One area which features in Plague but which was not covered by our recent bookwalk is SW4, or Clapham, where I happen to live. It is here that the heroine, Cassandra Fortune, has her flat, where she lives with her cat, Spiggott. Like so much of Clapham this would have been built by Victorian and Edwardian pattern builders, so named because they used a template, or several, when constructing street after street during the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. I have placed the flat in a fictitious road within the little maze of roads off Clapham Common South Side, where the buildings are often elegant purpose built maisonettes.
One of the good things about living in Clapham – and there are many – is that most of the streets are leafy, retaining their trees even after the ridiculous insurance company purges of the early part of this century. Cassie’s road is a ‘tree-lined street of Victorian terraces’. She has roses growing up the side of her bay window at the front and a small garden, mostly side return, at the back, with raised beds and french doors from the bedroom and the kitchen leading out on to it ( maybe something like this, right ). It is over the back fence that her neighbour hands her the roses and gift which have been delivered on Sunday morning in the novel.
Another of the aforementioned good things is Clapham Common, which sits in the middle of the Clapham area. It is a photograph of the Common and the ferris wheel of a travelling circus encamped there which alerts Cassie to a newspaper photographer having been snooping around. The photograph left was taken on 1st October 2020.
Clapham Common is also one of the three Clapham Tube stations, the others being Clapham South and Clapham North (and we have the Junction too, we’re well connected – this is beginning to sound like an advert for Clapham). At each of them are circular, pillbox style structures which mark the presence of the deep shelters, constructed during the second World War to house civilians during air raids. There were originally ten of these planned across London, though only eight were ever sunk, three of them in Clapham close to the Northern line. Cassie notes the one next to Clapham Common tube station as Daljit, Sergeant Patel, drives her to the Golden Square crime scene. The image above is of the deep shelter at Clapham South, which was used, in the 1950s, to house those migrants arriving from Empire on the HMS Windrush and other similar, later, ships.
Clapham is not, of course, the only part of south London which has a part in Plague, even if most of the action takes place in Westminster. The second victim is found at a London Underground depot off London Road in Lambeth and his high rise flat, in Elephant and Castle, is where Cassie and Detective Inspector Andrew Rowlands go to interview his grieving, pregnant partner. It is from her twelfth floor windows that they see this panorama. ‘Northwards sunlight sparkled on the Shard and the towers of the City and, to the east, the chunky skyscrapers of Canary Wharf jostled for space on the Isle of Dogs. To the south east Cassie could see Crystal Palace Hill rising, bedecked by strings of terraced streets, to the high transmitter mast at its summit.’
For more about Plague and London try Walking a Book, Walking a River The Book Walk Continues ‘With an address like that, you must be very wealthy’ Book Walk Out-takes