Kent has close links to one of Britain’s most famous authors Charles Dickens. Much of Dickensian London was obliterated by World War II bombing, but old Dickensian scenes survive aplenty in Kent around Rochester and Broadstairs. Although Dickens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire in 1812, he spent happy childhood years in the Chatham area of North Kent at Ordanance Terrace from aged 5 to 10 until his father was imprisoned at Marshalsea debtors’ prison and the family fell on hard times.
Discovering Dickens in Kent
Dickens returned to North Kent towards the end of his life, purchasing Gad’s Hill Place at Higham on the Medway. He died here in 1870. The Kent Dickens Trail takes in many historic sites and buildings which found their way into his novels in another form.
Broadstairs, Thanet Coast
Famous ones include The Dickens House Museum at Broadstairs on the Thanet coast – inspiration for Betsey Trotwood’s house in ‘David Copperfield’ and today a museum with displays of fascinating Dickens artefacts and memorabilia including letters and original print illustrations for Dickens’ novels by Phiz.
Rochester on The Medway
Rochester on the Medway in North Kent sits at the heart of the region’s Dickens Trail. Explore the Guildhall Museum with magnificent Main Hall and Dickens Discovery Room displaying numerous personal effects and memorabilia linked to the author including his writing desk. Don’t miss a tour of Restoration House in Rochester – inspiration for Miss Havisham’s Satis House in Great Expectations. The house also played host to Charles II on his route back to London to reclaim the throne. Today this magnificent pre-civil war town house with beautiful gardens and impressive art collection is open to the public. Many historic buildings in Rochester have featured in Dickens novels including the Six Poor Travellers House (The Seven Poor Travellers in Dickens’ Christmas Story). Rochester Castle, Cathedral and Eastgate House all get a mention in Pickwick Papers.
Festivals and events in Broadstairs and Rochester take place in summer and leading up to Christmas. Main summer Dickens festivals are in both towns annually in May/ June, with various Dickens events like Rochester’s Festival Costume Sale taking place around summer festivals. Rochester also hosts an annual Christmas Dickens Festival with parade and communal carol service in early December annually.
Getting To / Where to Stay – Rochester & Broadstairs
Both these Kent Dickens towns are easily reached off main motorway links in the region including the M2 and M20 and both have stations with fast rail links to London Victoria and Charing Cross. Gatwick Airport is just 43 minutes from Rochester and the Channel Tunnel is within an hour’s drive of Broadstairs and Thanet. If you are visiting for a Dickens Festival short break, it’s well worth arriving car free by train – festivals are popular and parking is limited. Everything a Dickens fan could need is centrally situated in both towns including festival parades, events and Dickens museums.
Beautiful Broadstairs and Rochester contain charming period B&Bs and guest houses. In seaside Broadstairs with its award-winning beaches you will also find an excellent selection of coastal cottages and both the Thanet coast and the Medway areas offer a good choice of family friendly holiday parks. Budget and leisure hotels sit close to motorway links in the Rochester/ Medway area – ideal for quick Dickens Festival stopovers. Book your Dickens themed holiday in Kent online or direct with iknow.