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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens in Broadstairs’

I’ve lived in Broadstairs for just over two years now. With a number of connections to this famous author, Broadstairs has much to offer the Charles Dickens fan….including myself. However, as so often happens in life, when something is on your doorstep you tend to ‘put it off till another time’.  So since I have an impending move to Ramsgate in my stars…I decided to visit the Dickens House Museum BEFORE I move elsewhere.

charles dickens, dickens house museum, david copperfield charles dickens, broadstairs

David Copperfield – Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs

Charles Dickens lived in Broadstairs at many different stages of his life and a number of his books were either written here or inspired by characters in the area. He also, by all accounts, manage to live at quite a few different addresses in the area….a bit like me LOL However, although known as Dickens House Museum, Charles didn’t actually live in the house. It was in fact once the home of a friend; Miss Mary Pearson on whom he based much of the character of Miss Betsy Trotwood, David Copperfield’s great-aunt.

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs. david copperfield charles dickens

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs

Stepping over the threshold into the museum is like stepping back in time to another era, you almost expect Dickens to come slowly down the stairs, book in hand.

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs. david copperfield charles dickens

Dickens’ Sideboard

Lovingly restored, with objects and furniture from that era, the house is filled with some items wonderful pieces from a wedding dress to the tiniest pieces of jewellery.

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs. david copperfield charles dickens

a Victorian wedding dress, Victorian sewing items, various objects d’art and a collection of photos depicting houses associated with Dickens and a scene from the front room

You can see a copy of his will, his sideboard, and a fascinating collection of photos of properties related to Dickens.

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs. david copperfield charles dickens

Betsy Trotwood’s Parlour, Dickens House Museum

A reconstruction of Betsy Trotwood’s Parlour as described by Dickens in chapter 15 of David Copperfield.

The reconstructed nursery is utterly charming; you can almost hear the laughter of the children.

dickens house museum, betsy trotwood, david copperfield, charles dickens

The nursery

The Dickens House Museum is located just a few yards from the Victorian Promenade that runs along the clifftop looking out over Viking Bay and Broadstairs Beach.

broadstairs

a view of the bay from the cliff top

Broadstairs is a quintessential British seaside town with so much to offer, from ice-cream parlours, tea-shops, museums, Bleak House (where Dickens actually lived) a marvellous hotel, antique shops, artisan bakeries, a plethora of restaurants and some wonderful seaside town souvenir shops where you can buy buckets and spades.

broadstairs a seaside town in kent

a delightful seaside shop in Broadstairs

Come visit sometime 😉

p.s. we also have many typical High Street shops and charities

You can reach Broadstairs by train from St Pancras Station via Ashford or Victoria Station via Rochester from London.

 

 

 

 

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My daughter and I went to Bleak House on Saturday afternoon for a Cream Tea and to tour the Smugglers Tunnels beneath the house…Bleak House was once known as Fort House and Broadstairs was a hotbed of smuggling with many notorious smugglers once captured,  being deported to Australia.

smugglers tunnels and afternoon tea at Bleak House

If you wake at midnight and hear a horse’s feet, Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street…

In 1723 Daniel Defoe wrote of a visit “Broadstairs is a small fishing village of 300 souls, of which 27 follow the occupation of fishing…” You can surmise therefore that the rest were gainfully ’employed’ in other businesses…..in fact, beneath much of Broadstairs is a warren of smugglers tunnels, mostly closed off now. Oh how I’d love to have access to those tunnels 🙂

afternoon tea and smugglers tunnels at bleak house

This chap had been ‘redcapped’ for being an informer, as lucrative a business as smuggling, with the possibility of a £500 reward for information.

‘Redcapping’ – A Revenue Spy who broke the smuggler’s unwritten law were dealt with in different ways. The Informer would be staked out on the beach at low tide with a RED LANTERN by his head. The smugglers would then watch to see that the spy was not released till the lantern had gone out.

Broadstairs is located on the east coast of Kent on what is/was known as the Isle of Thanet; an island 2 miles out to sea – the water separating the island from the mainland known as the Watsum Channel. After the channel silted up, the land which includes Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate is now part of Kent  County.

The Romans considered the Watsum Channel very important and built forts at Reculver and Richborough to protect it. In 449 The Vikings (after which the little bay is now named), under Hengist, landed at Thanet, rowed up the Watsum Channel and attacked Canterbury.

Broadstairs is just filled to the brim with history. Since Roman times and the Vikings Broadstairs has seen the likes of Wellington’s troops camped out and Napoleon’s Standard was presented here in 1815 after the British won the Battle of Waterloo. Charles Dickens lived in Broadstairs on numerous occasions and one of the most well-known is Bleak House where he wrote much of David Copperfield. As part of the tour we were able to visit the study where he sat and wrote while gazing out the windows across the English Channel.

smugglers tunnels and afternoon tea at Bleak House

the desk where Charles dickens sat and wrote David Copperfield

Previously known as Fort House, Bleak House, as it looks now, was remodelled in 1911. We’ve been there a number of times for Cream Tea but this time we decided to explore the smugglers caves beneath. Absolutely awesome.  I’m guessing that since the land is chalk it was pretty easy to tunnel away and create the caves and Smuggler’s tunnels. The chalk cliffs extends all the way from the Thames estuary as far as the White Cliffs of Dover and thence to the Isle of Wight.

smugglers tunnels and afternoon tea at Bleak House

smugglers tunnels and a cream tea at Bleak House

The Cream Tea (which is what we normally have) is delicious and the scones are fresh and yummy. I can recommend a visit to Bleak House for tea and do be sure to include the tour of the tunnels and Dickens’ study…at £4 per person for the tour, it’s a steal 😉  Although you can order the Cream Tea on a whim…NB if you wish to partake of the Afternoon Tea at Bleak House you would need to book in advance.

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