February 7th marks the 210th birthday of writer Charles Dickens, as he is widely thought to be the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, why not celebrate by visiting some of the heritage attractions that inspired his work?

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on 7th February 1812 in Portsmouth and over the course of his life wrote 15 novels, 5 novellas, hundreds of short stories and non fiction and edited a weekly journal for over 20 years.

His birthplace, 1 Mile End Terrace in Portsmouth is now 393 Commercial Road, Landport on Portsea Island and has been transformed into a museum to his life. This is a great place to start if you want to discover more about Dicken’s life.

Though born in Portsmouth, Dickens’ family moved to Kent and he spent much of his childhood in Medway, Kent. He lived at 2 Ordnance Terrace in Chatham and later bought the Gads Hill estate, where he wrote A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. It was where he spent the last years of his life. There are several attractions in Kent for you to visit here, including Dickens World, at Chatham’s Historic Dockyard and in Medway, there is a festival dedicated to the writer and his life.

Broadstairs is another location where you can find out more about Dickens. He stayed here when on holiday and stayed in a stately house to write David Copperfield, the house would later be known as Bleak House.

Dickens’ teen years were spent in London, specifically in Southwark. His father was sent to a debtors prison in the city and ended up at Marshalsea Prison, near Borough Market, which ended up inspiring scenes in Little Dorrit. The prison is no longer there, but one of the prison’s walls remains.

St Georges the Martyr church which is close to the prison is in fact the church used in the book and has been nicknamed Little Dorrit Church. It even has a portrait of one of the characters worked into the window. If you visit this area of London, you might want to also visit the George Inn. Not only is it the last surviving coach inn in Britain, but Dickens’ life insurance policy is proudly displayed above the bar. Another location that you’ll recognise from Little Dorrit can be found at Bleeding Heart Yard which can be found in Clerkenwell.

As you might expect from reading his novels, Dickens spent most of his adult life in London and used much of the poverty that he saw as fodder in his campaigns for social reform. He had a house at 48 Doughty Street, which has also become a museum dedicated to him. It was here that he wrote Oliver Twist, using much of the poverty he could witness around him as inspiration for the book. Saffron Hill in this part of London is where Dickens’ envisioned Fagin’s hideout.

Another location is Lincoln Inn Fields which featured in Bleak House and David Copperfield. There is a pub on the Farringdon Road which is named after David’s great aunt Betsey. It is also in this area that you can find the Old Curiosity Shop – the shop was believed to have inspired Dickens, but it didn’t get its name until much later.

Dickens also spent time living in Covent Garden, he ran his newspaper from 26 Wellington Street, which is now a coffeeshop and used the area in a couple of his stories. Nearby is Seven Dials, which today is full of theatres and restaurants, but at the time was one of the most infamous slums in the city. Dickens was known to wonder around Seven Dials writing notes about what he saw, these observations would end up in Sketches by Boz.

As a final note, you can visit his resting place at Westminster Abbey, he can be found in Poet’s Corner.




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