It is the house which saw the conception of some of English literature’s most loved tales: the characters Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby were both born there. And next week, Charles Dickens’ London home will reopen to the public as a museum complete with an array of the great man’s personal possessions, even including his original writing desk.
The house, on Doughty Street in central London’s Bloomsbury, has been stripped of as many modern features as possible in a £3.1m revamp which the curators hope will give visitors the impression that the author has just “stepped outside”.
When it reopens on next Monday, visitors will be able to tour the house where Dickens lived with his new wife and young family around the time that Queen Victoria ascended the throne. As well, as Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, he finished writing The Pickwick Papers, while living at 48 Doughty Street.
Director of the Charles Dickens Museum Dr Florian Schweizer said the author was still “very much alive” as an author, both in the UK and across the world.
“He continues to inspire artists, film-makers and directors and it is no exaggeration to say that he is still one of the most influential writers, even in 2012,” he said.
The Great Expectations project, funded largely through the Heritage Lottery Fund, has also restored neighbouring 49 Doughty Street to include a visitor and learning centre and a cafe.
The collection of artefacts includes pictures of Dickens and his family, as well as some of his letters. There are replicas of some of the furniture he was known to have and even some original items, such as chairs and photographs on display to the public for the first time of the 1865 railway accident in Staplehurst, Kent, in which Dickens was involved.
And, of course, his original writing desk, where he worked on some of his most famous books, is in the study. Dickens, a man of staunch routine, was said to have left the room to write once; while working on Oliver Twist. His children were playing next door and he was said to have wanted to be nearer to them in order to capture their exuberance.
Visitors will also be able to tour Dickens’ dining room, complete with place names for famous visitors such as William Macready, the great Shakespearian actor of the time and to see Dickens’ marriage licence. School groups will be welcomed and can even make butter in his kitchen to a recipe used by his wife Catherine.