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Guidebook: Central London

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The Strand is full of shops of all types and sizes, and there are always hackney coaches travelling its length, taking shoppers either to or from the shops to about any destination in London. Of these coaches, Taylor, the "Water Poet," who plied a scull upon the Thames, exclaimed, "They have undone my poor trade!" Speaking of the coaches, he adds, "This infernal swarm of trade spillers have so overrun the land, that we can get no living on the water; for I dare truly affirm, that every day in any term, especially if the court be at Whitehall, they do rob us of our livings, and carry five hundred and sixty fares daily from us."


"Come, Fortescue, sincere, experienced friend,

Thy briefs, thy deeds, and e'en thy fees suspend;

Come, let us leave the Temple's silent walls;

My business to my distant lodging calls;

Through the long Strand together let us stray,

With thee conversing, I forget the way. Gay."


Entry point for:

  • Smythe-Higgins Wines & Spirits
    • A small edifice of two levels stands in front of you. Built of ivy-covered quarry stone with a dark grey slate roof, it displays a large sign above the small entrance door: 'Smythe-Higgins, Wines & Spirits'.
      Inside there are rows upon rows of neatly stacked and classified bottles, barrels, and casks. The place is kept spotless, and the connoisseur can immediately recognize bottles of the best French clarets and champagnes, Rhenish whites and ice-wines, Italian reds, Hungarian tokajis, Spanish sacks, Portuguese ports and Madeiras, as well as the stronger Highland whiskeys, French and Spanish Brandy and brandies, Italian grappas, and the more exotic New World rums. Ales, both dark and light, as well as meads, have their own section, albeit small in comparison to the rest.
      There is a small door in the back, which leads to a cellar, where the truly extraordinary vintages are kept. Beside it, there is a wooden staircase going up.
      On entering, a ruddy-faced, slightly plump, but portly shopkeeper greets the prospective client. 'Good day to you. My name is Albert Smythe, co-proprietor. May I inquire as to your needs today?'
      Background info
      The other co-proprietor is Jonathan Higgens, sommelier to the King. Due to his duties at the palace he is more of an investor and merchant in the background while Mr Smythe has the day to day running of the business. He is brother to George Higgens of Higgins & Hoare's, the banker and investor. The Higgens are a wealthy merchant family in London.
      Master Albert Smythe is married to Eleanor Smythe.

    [*]Higgins & Hoare's

    • Located just off the Strand this was one of the most exclusive jewellers of London, one of the suppliers of His Majesty. As most jewellers did, the shop doubled as a bank, offering costumers an interesting rate if they stored their money with the owners.
      George Higgens is brother to Jonathan Higgens of Smythe-Higgins Wines & Spirits. The Higgens are a wealthy merchant family in London, and thus George is as major investor. As it is however Mr Philips is the master jeweller, a fact little known.

    [*]Candy Store

    • In the middle of the Strand, one of the largest attractions was the French candy store. Particularly famous was the French nougat, the sugared almonds, the honey cakes and of course the lemonade, sold in bottles.
      The candy shop awaits in all its glory. In the window they displayed a variety of tarts and especially Honey Cakes. There were also a variety of ornaments made of sugar, some of them very clever. There was a white coach with white horses and a lady in a light blue dress with a little sparkling tiara. The tableau was incredibly life like.
      Chocolate in small doses as bonbons like the French called them or truffles. And, of course, a multitude of different kinds of nougat.

    [*]Henrow & Ethel

    • Located just off the Strand, this was the most famous land agent in London, known for its discretion.
      Master Farlow, a man dressed in black with a white lace collar, sat behind a ledger, making notes with a large quill. The room was filled with books and one or two scrolls, all neatly stacked onto bookshelves. A map of London hung prominently on the wall with little pins stuck into them.

    [*]Martel's Fine Apparel

    • Owner: Mistress Carlena Froust
      Martel's Fine Apparel is a quiet, unassuming red-brick building in the middle of the Strand, with only a wooden sign indicating what lies within. Inside, however, lies a treasure trove for any sartorial-minded young lady. Rows upon rows of exquisite shoes, boots, hats, fans and parasols are displayed invitingly on shelves and tables, alongside drawers and display cases full of buckles, buttons and bows. Large, comfy chairs are dotted around the room for the ladies' comfort, and two or three cheery assistants eagerly attend to the needs of the customer under the watchful gaze of Mistress Froust, a large, friendly woman with a discerning eye for current trends.

