Friday, March 08, 2013

Sebastian and Hero's London: St. Botolph-Algate and the Minories

The first murder in What Darkness Brings takes place in an ancient lane just off the Minories in St. Botolph-Aldgete. So where exactly is that?



St. Botolph-Aldgate was a long, thin, irregularly shaped parish stretching from the Thames and the Tower of London, in the south, up to Houndsditch in the north. In Sebastian's day, it was peculiar in that it straddled the boundary between the City of London and Middlesex, which created all sorts of administrative issues we don't need to worry about. A densely populated, poverty-stricken area of London, it was home to a few rich and middle class people and a lot of laboring poor involved mainly in food provisioning, warehousing, craftwork, and a variety of trades connected with the river. Whitechapel Road and Ratcliff Highway ran through it; this is also the site of Rosemary Lane, where Sebastian buys the old clothes he uses in his disguises. Here's a rough map that will hopefully help orientate you; it's hand drawn because I don't want to fall afoul of anyone's copyright. If you click on it, a larger image will come up which will be easier to see.



The Minories is the major street running from the Tower up to Whitechapel. Its name comes from the Abbey of the Minoress of St. Mary of the Order of St. Clare, which was dissolved by good old Henry VIII back in the 16th century. The chapel of the former abbey became the parish church of Holy Trinity, while some of the old abbey buildings were used as an armory for the Tower. The area escaped the Great Fire of London, but most of the abbey's surviving buildings had to be torn down after a 1797 fire hit the area between Church and Haydon Streets. Also late in the 18th century, the East India Company started tearing down great swaths of old buildings in this area to make room for their vast warehouses.



"Fountain Lane" is my own invention, although the name is a hat tip to an ancient inn in the area called "the Old Fountain," demolished in 1793. The church of the Holy Trinity was eventually decommissioned, then destroyed in World War II; the street known as the Minories is still there, but Sebastian would never recognize it today. Pay attention to the area to the east of the Tower called St. Katherine's; this will be the site of the murder that opens book #9, Why Kings Confess.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just love seeing the map and getting a "picture" of where things are and belong. Maybe in one of the next books you can include a map. Would have been great for When Maidens Mourn I think. Thanks for sharing. It is really informative and fun to see these types of facts and pictures. You should also post another pic of your cat, Huckleberry, so we can see the muse for the cat in the story. Sabena

cs harris said...

Sabena, I've thought about including a map, but do you know there area some people who won't buy a book if it has a map in it?! And I've told Huckleberry he needs to pose for some new photos, but at the moment he's sulking for some imagined slight. He sulks a lot; for some reason the world just doesn't revolve around him the way he thinks it should.

Jan Power said...

Very interesting, thanks. Is Paul's surgery just outside the jurisdicial limit?

paz said...

For the love of! Bully for the anti-map crowd. Here is an alternative: include a "Sebastian and Hero's London Map Room" in your website. I know I would be a regular patron! It would be so much fun to plot Sebastian, Hero's and the rest of the crowds moves against those of other literary characters I follow...

paz said...

To further press my case: This is a very "Hero" thing to do, isn't it? The contemporary equivalent of tracing remains of monastic houses, no?

However, if it will take away from writing time, then no. It will have to wait for someone else to do.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Paz. I know I look up maps online all the time trying to figure out where things were and how they looked. It would be ever so much fun. BUT...definitely not to take away from writing time. And, no, I didn't know people won't buy books with a map in them. How odd? Why wouldn't you want to "see" the lay-out and confirm that it lines up to what you are imagining? Do they think the book would be too complicated to figure out and that's why the map is there? Is there some reason that escapes me (many things do, I know ;-) Sabena

ellenru said...

Thanks for posting this map - as someone who thinks in a visual manner, I love maps (and enjoy the new editions of Deborah Crombie's books since they added the map/line drawings) and frequently have recourse to online sources when I'm reading or watching tv located in an area I'm not familiar with. Although it is interesting about the anti-map crowd.

Also, had a great time with the new book (and all the others in the series), I picked up the first couple in a used bookstore, but have been buying them in hc since no.4.

cs harris said...

Jan, yes, Gibson's surgery is down by the Tower.

Paz, I'm told they think if there's a map than the book must be hard to follow. Same goes for genealogical tables! I've decided to start doing more maps and posting them on my blog. It's my hope to eventually have all the "Sebastian's London" posts on the website. I must admit I love tracing all these vanished buildings.

Sabena, yes, you nailed it; a map=complicated.

ellenru, so glad to hear you enjoyed the book. And yeah for another map person!

Charles Gramlich said...

I say, madam, there has been a murderrrr, and YOU are a suspect. :)

Jan Power said...

While I heartily wish there were maps, their not being published has triggered many enjoyable research journeys...you are constantly teaching. That Brunswick ceased the attack on Paris, what a history changer and I had never even heard of it. And seeing the personalization of the Golden Fleece medal by various monarchs was such fun.

Am I the only one who wants the baby to have St. Cyr eyes, to reinforce the succession? And would you be willing to tell us how much Steve feels Hero is you?

Thanks, Candy.

cs harris said...

Charles, that has always been one of my worst nightmares, perhaps the result of watching--literally-- a friend arrested for murder when I was 17.

Jan, I'm impressed that you were motivated to look all of that up! I had a wonderful time weaving the history of the diamond into this story. And I'll have to ask Steve your question!

Maureen said...

As a reader who ALWAYS wants to know where the characters are in time and space, having a map is awesome. More maps please; blog posting is fine with me since the anti-map crowd is so easily confused. Geez! And how could creating the map take away from the writing? Is not the map an essential part of your research which you may refer to when writing? I also love the history elements in the stories, being a European history major way back when and having traveled extensively in Europe since then. The Hope diamond has a fascinating history...

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