Monday, 17 September 2012

Dr. Johnson's House

"Mrs Rowell ...then unfolded a chapter in the history of Gough Square that would have startled Boswell and the Doctor.  She was living there as a caretaker...   On December 29, 1940, when the bombs began to fall, an oil-drum from a neighbouring printer's-ink factory was hurled through the air and lodged itself on the roof.  No one had any time to think how appropriate it was, or how ironic, if you like, that a printer's-ink factory might have been the means of destroying the house of Dr. Johnson, for the roof-beams were crackling and blazing and the tiles were falling into the room below.  This fire was put out by the firemen and the caretakers, and in the morning it was seen that the beams, though charred, were still sound.  The house was in grave peril on five subsequent occasions.  It was, of course, closed to the public,  and,  as the Blitz developed,  it became a rendezvous for the Auxiliary Fire Service.  How Dr. Johnson, that irrepressible clubman,  would have loved that!  It is almost too perfect to be true.

...If ever the ghost of old Sam Johnson came back to London, it must surely have been during this time, though oddly enough, no fireman is reported to have encountered a bulky figure on the stairs, or to have been addressed as 'sir' by someone who offered to relieve him at his post."

In Search of London  H.V. Morton

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