    [*]Norrington's Place

    • Owner: Elvira Norrington
      Known as the foremost authority in Fashion in London, Norrington's Place stands proudly in the midst of the Strand, its white, ornate stone edifice declaring prosperity and newness. Large wooden double doors are flanked on both sides by bay windows displaying fabrics in this season's colours, lacework and fashion plates with the latest creations from Paris.
      Inside, rolls of fabrics adorn the walls on either side, grouped in complimentary colours, with a discreet door leading off to a small, comfortable chamber where ladies can be measured or have garments altered. A massive fireplace dominated the centre of the main room, in front of which sat a low table and two dainty sofas, where patrons could look at samples and other accoutrements, look more closely at the latest plates, or simply have a gossip and a pot of tea with the renowned dressmaker, whose clients supposedly include a royal mistress or two - for, despite her propensity to gossip, Elvira never names names.

    [*]Ashton’s Manuscripts and Books

    • A bookshop on the Strand, easily overlooked by those who don't care for the written word. The shop has a large window at front that lets in light. The inside of the shop is orderly and well-dusted, but cold as the oven in the corner is rarely lit in order to preserve the manuscripts better. At the front of the shop there's a selection of works from contemporary writers and two shelves of romance novels for young ladies, but the shop stays in business by catering to a small but wealthy group of book collectors who hunt for rare or first prints.
      The shop-owner, Mr Ashton lives above the shop.

    [*]Lady Alyth's Fine Tea Shop

    • Located on west end of the Strand, the shop has a large picture window overlooking the street, allowing in the light. The window is framed with lace curtains, pulled back with velvet pulls. Over the door is a wooden sign with the name of the shop, done in script, with a picture of a tea cup with a scone next to it. The door opens to a wide shop front, 6 tables set around, with varying chair combinations from two to six, though they can be pulled together for larger parties if needed. Another area is set aside to store packages for ladies who have been shopping. In the back is the kitchen, from where the smell of the various baked items waft to tempt everyone. Two counters line either side of the front of the shop, one with baked goods, the other with the various types of tea that can be combined for personal flavors. Also, the various medicinal items supplied by Dr. Winchester sit here.
      The walls are done in light cream on top and sapphire blue under the chair board, which is varnished in a deep chestnut. The tables are set with white linen table clothes, the chairs painted cream with sapphire blue cushions. Another room, set in the back, is kept separate. Lady Alyth has turned this into a private room for rent.

    [*]Arundel House

    • Residence of the Duke of Norfolk and his family.

    [*]King's Head Tavern & The Green Ribbon Club

    • 'This house was doubly balconied in the front for the clubsters to issue forth in fresco, with hats and no perukes; pipes in their mouths, merry faces, and diluted throats for vocal encouragement.'
      Kings Head Club
      The Kings Head Club holds its meetings in the Kings Head Tavern on the corner of Chancery Lane. Upon entering the tavern members ascend to the upper floor. The room is uncommonly sparse, leased without furnishings, members have brought an eclectic arrangement of spare chairs from their respective homes - with grander intentions for the future.
      Joining the Club
      A prospective member needs two sponsors who are already a member. There is a yearly fee of 60 pounds. New members are advised to spend a little extra now and again to entertain the senior members. It helps gaining notice.
      NPC Membership
      • Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury
      • Anthony Ashley-Cooper (the younger), Lord Ashley, MP
      • Christopher Vane, MP
      • James Cecil, 3rd Earl of Salisbury
      • Sir John Borlase, Baronet Borlase of Bockmere
      • John Stonor, MP
      • Richard Newport, Earl of Bradford
      • Thomas Vane, MP
      • William Cavendish, Lord Cavendish
      • William Russell, Lord Russell
      • James Scott, Duke of Monmouth
      • Thomas Bruce, Lord Kinross
      • John Manners, Lord Roos, MP
      • Sir Scrope Howe, MP
      • Sir Elias Leighton, MP


Exit to:


Please note that Westminster Hall in Westminster contains stalls and fresh produce as shopping opportunities.

