Charles Dickens’ Kent home to be restored to former glory

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The home of Charles Dickens is to be restored to its former glory for the first time since his death.

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Gad’s Hill Place in Higham, near Rochester, where the author penned novels such as Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, has been used as a school since the 1920s.

Now, as pupils move into new buildings, the Grade One listed Georgian property will be restored to its former glory.

Members of the public have previously been able to tour the house, but it has had its rooms laid out as classrooms and the conservatory as a dining hall.

Now, visitors will be able to gain a true sense of how the house looked and felt during Charles Dickens’ era.

Charles Dickens lived at Gad’s Hill Place from 1856 until his death 14 years later.

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The author, who walked past the house as a boy and dreamed of living in it, bought it at the age of 44.

Dickens died at Gad’s Hill Place on 9 June 1870. At the time of his death he was working on his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

A spokesperson for Gad’s Hill Independent School said: “The move towards returning Dickens’ house to its former state has been in the pipeline for over 15 years, and so everybody involved in the ongoing process is thrilled at the prospect of now being this great step nearer to the ultimate goal of opening the house five days a week to the public.

“The building was never designed to be a school, and to see it returned to the former glory to which Dickens was drawn as a small boy at last, will be wonderful.”

Dr Kate Hill, a senior history lecturer at the University of Lincoln, told historyextra: “It’s exciting to see Dickens’ last house open to the public. I’ll be interested to see how it finds its place among other Dickens houses such as his birthplace museum in Portsmouth and the Dickens Museum in London.

“I think there’s a certain amount of rivalry about how long he lived in each place, what he wrote there, how many of his own authentic possessions are there – and given that this house has been a school for so long, with the original contents removed, I’ll be interested to see how the historical atmosphere which people are looking for will be created.

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“Literary tourism goes back at least to the 19th century, and given what a celebrity Dickens was in his time, it seems fitting that we’ve got another element to add to our Dickens heritage.”

Professor Miles Taylor, director of the Institute of Historical Research and professor of history, said: “I think it’s very welcome news. We think of Dickens as a London author but in fact most of his inspiration came from Kent, so it is right and proper that this should be happening.

“He lived here at the height of his fame, when he was enjoying the riches of his career. Taking the Dickens tours back to Kent is a hugely important development.”

John Bowen, professor of 19th century literature at the University of York, said: “It’s excellent news. Gad’s Hill Place was a house that Dickens dreamed of owning as a little boy and which he bought at the height of his fame and success.

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“He loved the building, which is near Rochester in Kent where he lived as a child, and he made many alterations and improvements to it. Some of his greatest novels were written while he was living there.”