Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine lived here with the eldest three of their ten children, with the older two of Dickens’ daughters, Mary Dickens and Kate Macready Dickens being born in the house.
The building at 48 Doughty Street was threatened with demolition in 1923, but was saved by the Dickens Fellowship, founded in 1902, who raised the mortgage and bought the property’s freehold. The house was renovated and the Dickens House Museum was opened in 1925, under the direction of an independent trust, now a registered charity.
A new addition to the household was Dickens’ younger brother Frederick. Also, Catherine’s 17 year old sister Mary moved with them from Furnival’s Inn to offer support to her newly married sister and brother-in-law.
It was not unusual for a woman’s unwed sister to live with and help a newly married couple. Dickens became very attached to Mary, and she died in his arms after a brief illness in 1837. She inspired characters in many of his books, and her death is fictionalized as the death of Little Nell.
Dickens had a three year lease (at £80 a year) on the property. Two of his daughters were born here, his sister-in-law Mary died aged 17 and some of his best-loved novels were written here, including Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. However Dickens required more space for his growing family and moved to 1 Devonshire Terrace in 1839.
The preservation and development of the Charles Dickens Museum remains a key concern and the Fellowship has been involved with conservation and preservation work at Gad’s Hill Place, Dickens’s last home.
Otherwise, in the programmes of activities arranged by Headquarters and by the branches, and through The Dickensian and other publications, the Fellowship has continued to project the spirit of Dickens and his works, and to foster the highest standards of scholarship in this field.
The building is the writer’s only surviving London house and visitors can get an insight to what life in the household would have been like. The Museum also has a café, perfect for a cup of tea and slice of cake after a wander round these famous quarters.
His iconic characters such as Fagin, Scrooge, Guppy, Artful Dodger and Magwitch have seeped into London’s historical fabric and his fictional scenes have ingrained themselves in our everyday culture. The Charles Dickens Museum is the world’s most important collection of material relating to the great novelist and social commentator.
On four floors, visitors can see paintings, rare editions, manuscripts, original furniture and many items relating to the life of one of the most popular and beloved personalities of the Victorian Age. In a change to the Constitution agreed in 2005, an additional objective was introduced to promote the knowledge and appreciation of his works.
This was to reflect the change in emphasis of the Fellowship’s activities, as outlined below. Spread over four floors, the Charles Dickens Museum holds the world’s most important collection of paintings, rare editions, manuscripts, original furniture and other items relating to the life and work of Dickens.