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The Woolsack


The Woolsack was founded 1661 by 24 gentlemen including 3 dukes, as a meeting place of highest order. The present location was bequeathed to the club by John Earle, Bishop of Salisbury upon his death in '65.


An exclusive club, operating from a house at 15 The Mall. The building was of white stone and was U shaped in layout - visitors traversed a large paved courtyard with the stately house on either side as they approached the main doors. Dual doors of tremendous height, one of which was swung open during warmer months admitting members into the central lobby where a tome sat open upon a table with ink and quill nearby. Attendants stood nearby.


The primary purpose for the club was to provide a home away from home for a gentleman, where he might freely converse with his friends, avoid his and others' ladies, gamble in one of it's many gaming rooms, avail of a meal in its dining hall, or enjoy some solitude in it's considerable library upon natural or social philosophy.


From the lobby there were two doors, one to the east, the other to the west wing (inaccurately named, these were in fact portions of the building that the man had walked between to reach the lobby).


Ascending a flight of stairs to the upper story, the man was led down the broad wood-paneled hallway into the 'east wing', a hallway boasting portraits of the founding members, some still discharging the linseed scent of still drying oils. The doors were widely spaced, and most were invitingly open - peeks at the activities within were briefly available to the man as he passed. There was a large library, a billiards room (a hush upon these watching the balls kiss), a dining room from which the scent of silver beef and mustard sauce told of the nights menu... but what other rooms were further up the hall he did not find out, for here the steward turned and gave him a brief nod in indication that this was it.


The room was unsurprisingly decorated in masculine maroon upholsteries so common to rooms of this ilk. The walls were largely wood-panelled, with insets papered in cream with leafy patterns, upon each a large paintings of hunting scenes as well a depictions of great battles. A bank of windows upon the right look out upon the torch lit courtyard that guests had trod to arrive at the Establishments doors.


PC's with membership: Lord Basildon, Lord Mountjoy

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Madam Derrière's establishment


An establishment in one of the alleys close to the Strand held no particular sign, but it required no membership to enter, though only the well dressed and affluent men of London would be welcome, their appearance checked by a discreet guard at the door. While it held no name, this place was known as Madam Derrière, after the well known behind of the proprietress, mistress Hortense.


Downstairs an affluent salon, clothed in red velvet and with enough chairs and love seats to make every visitor feel comfortable. Drinks were served by maids with swaying hips, but it was not they that were on offer. Rather it was the ladies in far more expensive dresses which showed their well endowed bosoms in low cut garments, lifting their skirts to show their stockings teasingly. Soon enough as gentlemen settled with a brandy they would find themselves on their laps. occasionally one or two walked upstairs, looking over their shoulders to see they were followed enthusiastically by a gentlemen.

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Theatre Royal


The theatre caught fire in April of 1677, for reasons still unknown. It remains closed for now (August 1677).


The interior of the theatre is quite revolutionary, designed by Christopher Wren.


The stage apron still extends into the pit but the stage now features one of the new-fangled proscenium arches. This arch acts as a frame for the play and features a curtain behind it, which can be closed to mask the stage and drawn open to reveal it.


Backcloths denoting scenery are now flown in on pulleys from above and numerous scenes can be used in a single play. Flat painted canvas scenery on wheels, known as trucks, are also used for even greater variety.


The stage is lit by an enormous chandelier, bigger than a cartwheel and by a bank of candles backed by reflectors set at the level of the actor's feet. A cunning arrangement of glass and mirrors create light wells from the new roof, taking daylight from the outside and focussing it on the stage. The light wells have been known to leak during heavy rain.


For the quality, three tiers of boxes, which extend around 3 sides of the theatre provide seating.


The first tier of boxes are at the level of the stage and it is here, directly opposite the stage that the King has his box. To the King's left is the box of the Duke of York and to his right the box of the Duke of Cumberland. These Royal boxes have seating of the highest quality: The chairs are luxuriously padded and upholstered in fine red velvet. The woodwork is carved and gilded. The King's chair is taller than the others.


The ordinary boxes have comfortable seats, lightly padded and upholstered in green baize fabric.


The pit has seating for the common folk of London, wooden benches only. The pit is also frequented by men and women of the higher classes, seeking amorous adventures. The women have the grace to go masked although one wit has quipped " woman masked is like a covered dish sent to table - only whets the appetite for what is underneath"!


