Charles Dickens and Gravesend

Gravesend, close to the historic town of Dartford wouldn’t be Gravesend without mentioning Charles Dickens who lived only a couple of miles in nearby Gad’s Hill Place in Higham, Kent.

For Dickens fans, Gravesend is renowned for getting a mention in at least three of his novels.

Aside from Gravesend also getting a mention in The Pickwick Papers, in the book David Copperfield, Mr Peggotty, the Micawbers and Ham depart from Gravesend on their way to pastures new in Australia.

Also, in Great Expectations, the main character Pip rows Abel Magwitch from London to waylay a steamer (whilst underway in the Lower Hope, off Gravesend) bound for Hamburg.

So the story goes, Dickens spent quite a lot of time walking with his father in the area as a young boy. He was especially impressed with Gad’s Hill House and harboured dreams of owning it when he grew up. He spent his honeymoon in nearby Chalk, Kent and eventually realised his dream of owning the property when he bought it in 1856 for a sum of £1,790. He also paid an additional £90 was for a patch of land across the road which was nicknamed ‘the wilderness’.

He loved the place so much that he chose not to live anywhere else and eventually died there some 14 years later in 1870 following a brain haemorrhage. He’s reported to have had quite a few well-known visitors at his home near Gravesend including Hans Christian Andersen.

The 18th Century Grade I listed building is now open to the public and you can visit his study, conservatory, drawing room and the underground tunnel that led to the chalet he had built on “the wilderness” to retreat to and write some of his novels.

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