Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sebastian and Hero's London: Tower Hill

As readers of the Sebastian St. Cyr series know, Paul Gibson lives on Tower Hill. So what was Tower Hill? Well, here's a print (from a late eighteenth century drawing) of one of the old houses there:

Basically, Tower Hill was (and is) the area just to the north of the Tower of London. In Sebastian's time, it was still occupied by old, one and two story, mainly stone houses that had been there since the days when the Tower was the site of important executions. Very few people were actually beheaded inside the Tower itself; most died on a scaffold erected on Tower Hill.

To the east of Tower Hill lay St. Katherine's, where Gibson takes his eventful walk in Why Kings Confess, and which I plan to write about soon. Like St. Katherine's, Tower Hill was in the London Borough of the Tower Hamlets. And remember, in Sebastian's time, the Tower still had its moat. Here's a print from 1820:

Note to Ali, Veronica, and Suzanne: you all had the same question in the comments on the last post; I've answered it there. Life has been a bit hectic this past week, and tomorrow my daughter is driving in from San Antonio for a long weekend.


lmhess(Lynne) said...

I'm so glad you found these old prints - they give such a sense of how London was 200 yrs. ago. Such an intriguing city then as now. Really cool, Candy!

Suzanne said...

Thanks so much for sharing these drawings. I have been to the Tower twice and I really couldn't picture Tower Hill. Now I understand why, it is so very different from how it looks now. I went to St Katherine's Docks the last time I was there too and it is trendy apartments, cafes and a beautiful park on the Thames now. How much things change!! I got the feeling from lots of reading, and lots of walking about in London, that if I was suddenly dropped there 200 years ago I could find my way about the West End quite well, but the East End would be impossible to recognise. Not to mention far too dangerous to walk about in anyway. At least these days it is pretty safe during the day. I wouldn't attempt it at night.

And thank you for clarifying the bit about Foucher. I get it now.

Anonymous said...

c- i love seeing drawings from that time period. it’s so fascinating. thanks for sharing. i always thought to myself poor Gibson - having to walk up a hill just to get home. I hate hills and I have both legs. And thanks for clarifying about Foucher and LaChapelle. I did remember that - afterwards.
Best, Ali

JustWingingIt said...

Thank you for clarifying about Foucher. I'm not surprised that I missed it on my first blissfully hazy first reading. I usually pick up on many things I missed on a second read-through. I just haven't had the time to re-read the book yet but I plan to do so this weekend.

I love seeing these pictures of the London of Sebastian's time. I'm a very visual person so this really helps me to see it as Sebastian and Hero might see it. Paired up with your wonderfully descriptive words, and I can practically "see" it rolling across my mind like a film strip.


cs harris said...

Lynne, I have a six volume set on the history of London published in the Victorian era that is full of wonderful prints and lots of great information.

Suzanne, I guess because the East End was so poor, it was ripe to be torn down. So much has changed even in the last 20 years.

Ali, I have a ton of these that I need to start putting up.

Veronica, it was the drawing of that house on Tower Hill that made me decide to put Gibson's surgery in that area. And obviously if THREE people had the same confusion, I could have made it more explicit.

Elaine P. said...

Thanks for sharing those wonderful old prints as well as the maps from a few weeks ago. I always picture Gibson's home and surgery to be kind of dank and dreary. I guess that the nasty odors coming from his autopsies and dissections probably weren't too noticeable what with the other noxious odors drifting around at the time.

Judith said...

I love these old prints. Now I can visualize where Gibson lives and works.

BTW, I have high hopes that now that Gibson has a woman in his life, his house, his person and his surgery will be a lot cleaner. I've always sympathized with his housekeeper. It was funny how Sebastian (and the rest of us too) noticed right away that he had spruced himself up.

Charles Gramlich said...

I just finished reading Braveheart and the author has an afterword about London and some of the buildings that are still there from that time. AMazing.

cs harris said...

Elaine, yeah, the smells must have been pretty awful in general!

Judith, yes, slowly!

Charles, it is amazing some of the things that are still there.

LOgalinOR said...

Thank you for posting all the old prints and maps of old London, during Sebastian's time. It is fascinating and amazing stuff. It gives us readers a better understanding of the actual surroundings, not only for the St. Cyr series, but other books set in that same time frame.
The image of Tower Hill looks somewhat peaceful and quaint. If the neighbors only knew what Gibson was doing in that low stone outbuilding in the rear courtyard. What of one's senses and 'sensibilities', oh my!--LOL.
I happened to notice in this blog entry that you referred to 'St. Katherine's' and the spelling throughout the book was 'St. Katharine's', although early in the book it mentioned that, the ancient district had been named after St. Katherine's hospital, located at its center. Is it referred to with both spellings?
BTW, I really like the (striking) cover of WKC and the image of Sebastian up close and personal on the hardcover jacket with Lisa Gardner's description....clever....reserved....and irresistibly sexy. This portrayal conforms nicely with an image of Sebastian, yet still leaves enough room for everyone's (own) imagination. (I also have the kindle version.)

cs harris said...

LOgalinOR, the spelling used to be interchangeable, but it's now more commonly spelled with the "a" so that's what we went with at the copyediting stage. I didn't even think about it when I wrote the post. The truth is that I'm an awful speller. Just awful. Thank God for spellcheck.

Suzanne said...

Candy, I understand. I can't spell either. It is really annoying and you would think that with the amount of books I have read during my lifetime I would have picked it up, but no such luck. Spell check on PCs these days fixes some of that but it isn't fool proof and I have to carry my Pocket Oxford Dictionary from job to job or I am lost.

cs harris said...

Suzanne, yes, it's a sore trial. I was SO thankful when I was a kid in school and we finally reached the age where we no longer had a spelling grade on our report cards!

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