Place in the narrative
The One Tun, otherwise known as The Three Cripples, is the main meeting place for Fagin and associates in Oliver Twist. Many meetings take place here in the solitude of darkened corners. Bill Sikes is first written about here as is the meeting with Monks and Noah and Charlotte Claypole. As a patron himself from 1833 - 38, Dickens could give a very accurate idea of what characters visited the pub and used many of them in Oliver Twist.In the first description of the pub, Dickens paints a vivid picture of the atmosphere and characters that appear and give an insight into the underground pub culture when he was writing.
The One Tun is proud of it's link with Dickens and its use in Oliver Twist. When Dickens immortalized in the book, the pub was 50 years old and Dickens patronized it for 5 years during the 1830s. The location is likely to be representational of the drinking habits of the lower class and vagabonds. It continues to revel in the success that Oliver Twist brought it 173 years ago and remains a public house and place of lodging for visitors to the area.
‘In the obscure parlour of the low public house, in the filthiest part of Little Saffron Hill; a dark gloomy den, where a flaring gas-light burnt all day in the wintertime; and where no ray of sun ever shone in the summer….’
‘The Three Cripples, or rather the Cripples; which was the sign by which the establishment was familiarly known to its patrons: was the public house in which Mr Sikes and his dog have already figured….The room was illuminated by two gas-lights; the glare of which was prevented by the barred shutters, and closely-drawn curtains of faded red from being visible outside. The ceiling was blackened, to prevent its colour from being injured by the flaring of the lamps; and the place was so full of dense tobacco smoke , that at first it was scarcely possible to discern anything more. By degrees, however, as some of it cleared away through the open door, an assemblage of heads, as confused as the noises that greeted the ear, might be made out; and as the eye grew more accustomed to the scene, the spectator gradually became aware of the presence of a numerous company, male and female, crowded round a long table: at the upper end of which, sat a chairman with a hammer of office in his hand: while a professional gentleman with a bluish nose, and his face tied up for the benefit of toothache, presided at a jingling piano in a remote corner.’
What I wrote in London
Though the surrounding area of Saffron Hill is mainly built up with glass and metal, the One Tun is an insight into the kind of pub Dickens might have known. It is decorated in black and gold with a large barrel set into the side. I thought it had the look of a Victorian Pub although there were builders doing work outside blocking the view. Dickens is known to have patronized the One Tun from 1833 to 1838 so he would have studied the shadowy figures who came in here to do business. It is one of the locations I have chosen that acknowledges the fact that it was part of the narrative of Oliver Twist. There is a plaque below the window that tells its connection which is rather nice to know it is the right place. It is a bit of an insight into Dickens' world and a Victorian pub in the sea of 21st century metal construction.
Many of the locations have little in common with the places that Dickens would have known when he was alive, but this location still has a feeling of what it might have been like. The One Tun is what I would imagine to be a proper Victorian pub. Approaching it, you are surrounded by glass and new buildings along the length of Saffron Hill but The One Tun looks very different. The building is made of dark red brick with a barrel set into the front. The large windows at the front are covered in shiny black paint and the lettering on the sign is in gold. Written below, in large letters, is the story of Dickens' connection with the pub, which they are rightly proud of. Looking inside the windows, the pub still looks rather imposing although surrounded by reflected sunlight from the modern offices. Even though it looks like its stuck in time, daily work still continues outside with builders in their white van making it difficult to see the whole pub in one photo. On the whole, I think that Dickens wouldn't have been surprised by the public house itself but probably more surprised by the change of surroundings from slums to shiny glass.