary wall, and under which the River Tyburn ran. It is on the corner with Barton Street where our desirable residence sits. Here we were fortunate to come across a woman who worked in the next house along, who was charmed by the thought of the neighbouring house appearing in a novel (and we think we made a sale). I hope the occupants of the actual house are equally charmed.
This collection of streets to the south of Westminster School, running down to Smith Square, are, to my mind, some of the most desirable in London. The fine Georgian town houses sit in quiet, tree-lined streets, yet are close to one of London’s ‘centres’ and the epicentre of establishment power. Many of them are still in private ownership, either as houses or apartments, though there are many school buildings at the north end and the Georgian buildings give way to corporate headquarters and government departments to the south. Marsham Street is lined with government buildings – the Home Office, the Department for Transport, the old DTI building, many of them linked. All lie on the route of the number 88 bus – the ‘Clapham omnibus’ – and we hopped on to it for a few stops to Pimlico, because we were running out of time (and, by now, our feet were hurting). The Pimlico which we currently see, of elegant early Victorian terraces, is predominantly the creation of the property developer Thomas Cubitt in the 1830s. In the novel it is where a supporting character lives, on Tachbrook Street, so named for the Tach Brook which, at this point, ran into the old River Tyburn and thence to the Thames.
We did another piece to camera – three times, as it happened, because of the noise of children playing nearby – and provided some diversion for folk sitting outside a local craft beer pub, which we visited shortly afterwards. This gave us time to look back through the three hundred and twenty photographs and ten pieces to camera which we had shot, before taking the 88 again, this time to Vauxhall and the restaurant where our other halves awaited. The day ended with a most perfect sunset over the Thames and Pimlico. A really great walk ( over seven miles of it ) and a really great day. My thanks to Helen Hughes for her photography and her company.
‘Plague’ is published by Claret Press on 15th September 2020.