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…

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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 WordsHard Times was first published in this – as well as All the Year RoundA 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…