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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
25th May 1905 Born today: Binnie Barnes, London, actress (Adv of Marco Polo, Diamond Jim)
25th May 1878 Gilbert/Sullivans opera HMS Pinafore, premieres in London
Woe can lead to Joy!
A broken man who gave Charles Dickens inspiration
Location: Dirty Dicks, 202 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4NR
Description: Nathaniel Bentley was an ironmonger who had a shop in Leadenhall Street. On the eve of his wedding, tragedy struck. His bride-to-be died. So distraught was Nathaniel that he locked up the room in which he had prepared the wedding feast, never to enter it again.
A broken man, he neither washed or changed his clothes. When his cats died he just left them. It is thought that Dickens used this tale as the inspiration for 'Miss Haversham' in 'Great Expectations'. The English love an eccentric and his notoriety meant his business flourished.
When Nathaniel retired in 1804, the landlord of the Old Port Wine Shop in Bishopsgate bought the contents lock, stock and dead cats. He put them on display at his pub and renamed it 'Dirty Dick's'.
In 1870 the pub was rebuilt from ground level, the wine vaults are part of the original building. The 'dirty' contents were carefully relocated in the new pub. Sadly it was decided in the mid nineteen-eighties that a clean up was in order and the dirty artefacts were cleared away. At street level the main bar is a dimly lit, windowless cavern of dark stained wood. There's an abundance of timber beams, panelling and exposed brick. The upstairs bar forms a gallery and the vaulted cellar, which pre-dates the upper floors, houses the restaurant.