The Locksmith of London

© AmalgaMedia 2014-2017


A Tale of The Gordon Riots

GABRIEL VARDEN, THE LOCKSMITH OF  LONDON, A tale of the Gordon Riots, was the name that Dickens gave to the first novel he began to write after his great success with PICKWICK. It was published as BARNABY RUDGE in 1841, but it is Varden, the homely locksmith who emerges as a hero. In 1960 the BBC screened an adaptation of BARNABY RUDGE in black and white.

The Gordon Riots of 1780 have been excluded from the history books. Two hundred and fifty rioters were shot or burnt to death. The jails were broken open and Londoners terrorised. Beginning as a petition to Parliament, it had become a free for all, like the City Riots of 2011.

The reasons given then were against illiteracy, single mothers, absent fathers, poor parenting and cheap alcohol, all demonstrated by the characters in BARNABY RUDGE and in this adaptation. VARDEN epitomises the philosophy of John Locke. He is both a good father and employer, and a dutiful citizen who patiently endures the moods of a bigoted wife. He enjoys a beer and a pipe, and will always do anyone a good turn. He is committed to the security of both family and the State even at the risk of his own life. He is a model of a tolerant, liberal Christian.



In Episodes 1-5, the fictional characters assemble (1775 and before). In Episodes 6-12 before, during, and after the Riots

(actual historical figures and events merge with fiction).


The Hon John Chester 55, aristocratic villain, a Protestant, Father of Edward (Ned) 27, a good looking independent minded young man and Hugh (20+) a half-gypsy who has no father’s name, and was abandoned when his mother was hanged. He minds animals at the Maypole Inn. Handsome, thirsty and illiterate he befriends Barnaby Rudge (20's) an autistic illiterate young man, who believes his father, Rudge (55+) to be dead.

In fact, he is an outlaw and a murderer married to Mary (40+) a single mother, who pretends to be a widow, living on the charity of Geoffrey Haredale (55+) a devout Roman Catholic, landowner, and guardian of Emma, (20's), his murdered brother, Reuben's, child. She and Ned Chester are in love but live 12 miles apart and rely on friends taking messages. Joe Willett (20's) handsome and intelligent, son of the publican of the Maypole Inn, John Willett (60), overbearing, obstinate and mean, the "King" of the Maypole. He employs Hugh who he regards as an animal.

Gabriel Varden (60) warmhearted, tolerant, unprejudiced tradesman, employing Simon Tappertit (22) as an apprentice. He secretly plots against the Masters, and iis n love with Dolly (19). She is the intelligent, pretty,flirtatious, daughter of Gabriel and Martha, his wife (40's) who has an ally in Miggs (45), an amorous shrewish spinster in love with Simon. Additional small parts  at the Maypole are Solomon Daisy, the sexton (65+), Parkes and Cobb bar-room cronies. At the BOOT INN are ‘blind’ Stagg, the publican 'and "The Apprentice Knights".

FICTIONAL CHARACTERS introduced in 1780.

Gashford (55) employed as Private Secretary to Lord George Gordon . A convert to the Protestant religion, he is secretly a friend and ally of Sir John Chester M.P.

George Grueby (60) is  a moderate Protestant and Lord George Gordon’s loyal manservant.



Lord George Gordon (27) M.P. and President of the Protestant Association, second son of the late Duke of Sutherland although he never knew his father. He is a religious fanatic.

Edward Langdale is the Roman Catholic owner of the large distillery in Holborn.  He employs Irish workers.

Kennet, The Lord Mayor of London.

Akerman, the Govenor of Newgate Prison.

Edward Dennis (55), the public hangman.

Introduced by the Adapter.

Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, Lord Stormont, Minister of State; the Archbishishop of York, several Observers and Diarists; Miss Susan Burney; Mr Ignatius Sanchez, a former African slave, a playwright friend of David Garrick.

By the end of the first half, Ned, Joe Willett and Barnaby have gone, Chester has broken up the lovers. All the young men are away but return in 1780 and are all involved from Episode 8. Episode 6 introduces the Historic Characters and in Episode 7 (the Confrontation) Haredale strongly voices the injustices suffered by Catholics and disgraces Gashford in public. From then Gashford plans revenge, succeeding in Episodes 8,9 &10.

Hugh, Simon, Dennis and Barnaby are led on by Chester and Gashford, and become rioters. The Maypole is wrecked and Haredale's home is destroyed. The girls are abducted and later saved by Joe and Ned.

The mob, led by Hugh and Simon, attack Newgate Prison. Varden makes a defiant stand against the rioters and nearly loses his life. Langdale, Haredale and Grueby witness the destruction of the Distillery before the soldiers shoot at the mob. When Hugh and Barnaby are sentenced to death it is Varden who pleads for their lives. Hugh dies gallantly on the gallows, but Barnaby is reprieved and restored to his Mother. The lovers are united. Chester is killed by Haredale in a duel. By New Year's Eve, with the help of Varden, the Maypole has been reopened for business, managed by Joe and Dolly.

Synopses are available on request.

“It is a period drama with two pairs of young lovers, a murder, a ghost story, a villain, political skulduggery and a connection to the American War of Independence”.

Click the above picture to buy the Book or click the picture below to buy the Kindle version.