Dickens' Higham Home to open to the public
PUBLISHED: 15:06 01 June 2011
»Plans to open a £10million visitor centre at the former home of world famous author Charles Dickens are due to be officially unveiled next week.
By moving Gad’s Hill School, in Higham, to another building on the grounds of the estate and creating The International Dickens Heritage Centre at Gad’s Hill Place it means his home can open to the public for the first time since his death in 1870.
Currently owned by the top independent school, his former home will be restored as a museum and world heritage centre in 2012 – a project expected to attract visitors from across the world.
The Grade I* listed Georgian property – where Dickens penned classic novels such as Great Expectations and A Tale Of Two Cities – has been used by the school for teaching since the 1920s.
Marion Dickens, trustee of the centre and Dickens’ great-great-granddaughter, said: “Since the house was turned into a school, public access to it has been very limited. Now, for the first time, people who love the books will be able to visit his home.”
Next Thursday a ‘ground-breaking’ event to signal the start of work is expected to take place at the site on Gravesend Road, Higham, on what will be the 141st anniversary of Charles Dickens’ death.
Headmaster David Craggs has long campaigned for pupils to vacate the historic and increasingly fragile 18th century house and for the home to be opened to visitors on a permanent basis.
He said: “While it is a real, and extremely rare, honour to be able to learn English in what was Charles Dickens bedroom, it’s no longer practical for our growing number of pupils to use this building.”
The heritage centre is due to open in 2012 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth, giving the school’s current and next intake of pupils the chance to learn in illustrious surroundings.
Gad’s Hill caters for three to 16-year-olds.
Clague Architects is designing and building the new school which is expected to hold 280 senior pupils and 200 at junior and kindergarten age.