Charles Dickens 'Oliver Twist'

Charles Dickens 'Oliver Twist'

Was this the model for the workhouse in Oliver Twist

Location: 22 Cleveland Street, W1T 4JB

Description: It is perhaps the most powerful image of child poverty in literary history and one that resonates today just as it did in 1837, when monthly instalments of Dickens's story first appeared: Oliver Twist.

So it is not surprising that a buzz surrounded the claim by Ruth Richardson, a historian of medicine and author of an acclaimed history of body snatching, Death, Dissection and the Destitute, that she has identified the model for the workhouse in Oliver Twist.

Dickens's early life has been pored over by scholars who have focused on the way his family's economic instability might have shaped the preoccupation with reform in so many of the great novels.

But Richardson is the first to make explicit the connection between the old Strand Union Workhouse in Cleveland St and Dickens's family home just nine doors down (at 22 Cleveland St, formerly 10 Norfolk St) where he lived between the ages of three and five, and again from 17 to 20.

'Dickens lived within earshot of the workhouse for several years - first as a child and again as a young newspaper reporter,' Richardson says, as we walk down Cleveland St past the former workhouse to stand outside Dickens's house, part of which is now a button shop. 'He'd have heard the stonebreakers' hammers and the howls of pauper lunatics, smelt it on the wind. Mr Bumble walked right past his door. Cleveland St was the inspiration for Oliver Twist - that now seems certain.'

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Charles Dickens 'Oliver Twist'

Was this the model for the workhouse in Oliver Twist

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