April 11, 2012
And so we come to the final in our series celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of author Charles Dickens. This week we thought we’d take a look at a few of the key places you can go for a daytrip from London to find more Dickens-related sites…
• Portsmouth. Dickens was born here on 7th February, 1812, and the modest home in which this took place is now the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum (www.charlesdickensbirthplace.co.uk). The house featured three furnished rooms and an exhibition room with a display on Dickens’ connections with Portsmouth and memorabilia including the couch on which he died at Gad’s Hill Place. Fans from all over the world will be converged in Portsmouth later this year when the International Dickens Fellowship Bicentenary Conference 2012 is held over 9th to 14th August (www.dickensfellowship.org/Events/annual-conference-2012).
• Chatham and Rochester, Kent. Dickens spent five years of his childhood (from 1817 to 1822) living in Chatham and as a result it and the neighbouring Medway town of Rochester helped to inspire some of the characters and places in some of his most famous works. Restoration House in Rochester, for example, is believed to have been the inspiration for Satis House, where Miss Havisham lived in Great Expectations while Eastgate House (pictured) features as Westgate in both The Pickwick Papers and as the Nun’s House in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Until 2004, the house served as the Charles Dickens Centre and interestingly, the Swiss chalet in which Dickens wrote was moved here in the 1960s from Gad’s Hill Place – it can be seen over the fence. The area has celebrated its connections with Dickens with an annual festival every year since 1978 – this year’s takes place on the 8th, 9th and 10th June. See www.medway.gov.uk/leisureandculture/events/dickensfestival.aspx for more. (Late addition: We neglected to mention Dickens World located at Chatham, an interactive experience which recreates nineteenth century England – you can find more about it here www.dickensworld.co.uk).
• Broadstairs, Kent. Dickens first came to stay at this seaside resort in 1837 when he was 25-years-old and already had a reputation on the rise. He repeatedly returned over the next couple of decades. The Dickens House Museum (www.dickensfellowship.org/branches/broadstairs) was once the home of Miss Mary Pearson Strong on whom much of the character of Miss Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield is believed to be based. It features a range of Dickens-related artefacts, including letters he wrote from or about Broadstairs. The Broadstairs Dickens Festival runs from 16th to 22nd June.
• Gad’s Hill Place, Higham, Kent. Dickens died here in 1870 after spending the last 13 years of his life living at the property. It’s now a school (www.gadshill.org) but the ground floor will be open to the public this summer, from 25th July to 19th August, for pre-booked tours of reception rooms and the study where he wrote Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, A Tale of Two Cities and the unfinished novel Edwin Drood. For more information on the tours, see www.dickensmuseum.com/news/gads-hill-place-to-open-to-public/.
This was the last in our series on Charles Dickens – next week we start a new series in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. For more events surrounding the Dickens celebrations both in London and elsewhere, see www.dickens2012.org.
In which we continue our look at some of London’s connections with Dickens’ writings…
• ‘Oliver Twist’ workhouse, Cleveland Street. The building, recently heritage listed following a campaign to save it, is said to have served as the model for the workhouse in Oliver Twist and was apparently the only building of its kind still in operation when Dickens wrote the book in the 1830s. Dickens had lived as a teenager nearby in a house in Cleveland Street and was living less than a mile away in Doughty Street (now the Charles Dickens Museum) when he wrote Oliver Twist. Thanks to Ruth Richardson – author of Dickens and the Workhouse: Oliver Twist and the London Poor – for mentioning this after last week’s post.
• Clerkenwell Green. It is here that Mr Brownlow first comes into contact with Oliver Twist and, mistakenly suspecting him of stealing from him, chases him through the surrounding streets. Interestingly, the grass (which you would expect when talking about a green) has been gone for more than 300 years – so it wasn’t here in Dickens’ time either.
• Barnard’s Inn, Fetter Lane. It was here, at one of London’s Inns of Court, that Pip and Herbert Pocket had chambers in Great Expectations. Barnard’s Inn, now the home of Gresham College, is only one of a number of the Inns of Court with which Dickens and his books had associations – the author lived for a time at Furnival’s Inn while Lincoln’s Inn (off Chancery Lane) features in Bleak House and the medieval Staple Inn on High Holborn makes an appearance in his unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. And, as mentioned last week, Middle Temple also features in his books.
