The streets of London are paved deep with history, none more so than those in East London. They have frequently been the setting for many a cinematic production from Johnny Depp’s From Hell to this year’s release of The Limehouse Golem.
The Limehouse Golem, starring Bill Nighy, Olivia Cooke and Douglas Booth is set on the unforgiving, squalid streets of Victorian London in 1880; our tale begins in the baroque, grandiose music hall where the capital’s most renowned performer Dan Leno (Douglas Booth) takes to the stage. The whimsical thespian performs a monologue, informing his dedicated audience of the ghastly fate of a young woman who had once adorned this very stage, his dear friend Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke); for the beguiling songstress is facing up to her forthcoming death by hanging, having been accused of murdering her husband John Cree (Sam Reid). Lizzie’s death seems inevitable until Detective Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) is assigned to the case of the Limehouse Golem – a nefarious, calculating serial killer, murdering innocent, unconnected victims, leaving behind barely identifiable corpses – and his distinctive signature in blood. All is not what it seems and everyone is a suspect and everyone has a secret.
To celebrate the release of The Limehouse Golem on DVD and Blu-ray December 26th, we took a little walking tour around Limehouse to found out a little bit of history of these once dark and murky streets and to delve deeper into the Radcliffe Murders which serve as a backdrop to the film.
We started off the tour by warming our cockles from the cold and damp weather at The Old Ship Pub – situated just off the main road, five minute walk away from the Limehouse DLR station. The historical pub, which has been rescued from closure and restored features a drag artist cabaret at weekends. Quite nicely linking up with the crucial setting of the film. A substantial proportion of the location falls on the Music Hall engorged with entertainers and thespians taking to the stage on a nightly basis, including Douglas Booth’s crossing dressing Dan Leno, thereby continuing of the age-old tradition of cross-dressing.
From there we wandered the streets of the East End taking in the stories of significance to the trade industry of London. Taking in the sights of the much improved Georgian and Victorian houses that were the heart of the town in the slums of the 19th century. Taking a stroll alongside the new and improved dockside, a setting that prominently features’s in the film during flashback sequences to Lizzie (Olivia Cooke) as an impoverished child, looking for ways to earn some money to put food on the table for her mother and herself.
Unknown to most, the original China Town was not located in its present home of Soho. Between 1880 and 1934, the home of China Town was situated in the heart of Limehouse at Limehouse Causeway’s, Narrow Street. Throughout the film, references are made to the sleazy endeavours of the area which housed many an Opium den in which actors to detectives frequented. Now, in its place stands newly built apartments after it was virtually destroyed by bombs during WWII.
As the sun had disappeared from the wintery skies, we headed towards our final location, a small and narrow pub by the name of The Grapes, a watering hole owned by British actor, Sir Ian McKellen, and serves one of the best wines this writer has ever had the privilege of guzzling. The pub alone has a history which dates back over 500 years. It is said that Sir Walter Raleigh set sail on his third voyage to the New World directly beneath the building. Its history also includes appearing in the writings of Samuel Pepys in 1661. The pub is also associated with Charles Dickens, who is said to have described the pub in his novel “Our Mutual Friend.”
The Limehouse Golem is available on DVD and Blu-ray from December 26th