Young girls selling oranges move through the crowds. The theatre has its own distinctive fragrance compounded of the smell of the crowd, the scent of hundreds of beeswax candles and the thick theatrical makeup worn by the players all punctuated with the sharp-sweet scent of citrus.


The backstage area consists of the immediate backstage, storage rooms for the costumes and properties and an officer for master Killigrew.


Dorset Gardens


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Kemp's Coffee House

Patronized by the cream of society, by actors and playwrights, Kemp's is one of the most modish meeting places in London.

The main room of the house is hazy with tobacco smoke and rich with the scent of coffee and chocolate. Small windows allow little daylight to enter - most illumination is provided by candle sconces fixed to the walls. Comfortable chairs of well padded leather accompany a dozen or so small tables. Several booths along the walls provide comfort and a greater degree of privacy.

At the rear of the room stands, an elaborately carved table of some antiquity. Rumour has it that this table once belonged to King Hal and came from his palace of Nonsuch. Be that as it may, it is now the coffee house's serving counter, presided over by the buxom blonde Mistress Kemp. The comely widow is assisted in running the house by her pretty teenaged daughters Rose and Valerie.

A door beside the counter leads to the kitchen.

At Kemp's you can partake of coffee, tea, chocolate or milk punch. Light refreshments such as cakes and Welsh rabbit are also available. Several copies of the latest London Gazette are always available at Kemp's.

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Gresham College, Headquarters of the Royal Society




Gresham House was built in 1566 and named after its original owner, Sir Thomas Gresham, once a Mayor of London. Upon his death in 1597 this grand mansion was bequeathed to the city of London, with Gresham expressing his desire that it be used as a College, a place of learning, with room for lectures, research space and lodgings for seven professors, each of a different discipline. This entire venture is funded by the earnings of retail tax from the shops surrounding the Royal Exchange, which too was founded by Sir Thomas. His gift to the city allowed for great minds to come together and work upon their ideas, a practice cumulating in the founding of the Royal Society in 1660.


Gresham college is open to members of the public, who may attend the free lectures that are held there regularly. All manner of topics are discussed, from natural philosophy to the applications of mathematics and the orbit of the planets. All who are interested in the pursuit of knowledge, or perhaps just the opportunity to seek the opinion of a learned academic, would be well advised to drop in on a session.


The Lecture Theatre


Visitors wishing to expand their intellects should make their way through a little door and enter the lecture theatre, where they would find themselves faced by a number of benches in long lines, sloping up the length of a cosy hall. The dark wooden rows are positioned to give even those seated at the back the opportunity to see the lecturer at his podium. Anyone in the farther rows is also benefitted by the remarkable acoustics of the room, which allows a speaker to project his theories with little need to raise his voice. Unfortunately, this also means that the squeaks and creaks of the aging chairs and the whispers of less enthusiastic attendees are amplified quite considerably.


During the day, light is provided from the high windows that face out onto the College's courtyard, although shutters can be drawn to facilitate the use of demonstrations that require a darker environment. The room is already nearing a century of use, which perhaps explains the prevelance of dust and a curious aroma of musty books and burning. It should perhaps be explained that experiments involving exotic chemicals or the deaths of small mammals are not an uncommon sight in the College lecture theatre.


The Courtyard

This simple square is lined on two sides by sheltered walkways, supported by elegant columns, that offer protection from the elements for the wandering scholar. The courtyard itself has a lawn and lines of young elms along its edge. A stone urn sits upon a pedestal at the centre of the lawn, a pleasant feature in an otherwise unremarkable environment.


Professor of Law: Richard Pearson

Professor of Physics: John Mapletoft

Professor of Music: Thomas Baynes

Professor of Divinity: George Gifford

Professor of Geometry: Robert Hooke

Professor of Rhetoric: Henry Jenkes

Professor of Astronomy: Walter Pope

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  • 6 years later...

Somerset Palace

Located off the Strand yet still with River frontage is Somerset Palace. Once a Royal Residence it had changed ownership several times and as currently being used by it's Steward Lord Langdon, as his headquarters for the London Law enforcement regiment.  Captain Trentmont is in charge of the day to days.  

(The regiment is not housed there, but beyond the city limits.) 

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