• ‘Dickens House’, Took’s Court. Renamed Cook’s Court in Bleak House, the house – located in a court between Chancery and Fetter Lane – was where the law stationer Mr Snagsby lived and worked in the book. It’s now occupied by music promoter and impresario Raymond Gubbay.
• London Bridge. The bridge, a new version of which had opened in 1831 (it has since been replaced), featured in many of Dickens’ writings including Martin Chuzzlewit, David Copperfield and Great Expectations. Other bridges also featured including Southwark Bridge (Little Dorrit) and Blackfriars Bridge (Barnaby Rudge) and as well as Eel Pie Island, south-west along the Thames River at Twickenham, which is mentioned in Nicholas Nickleby.
We’ve only included a brief sample of the many locations in London related in some way to Dickens’ literary works. Aside from those books we mentioned last week, you might also want to take a look at Richard Jones’ Walking Dickensian London, Lee Jackson’s Walking Dickens’ London or, of course, Claire Tomalin’s recent biography, Charles Dickens: A Life.
London is redolent with sites which appeared in the books of Charles Dickens and, having had a look at his life, it’s time we turn our attention to some of the sites relevant to his writing. For the next two weeks, we’re looking at just a few of the many, many sites which feature in his novels. So, here’s seven places to get us going…
• Saffron Hill, Clerkenwell. Once a notorious slum akin to St Giles (see last week’s entry) and the city’s Italian Quarter, Saffron Hill is where Fagin and his gang of thieves operate in Oliver Twist and have their den.
• Chancery Lane, Holborn. Much of the novel Bleak House is set around this narrow street between High Holborn and Fleet Street – Tom Jarndyce kills himself in a coffee shop here in the novel and Lincoln’s Inn Hall – formerly home of the High Court of Chancery – also features.
• The Old Bailey. Some have suggested Dickens worked here as a court reporter although there is no compelling evidence he did so. But the the Old Bailey (the current building dates from the early 20th century, well after Dickens’ death) and Newgate Prison certainly featured in his books – it is here that Fagin is eventually hung in Oliver Twist.
• Child & Co’s Bank, Fleet Street. While the present building dates from 1878, Dickens is believed to have used the bank as the model for Tellson’s Bank in A Tale of Two Cities.
• St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street. In David Copperfield, David and his aunt, Betsy Trotwood, make a special trip to see the giants Gog and Magog strike the church bells. It also features in Barnaby Rudge and Dickens dedicated his Christmas story, The Chimes, to the church.
• Garden Court and Fountain Court (pictured), Middle Temple. Garden Court is where Pip lived in Great Expectations and where Abel Magwitch turned up to reveal himself as Pip’s benefactor. Fountain Court features in Martin Chuzzlewit as the site for the romance of Ruth Pinch and John Westlock.
• Golden Square, Soho. Mentioned in Nicholas Nickleby – Nicholas’ uncle, Ralph Nickleby, was thought to live in a previous building at number seven.
There’s some great books about London sites which appear in Dickens’ books – among them are Ed Glinert’s Literary London: A Street by Street Exploration of the Capital’s Literary Heritage and Michael Paterson’s Inside Dickens’ London as well as Paul Kenneth Garner’s
A Walk Through Charles Dickens’ London.
We’ve looked at Charles’ Dickens childhood in London and some of his residences, workplaces and the pubs he attended. Before we take a look at some of the sites relevant to his writings, Exploring London takes a look at just a handful of the many other London sites associated with the famous Victorian author…
• Seven Dials and the former St Giles slum, Soho. An notorious slum of the 19th century, this area was among a number of “rookeries” or slums toured by Dickens in 1850 in the company of Inspector Field and police from Scotland Yard, and later helped to inform much of his writing. Seven Dials itself – located at the junction of Mercer and Earlham Streets and Upper St Martin’s Lane (pictured right is the monument at the junction’s centre) – has just undergone a renovation but much of the St Giles area is now irrevocably modernised. We’ll be mentioning another notorious slum located in Saffron Hill, Clerkenwell, in an upcoming week.
• Holland House, Kensington. Dickens became a friend of Lady Holland’s after attending one of her exclusive soirees at the age of 26. He was a guest at the house, now a youth hostel, in Holland Park on numerous occasions.
• Royalty House, Dean Street, Soho. The former site of the Royalty Theatre, known in Dickens’ day as Miss Kelly’s Theatre, it was here on 21st September, 1845, that Dickens and a group of friends performed Ben Jonson’s play, Every Man in his Humour (1598). Dickens acted as stage manager and director as well as playing the part of Captain Bobadil.
