Address: 13-14 Portsmouth Street, London WC2A 2ES

Time: Shop times

900m from Charing Cross

400m from Holborn

Address: 13-14 Portsmouth Street, London WC2A 2ES

Time: Shop times

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Claimed to be the oldest shop in London as well as the inspiration behind Charles Dickens’s novel of the same name, the Old Curiosity Shop can be found at 13-14 Portsmouth Street, central London. Its location is not far from where Dickens lived, which was in Bloomsbury. The building, as would be expected, is now covered by a preservation order.

It was built in 1567 and made from the wood from old ships and has all the hallmarks of a house 450 years old. It has uneven floorboards, wooden beams and an overhanging upper floor, but despite its structural faults it amazingly survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz. At one time it was a dairy on an estate given by King Charles II to one of his mistresses.

Consider the historical people who have lived and events that have occurred since it was built – Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, the Spanish Armada, the Pilgrim Fathers, the Great Fire of London and the English Civil War. It was built around the time of the Spanish conquests of South America and well before battles such as Trafalgar and Waterloo – this really does put into perspective the age of the property.

The Old Curiosity Shop was one of Dickens’s greatest novels and was published weekly, with New Yorkers storming the local wharf for the shipping arrival to obtain a copy of the final instalment. It was published in 1840-41.

It now finds itself, not surprisingly, surrounded by modern buildings and can be found near the London School of Economics. From 1992 it has traded as a boutique shoe shop selling handmade shoes by Japanese designer Daita Kimura. The Elizabethan architecture appears to be wonderfully out of place and a curiosity in itself. The irregular construction, the leaning doors and frames and the general look and ambience make this a magical place.

The shop is a curiosity in itself and is one of those landmarks in central London that is well worth searching for.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.