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Broadstairs and Charles Dickens

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Visit Broadstairs and Follow in the Footsteps of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, the famous 19th-century English author, had a significant connection with Broadstairs, a coastal town in Kent, England. Broadstairs is often associated with Dickens, as he spent many summers there and found inspiration for some of his works in the town.

Dickens first visited Broadstairs in 1837, and he developed a deep affection for the town. He rented a house called "Bleak House" on Fort Road in 1850, which is believed to have inspired the title of one of his novels, "Bleak House," published in 1853. Dickens also wrote parts of another novel, "David Copperfield," while staying in Broadstairs.

Dickens' affection for Broadstairs was evident in his writings, as he often mentioned the town and its landmarks in his letters and novels. For example, he referred to the town as "Our English watering place" and "Our English home by the sea" in his letters. He also described the town's scenic beauty, such as the cliffs, the sea, and the picturesque streets, in his works.

Today, Broadstairs commemorates its association with Dickens through various Dickens-related attractions and events, including the Dickens House Museum, which is housed in the former home of Mary Pearson Strong, believed to have been the inspiration for the character of Miss Betsey Trotwood in "David Copperfield." Visit Broadstairs and Follow in the Footsteps of Charles Dickens

There is also an annual Dickens Festival held in Broadstairs, featuring costumed characters, performances, and other activities celebrating the life and works of Charles Dickens.

Broadstairs Dickens festival
Broadstairs Dickens festival

This year, the town is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Dickens House Museum and the launch of a new Dickens Town Trail. If you would like to follow in the author's footsteps and discover the town he described as “one of the freshest, freest little places in the world”, here are our four top tips.

Dickens House Musuem Broadstairs
Dickens House Musuem

Visit Dickens House Museum in its 50th anniversary year

What is now the Dickens House Museum was once the clifftop home of Mary Pearson Strong, an elderly spinster who Dickens knew well from his many visits to the village. Whilst writing his eighth novel David Copperfield in Broadstairs in 1849 and 1850, he based much of the character of David's great aunt Betsey on the eccentric Miss Strong, who chased away trespassing donkeys from her garden with an umbrella or broomstick.

Dickens House Museum Broadstairs
Dickens House Museum Broadstairs

The house, virtually unaltered since Dickens enjoyed tea in the parlour with Miss Strong, was left to the local council in 1971 on the condition that it became a museum celebrating the novelist's important links with Broadstairs. Two years later, on Saturday 16 June 1973, Dickens House was officially opened as a museum by the novelist's great-grandson, Peter Dickens.

Visitors to the museum will see items that once belonged to Dickens, including letters written about Broadstairs, his writing box and mahogany sideboard along with a fine collection of prints by HK Browne (Phiz), one of Dickens' principal illustrators. There is also a feature on 'Our English Watering Place', which Dickens wrote in 1851 - an affectionate record of the town and its inhabitants.

Follow in the author's footsteps with the new Dickens Town Trail

To mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of Dickens House Museum, a new town trail will guide you around Broadstairs. The trail highlights places where Dickens and his family stayed when visiting the town on holiday, the much-loved stories he wrote whilst here, along with photos showing how the town would have looked at this time.

The trail, which starts and ends at Dickens House Museum, includes several 'Did you know?' facts about the author and the town.

The trail is approximately 1.2 miles long and takes around one hour to complete. Trail leaflets are available at Dickens House Museum.

Experience festival fun at Broadstairs Dickens Festival - Friday 16 to Sunday 18 June 2023

Charles Dickens visited Broadstairs regularly from 1837 until 1861. In 1937, to commemorate the centenary of the author's first visit, Gladys Waterer, the then-resident of Dickens House, conceived the idea of putting on a production of David Copperfield and of people in Victorian dress to publicise it around the town. This became the first-ever Dickens Festival. The festival has been held annually ever since, with the exception of the years of World War Two.

Dickens Festival Broadstairs
Dickens Festival Broadstairs

This year the festival celebrates 86 years. The festival play is Great Expectations, Dickensian Beach Parties will be back at Viking Bay with Dickensian Mini Golf at Lillyputt Mini Golf.

Rest your head at 'Fagin's Den' - fun, Dickensian-themed accommodation

Fagin's Den is the very first Dickensian-themed holiday cottage in the UK and offers a unique experience for families, friends or Dickens enthusiasts who would like to try a different holiday experience.

Fagins Den holiday cottage Broadstairs
Fagins Den holiday cottage Broadstairs

Fagin's Den is named after the character Fagin from Oliver Twist. Built during the 1860s, the cottage has been completely refurbished in a Victorian style. Memorabilia, books, games, and artwork recreate the ambience of this era.

For a truly authentic experience, guests can dress up as an Oliver Twist character in the costumes provided. There are also two treasure hunts around the house, to discover Fagin's hidden stash, one for adults and one for children.

Fagins Den holiday cottage Broadstairs
Fagins Den holiday cottage

Fagin's Den is set over four floors and has two bedrooms, which can comfortably sleep four people. It is fully equipped for a self-catering stay. Prices are from £90 per night.

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