• Buckingham Palace. It was here in March 1870 – not long before his death – that Dickens had his only face-to-face meeting with Queen Victoria. She apparently found him to have a “large, loving mind and the strongest sympathy with the poorer classes”.
March 14, 2012
As the fame of author Charles Dickens grew, so too did his philanthropy and today we’re highlighting a couple of the London institutions he was known to support (and yes, we’ve changed the title for this series as most of the entries comprised more than one site!)…
1. Urania Cottage. A home for the redemption of “fallen women” or prostitutes, Urania Cottage was founded by an initially reluctant Dickens in Shepherd’s Bush in the city’s west in the late 1840s following an approach by Angela Burdett Coutts, heiress to the Coutts banking fortune. The home was founded as an alternative to existing institutions for such women – known for their “harsh and punishing” routines – and instead looked to provide an environment where they could learn skills, such as reading and writing, to help them successfully reintegrate into society (this would be overseas as all the women who spent time at the house were apparently required to emigrate following their time there). After founding the home in Lime Grove, Dickens became heavily involved in establishing the day-to-day running of the home – including interviewing prospective residents and personally searching prisons and workhouses for suitable candidates. It’s estimated that 100 women graduated from the home between 1847 and 1859. (For more, see Jenny Hartley’s Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women).
2. Great Ormond Street Hospital. Dickens played an important role in helping to publicise the work of this hospital – then known as the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street, it opened in a converted 17th century townhouse in Great Ormond Street in 1852 and, initially with just 10 beds, was the first hospital in Britain to offer inpatient care only to children. The hospital was apparently initially regarded with suspicion by many and had few patients but Dickens, a close friend of Dr Charles West, the principal founder of the hospital, was able to write a powerful article about the hospital in his publication Household Words and so help to popularise its ground-breaking work. Dickens was a regular at the hospital’s annual fundraising dinner, was appointed an honorary governor and helped save the church from financial collapse in 1858 when he gave a public reading at St Martin-in-the-Fields’ church hall to raise funds. For more on the history of Great Ormond Street, see www.gosh.nhs.uk/about-us/our-history/.
3. Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Clearly concerned with the well-being of all creatures great and small, Dickens was an influential supporter of the dogs home – then housed in a disused barn in Hollingsworth Street, Holloway – writing an article in the 1860s in his magazine All The Year Round about how dogs were cared for at the then fledgling organisation. In honor of the bicentenary of his birth, the home has been naming some of the animals in its care after some of the characters created by the Victorian author – these include a Staffordshire bull terrier called Copperfield and a bull mastiff cross called Dodger. For more on the home, see www.battersea.org.uk.
We’d be interested to hear from you if there are any other organisations you’re aware of which Dickens supported…
10 London sites to celebrate Charles Dickens – 5. Seven pubs associated with Dickens (including one he never visited)…
March 7, 2012
There hardly seems to be a pub in London which doesn’t claim some connection with the Victorian author but we thought we’d confine ourselves to five pubs with more well-established credentials…
• Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. This pub is a Fleet Street institution with parts of the current building dating back to 1667 when it was rebuilt following the Great Fire. Dickens was among numerous literary figures who frequented the premises – the pub is perhaps most famously associated with the lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson (although there is apparently no recorded evidence he ever attended here); other literary figures who came here include Mark Twain and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – and, according to a plaque in Wine Court, worked out of the pub for a period while producing his journal All The Year Round.
• The One Tun, Saffron Hill. Said to have been established as an ale house on its present site in 1759, the pub was rebuilt in the mid-Victorian era and was apparently patronised by Dickens between 1833 and 1838. It’s also apparently the inspiration for the pub called The Three Cripples in Oliver Twist (The Three Cripples was actually a lodging house next door to the One Tun and didn’t sell ale). For more, see www.onetun.com
• The George Inn, Southwark. Dating from the 17th century, the George Inn in Borough High Street is the last galleried coaching inn left standing in London and is now cared for by the National Trust (and leased for use by a private company). Dickens is known to have come here when it was running as a coffee house and he mentions it in the book, Little Dorrit. For more, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/george-inn/.
• George & Vulture, Castle Court (near Lombard Street). Established in the 18th century on the site of an older inn, this well-hidden pub was not only frequented by Dickens but is mentioned in The Pickwick Papers more than 20 times.
