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The Old Curiosity Shop in the shadow of new LSE Building

London School of Economics's new Marshall Building is situated next to not one, but two, Grade II listed properties, The Royal College of Surgeons and The Old Curiosity Shop. Dating from the end of the 1500s, The Old Curiosity Shop is one of London's oldest shops and boasts the overhanging second floor and sloping roof typical of structures from that time. Although the name was added after the 1841 publication of Charles Dickins's novel, it is still thought to have inspired the book. The Old Curiosity Shop began as a dairy; was for a time a bookshop specialising in Charles Dickens's works, and has most recently been a speciality shoe store. Now, as you can see in the first and third photos, taken from Portsmouth Street, it is dwarfed by the enormous university building and looks really out of place, almost like a toy model of a building instead of a proud shop with a rich history.

What makes is even sadder is the fact that The Old Curiosity Shop is one of the last vestiges of this neighbourhood known as Clare Market, which was characterised by a mishmash of twisted lanes, inexpensive housing, and market stalls selling meat and fish. You can see the street sign with the name Clare Market in the middle photo and imagine what a lively, bustling area this was for traders and other, more unsavoury elements. That was until slum clearance and redevelopment plans saw the wide boulevards of Kingsway and Aldwych cut through the neighbourhood with demolition that started in 1899. The twisting maze of small streets does, however, live on somewhat in the campus of LSE, as anyone who has got lost trying to navigate through there can attest.

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