As December begins and the shops go into Christmas overdrive, we decided to look for the Spirit of Christmas Past. In London, the only place to find a true Dickensian Christmas is by following in the footsteps of the great man himself into the London townhouse in which Dickens wrote some of his classic novels. The townhouse is now the Charles Dickens Museum which was dressed for a celebration of a Victorian Christmas; the historic rooms in which Dickens lived and worked while he was making his name are filled with all the decorations, fragrances and sounds of a 19th-century London Christmas.
The attractive Georgian terrace in Doughty Street offers an attractive façade but walking into the museum is a step back in time into the Victorian period that Dickens was to illuminate with his novels. The museum occupies two of the townhouse terrace houses, visitors enter through No. 49 Doughty Street and through to No. 48 which was the home of Dickens in 1837. No 48 has been beautifully restored, however it still remains a family home and when you enter the various rooms, you have sense that the occupants could be returning at any moment.
The rooms are still filled with the furniture Dickens bought for the house – most of the fireplaces, doors, locks, window shutters and fittings are his. From the attic to the kitchen in the basement, each room is filled with furniture and objects from the period to provide some great insights into how the Victorians lived. This remarkable house was threatened with demolition in 1923, but was saved by the Dickens Fellowship who raised the money to buy the property’s freehold. The house was renovated and the Dickens House Museum was opened in 1925.
Each room features treasures from the Museum’s comprehensive collection of Dickens-related objects. You can see the desk where he wrote Great Expectations and raised reading desk which he designed and from which he made countless public readings. Original manuscripts of his great works; letters, personal items, paintings, drawings and photographs tell the story of the Dickens life.
The Museum for the Christmas period are holding an exhibition entitled A Christmas Carol Reimagined which features original artwork from illustration students from Central St Martins and the House of Illustration. This innovative and enjoyable exhibition illustrates that Dickens stories often transcend time and provide inspiration for artists of today.
Many visitors are attracted by the host of Christmas events the Museum holds over the festive period. Highlights include the brilliantly atmospheric candlelit evening openings; late-night openings and tours of the House; special performances and readings of A Christmas Carol by acclaimed Dickens performers; a Christmas walk through the streets of London; and a beautifully lively and festive day of celebration and anticipation on perhaps the most exciting day of the year, Christmas Eve.
The Museum is worth a visit at any time of the year, however at this time of the year it does create its own unique Christmas atmosphere.
Christmas at the Charles Dickens Museum runs from 1 December 2015 until 6 January 2016. The events are very popular, with many selling out quickly, so please book early to avoid disappointment.
If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Dickens Museum website here
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
Christmas at the Charles Dickens Museum and A Christmas Carol Reimagined exhibition
Dates: 1 December 2015 – 6 January 2016
Opening hours: Seven days a week, 10am-5pm (last admission 4pm). Closed on Christmas Day & Boxing Day.
Admission prices: Adults £8; Concessions £6; Children (6-16) £4; Under 6 free.
If you are looking for a Dickens related gift, there is an extensive shop and a very attractive cafe.
Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LX
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