The building at 48 Doughty Street, London, that houses the Charles Dickens Museum is just one of many places Dickens lived during his life (but the only one in London that survives), so how much of a sense of ‘Dickens’ there would be there I wasn’t sure. But included in the reconstructed rooms are plenty of original pieces of furniture such as Dickens’ own writing desk and armchair (below) that a sense of treading where Dickens once lived is definitely evident.
For instance, the first room you enter is the Dining Room, set up as if Dickens were about to entertain his illustrious friends. And upstairs is his sitting room and study that would have formed an important part of his everyday routine. Throughout the house there is information about his life too, such as his marriage and subsequent separation from Catherine and on the top floor is a small exhibition about the influence of his dad’s incarceration in the Marshalsea Prison and his subsequent childhood experience of working in the Blacking Factory that had such an impact on his future views of Victorian England. However, this is much more a ‘house’ museum than a Charles Dickens life story museum.
As a house museum it is impressive – the kitchens, scullery and even a small outdoors cellar are reconstructed and open to the public along with three floors of rooms upstairs. There are occasional audio pieces that play as you enter a particular part of a room, but they haven’t gone over the top with multi-media extravaganzas and I was a little relieved there wasn’t a 20 minute video or anything at the beginning and you could get stuck straight in.
However, I can see how taking part in a tour would help to bring the house alive and bring more atmosphere to the rooms. There is a feel to it that Dickens has just popped out for lunch, but at the same time it didn’t feel particularly ‘lived in’ and it was really only the Dining Room where I got that feeling of trespassing in someone else’s house.
There is a lot to see, both in terms of period features and Dickens related material as well as space for a cafe, shop, study areas and exhibition rooms in the house next door. They are really lucky to have so much space that can be opened up to the public and I’ll definitely be checking out some of their events in the future to see how this space is used as I think it could make a really interesting venue.
48 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LX
Adults £8 (Art fund members Free)