Fort House, Broadstairs, Kent

Fort House, Broadstairs, Kent (on the east cliff, upper left). Photograph and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]

Dickens was fond of Broadstairs, a seaside resort on the Isle of Thanet — an area no longer separated from the mainland as it once was, but still quite distinctive. When he first came to stay here in 1837 he was only twenty-five years old, and finishing The Pickwick Papers. He continued coming regularly until 1851, and wrote parts of many of his early novels here, including Nicholas Nickleby, Barnaby Rudge, Dombey and Son and David Copperfield. On his first visit, he stayed in the High Street, but, as John Forster said, "The residence he desired most there, Fort-house, stood prominently at the top of a breezy hill on the road to Kingsgate" (136). The owners were later to rechristen it Bleak House, not because it looks bleak, but because it was the inspiration for John Jarndyce's home in the novel of that title. Note, however, that Dickens relocates it to the vicinity of St Albans, in Hertfordshire, so robbing it of its distinctive setting. But this setting does provide the viewpoint of a short article of 1851, "Our English Watering-Place," which begins:

In the Autumn-time of the year, when the great metropolis is so much hotter, so much noisier, so much more dusty or so much more water-carted, so much more crowded, so much more disturbing and distracting in all respects, than it usually is, a quiet sea-beach becomes indeed a blessed spot. Half awake and half asleep, this idle morning in our sunny window on the edge of a chalk-cliff in the old-fashioned watering-place to which we are a faithful resorter, we feel a lazy inclination to sketch its picture.

Yet even when he wrote this, Broadstairs was losing its appeal for him. It was becoming too crowded and noisy. In particular, the street musicians bothered him. When he holidayed on the south coast in 1852, he chose Dover instead, and then, in 1855, Folkestone. Dickens took his final farewell of Broadstairs with a one-week stay in 1859. The house was greatly extended in 1901, and so looks rather different now from the way it would have looked then — though the rooms Dickens stayed in have been preserved.

Related Material


Dickens, Charles. "Our English Watering-Place" (Reprinted Pieces, in Project Gutenberg). Web. Viewed 21 September 2010.

Forster, John. The Life of Charles Dickens. 2 vols. Vol. I, 1812-1847. London: Chapman and Hall, 1904.

Created 21 September 2010

Last modified 2 January 2024