• The Grapes, Limehouse. Formerly known as The Bunch of Grapes, there has been a pub on the site for almost more than 430 years. Dickens was known to be a patron here (his godfather lived in Limehouse) and mentioned the pub – renamed The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters – appears in his novel Our Mutual Friend. For more, see www.thegrapes.co.uk.
• Ye Olde Mitre, Ely Place. This pub dates from the mid 1500s by Bishop Goodrich of Ely to house his retainers and later rented out to Sir Christopher Hatton (it still houses the remains of a cherry tree which Sir Christopher is said to have danced around during a May Day celebration with none other than the future Queen Elizabeth I). Dickens (and the ubiquitous Dr Johnson) are both said to have drunk here.
• And lastly, The Dickens Inn in St Katharine Docks. It’s worth noting up front that Charles Dickens had nothing to do with this pub – dating back to at least 1800, it was once a warehouse and is thought to have been used to either house tea or play a role in a local brewing operation – but it was his great grandson, Cedric Charles Dickens, who formally opened the pub in 1976, apparently declaring, “My great grandfather would have loved this inn”. For more, see www.dickensinn.co.uk.
This list is by no means comprehensive – we’d love to hear from you if you know of any other pubs Dickens frequented…
February 29, 2012
We’ve already mentioned Charles Dicken’s Doughty Street house (now the Charles Dickens Museum) and his many childhood homes, but where else in London did Dickens reside during his adult life?
Following his marriage to Catherine Hogarth on 2nd April, 1836, at St Luke’s Church in Chelsea, Dickens and his new bride settled into chambers the writer had taken the now non-existent Furnival’s Inn (the author had been living there prior to his marriage), the site of which is now occupied by the Holborn Bars Building).
In January the following year the couple had their first child – Charles Culliford Boz Dickens – and shortly afterwards made the move to the property at 48 Doughty Street. As we mentioned, the house was where two of his children were born and where Catherine’s 17-year-old sister Mary died (her death is believed to be the inspiration for that of the character Little Nell in the novel The Old Curiosity Shop) as well as being where Dickens wrote some of his most famous novels, including Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Pickwick Papers.
In 1839, however, the family upsized into a much grander property at 1 Devonshire Terrace in Marylebone near Regent’s Park. This property at what is now 15-17 Marylebone Road was demolished in the late Fifties but there is a sculptural frieze on the wall marking where the property once stood.
Among the works Dickens wrote while living here were The Old Curiosity Shop, A Christmas Carol, Martin Chuzzlewit and David Copperfield. Six of Dickens’ children were born while he lived in this property. During this time, Dickens also made his first visit to North America and also travelled with his family in Europe for considerable periods.
In November 1851, Dickens moved the family again – this time to Tavistock House, located Tavistock Square in Bloomsbury. The property was demolished in 1901 and the site is now occupied by the headquarters of the British Medical Association (there’s a blue plaque commemorating Dickens’ time here).
Among the works Dickens wrote while living here were Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit and A Tale of Two Cities. The last of Dickens’ 10 children were born here – Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens, later an Australian MP – and it was while living here, that in 1858 he separated from his wife Catherine. Dickens also put on amateur theatricals in the property.
Dickens’ time at Tavistock house ended around 1860 when Gad’s Hill in Kent became the main family home.
PICTURE: A section of the sculptural frieze depicting Dickens and some of his characters on the building that now stands at what was 1 Devonshire Terrace now in Marylebone Road. PICTURE: grahamc99
February 22, 2012
We kick off this week’s special – which looks at some of the London premises in which Dickens spent his working life – where we left off last week. Charles Dickens, now 15, had once again been forced to leave school and seek employment – this time as a solicitor’s clerk. From 1827 to 1828, the future author worked at two firms before, having taught himself shorthand, he launched his career as a journalist.
Dickens started his life in his new profession as a freelance law reporter working out of Doctor’s Commons where civil cases were heard (the site of which is marked with a blue plaque on the north side of Queen Victoria Street). Around 1830, he began to work for the newspaper, Mirror of Parliament, which was owned by his uncle and then, in 1832 he was employed at the True Sun newspaper.
His first published literary works started appearing in Monthly Magazine in December the following year (his first printed story was initially entitled A Dinner at Poplar Walk) and eight months later, in August 1834, he took on a new job as a reporter at the influential Whig paper, the Morning Chronicle. His writing was subsequently also published in the Evening Chronicle.
