Looking for Mr Pooter's "Laurels"
Mr dear wife Carrie and I have just been a week in our new house, 'The Laurels' ,Brickfield Terrace, Holloway - a nice six-roomed residence, not counting basement, with a front breakfast-parlour. We have a little front garden; and there is a flight of ten steps up to the front door, which by-the-by, we keep locked with the chain up. ... We have a nice little back garden which runs down to the railway. We were rather afraid of the noise of the trains at first, but the landlord said we should not notice them after a bit, and took £2 off the rent. He was certainly right; and beyond the cracking of the garden wall at the bottom, we have suffered no inconvenience.
This is the opening paragraph of a comic classic, George and Weedon Grossmith's The Diary of a Nobody - which was first published in Punch from late 1888 and appeared in book form in 1892. It's a glorious comedy of manners and suburban social pretension with illustrations by Weedon Grossmith. And it immortalised the hapless City clerk, Charles Pooter, whose self-important diary we are invited to dip into .
But - where was the Pooters' new home, 'The Laurels'?
This is the most favoured model for 'The Laurels' - it's 1 Pemberton Gardens, close to St John's, Upper Holloway, on Holloway Road. It's not an exact match of either the description in the book's opening paragraph or of Weedon Grossmith's drawing, as you can see, but it's not far off - and it does back on to the rail lines at Upper Holloway station.
The truth is, of course, that there is no exact match - The Diary of a Nobody is a pastiche of lower middle-class Holloway of the 1880s not a documentary.
I went for a walk today around 'Mr Pooter's Victorian Holloway' and Jane, our guide, came up with an alternative theory. She believes that some of the houses fronting on to the west side of Holloway Road, close to the junction with Tavistock Terrace, are a really good fit - even though there are no railway lines to the rear. What do you reckon?
This is a good match for the architectural details in Weedon Grossmith's drawing. But the Grossmiths lived in Canonbury and he may well have drawn from houses in his own backyard for the Pooters' home.
Does it matter much? No - but it is quite fun looking for Mr Pooter's "Laurels".
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