This is an old book-plate by Ernest Haslehurst of a public house called The Grapes at Limehouse (once The Bunch of Grapes) that I bought from collectors Vintage Views. It would be fun to think this Taylor Walker & Co pub was the inspiration for Dickens and Fagin’s den in Oliver Twist but it certainly makes me think of the narrow cobbled streets of Victorian London where pickpockets and other nefarious persons would ply their trade. It dates from the 16th century but the frontage is Victorian.
Although the original is in good nick, it has a faded quality even though it has not actually faded, so I added a duplicate layer in Overlay to bring out the colour and detail.
Look closely — I can see Nancy on the balcony, and isn’t that Bill Sikes with his Staffy, Bullseye, coming up the ladder? And surely that’s Fagin himself at the curtain. Could this not, in fact, be the very place from which Sikes hanged himself?
The Grapes does have a connection to Dickens, however, since he knew that area of Limehouse well and probably based The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters in Our Mutual Friend on it.
From the research I’ve done, I learn that the lessees are actor Sir Ian McKellen, director Sean Mathias and Evening Standard owner, Evgeny Lebedev, the trio having bought the pub in 2011; it looks as if it’s a charming place to find some excellent beer and food. Let me know if you visit.
Take care and keep laughing!
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