Place in the narrative
It was at 54 Hatton Gardens that Oliver is taken to be tried for the false accusation of picking Mr Brownlow’s pocket. Followed by a large crowd, Oliver is taken to the court of Mr Fang to be tried for the theft of his accomplices, the Artful Dodger and Charley Bates. The court room is covered in detail in the eleventh chapter and gives an insight into the court room of Mr Fang. After a frustrating trial, the owner of the book-shop finally testifies that Oliver didn't steal Mr Brownlow's handkerchief and Oliver is acquitted of the false crime. Following the trial, Mr Brownlow, seeing that no one else is looking after Oliver and he is not well enough to look after himself, takes charge of him and takes Oliver back to his home in Pentonville with him to recover from his illness.
‘The offence had been committed within the district, and in deed in the immediate neighbourhood of, a very notorious metropolitan police office. The crowd had only the satisfaction of accompanying Oliver through two or three streets , and down to a place called Mutton Hill, when he was led beneath a low archway, and up a dirty court, into this dispensary of summary justice, by the back way. It was a small paved yard into which they turned….’
‘The office was a front parlour, with a panelled wall. Mr Fang sat behind a bar, at the upper end; and on one side the door was a sort of wooden pen in which poor little Oliver was already deposited; trembling very much at the awfulness of the scene.’
‘Mr Fang was a lean, long-backed, stiff-necked, middle-sized man, with no great quantity of hair, and what he had, growing on the back and sides of his head. His face was stern, and much flushed. If he were really not in the habit of drinking rather more than was exactly good for him, he might have brought action against his countenance for libel, and have recovered heavy damages.’
54 Hatton Gardens
It is said that Dickens based the character of Mr Fang on a notorious Hatton Garden magistrate of the time, Allan Stuart (A S) Laing, who was well-known for his severity. Dickens, amongst many others, attacked A S Laing for his brutality, which lead to the Judge’s dismissal from the bench in 1838. Dickens describes Mr Fang as ‘renowned’ for his ‘imposing presence’ and ‘contemptuous’ in his manner. The court itself is described in a way that makes it sound hectic and not at all organised which was Dickens’ intention to bring forward the problems that were beneath the surface.
What I wrote in London
Hatton Gardens is one of the locations where you can still feel the air of selling of goods near Saffron Hill. Not far from Saffron Hill itself, are large quantities of shops, buying or selling jewellery and many more sharp looking characters carrying out a transactions. As we went through it, we saw a rather 'Fagin' looking character going over the zebra crossing with a wispy white beard and suit. Maybe Fagin on a well dressed day! The gardens which are not gardens at all, are, as I said full of shops, and one of them at 54, which seems now to be a design shop. The white door is very unlike what was there when Dickens was there I imagine but the shape of the house and the one next door gives you an idea of where poor Oliver was brought. A S Laing or Mr Fang would have presided here in the courtroom and I think it was probably a lot darker inside then than the glass and open fronted window now.
Turning down a narrow street from Saffron Hill, we suddenly find ourselves in the jewellers district of Hatton Garden, now famous as the place to buy jewellery. Although, there is a much a cleaner way of dealing than in Dickens day, there is still an air of buying and selling you can't experience in the remains of Field Lane, though the districts seems to have shifted a couple of streets. Windows are filled with jewels and behind them, smart sellers making sales or buying more stock. We came across several shady figures which I had no problem associating in my head with Fagin but perhaps a little better dressed. The Hatton Gardens street is very wide in comparison to others and very long so it takes us some time to find 54, home to Mr Fang's magistrates court. There is little to remind you of the room Dickens describes in the building that now stands. It is a polished and white fronted shop with a very open air on the inside. The building itself is older and on the door, they say that the building was built in the 1800s. It is now a design shop and there is little to suggest its history but it is amazing how much it has changed since Dickens wrote about it.