Among the magazine’s Dickens edited were Bentley’s Miscellany – this was the vehicle in which Oliver Twist was first published – and Household Words – Hard Times was first published in this – as well as All the Year Round. A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations were both first serialised in this magazine which was located at 26 Wellington Street not far from Covent Garden. The building is now the home to the Charles Dickens Coffee House (pictured).
Next week we’ll be taking a look at some of places in London where Dickens lived…
February 15, 2012
Born the second child of a naval clerk then stationed in Portsmouth, Charles Dickens had what one would imagine was a fairly typical childhood for the son of a naval clerk, his family following his father John Dickens from one place to another – Sheerness, Chatham and briefly, in 1815, in London – as he took up different posts.
But in 1822, amid increasing financial difficulties, John Dickens was recalled to London and he and the family moved into a house at 16 Bayham Street in Camden Town in the city’s north, Charles joining them after completing schooling in Chatham (the house at number 16 Bayham Street is now commemorated by a plaque – it was demolished in 1910).
The family subsequently moved to another, recently built, premises at 4 Gower Street North (later renumbered 147 Gower Street) but soon after this, on 20th February, 1824, John Dickens was arrested over debt and taken to Marshalsea Prison where he subsequently resided with his family with the exception of Charles (the prison, in use since the 14th century, was closed in 1842 and finally mostly demolished in the 1870s – a single wall of the second prison on the site is all that remains).
Twelve-year-old Charles, meanwhile, was put to work in the Warren’s Blacking Factory (pictured) near Hungerford Stairs, which stood just off the Strand (it’s said to have stood roughly where Charing Cross Railway Station now stands). While doing so, he roomed firstly at a house in Little College Street, Camden Town, and then in rooms at Lant Street in Borough (which was much closer to the prison).
John Dickens was out of prison in May but Charles continued working at the factory for almost another year until his father’s fortunes improved and Charles, now living with the family once again – at 29 Johnson Street and then, after being evicted, at The Polygon in Somers Town (an area in St Pancras) – returned to school, becoming enrolled at the Wellington House Classical and Commercial Academy in Hampstead Road.
In 1827, his father’s finances once more having taken a turn for the worse, he began work as a solicitor’s clerk (but more of that later)…
PICTURE: A nineteenth century etching of Dickens at Warren’s Blacking Factory – Source: Wikipedia.
In the first of a new special series written in honor of the bicentenary of the birth of author Charles Dickens (he was born on 7th February, 1812), we take a look at the Charles Dickens Museum.
Housed in one of Dickens’ former London residences at 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury, this property is now the focal point for people wanting to find out more about the writer and his life as evidenced by the visit of Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, on Tuesday to officially mark Dickens’ birth.
Dickens lived in the property from 1837 to 1839 and it was here that significant family events, such as the birth of two of his children – Mary and Kate – and the death of his wife Catherine’s 17-year-old sister Mary took place (Mary’s tragic death is believed to be the inspiration for that of the character Little Nell in the novel The Old Curiosity Shop). It was also at the property that he wrote some of his most famous novels, including Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Pickwick Papers.
A growing demand for space, however, led Dickens to move his household to 1 Devonshire Terrace in 1839. The Doughty Street house meanwhile, the only one of Dickens’ London homes to have survived, remained a residential property but in 1923 it was threatened with demolition and subsequently acquired by the Dickens Fellowship. The museum opened there two years later.
The museum now claims to hold more than 100,000 Dickens-related artifacts. The house is displayed as it might have been when Dickens lived there – artifacts on display over four floors include his personal possessions and furnishings as well as manuscripts, letters, first edition copies of some of his books and portraits, including R.W. Buss’ spectacular (and unfinished) Dickens’ Dream, showing the author at his country home of Gads Hill Place in Kent surrounded by many of the characters that he had created.
It’s important to note that from 9th April, the museum will be closed as it undergoes a £3.2 million project, called Great Expectations, which will involve the restoration and expansion of the museum. It is expected to reopen in December this year in time to celebrate a Dickensian Christmas.
WHERE: 48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury (nearest Tube stations are Russell Square, Chancery Lane or Holborn). WHEN: 10am to 5pm Monday to Sunday (last admission 4.30pm) ; COST: £7 adults/£5 concessions/£3 children (under 10 free); WEBSITE: www.dickensmuseum.com.