Portsmouth – the Birth Town of Charles Dickens


Charles Dickens was born on 7th February, 1812. His father, John Dickens, had come to Portsmouth at the end of 1807, at the age of 19, sent from the Naval Pay Office in London to take charge of the Pay  office in the busiest port in the world. He rented a newly built middleclass terraced house, 1 Mile End Terrace, Landport, (now become 393 Old Commercial Road in the Charles Dickens Precinct) on 1st April 1809, and brought his new bride (Elizabeth née Barrow) there after their marriage in London. Dickens’s sister France Elizabeth (Fanny) was born there on 28th October 1810, 15 moths before Charles, and the family lived there until they moved to a cheaper house, 16 Hawke Street, Portsea, much nearer the Pay Office.


The Birthplace Museum

Dickens Birthplace – 393 Old Commercial Road (formerly 1 Mile End Terrace) open annually 1 April to 30 September. Here was born, on 7th February 1812, Charles John Huffam Dickens. Also born there was Frances Elizabeth Dickens, born 28th October 1810. In the house, beside the contemporary furnishing, there is the couch on which he died at Gad’s Hill, near Rochester.

Portsmouth Corporation bought 1 Mile End Terrace when it came up for sale in 1903, and opened it on 22nd July 1904 as the “Birthplace Museum” with a large collection of “Dickens” books, many provided by its first curator, Arthur Seale.

In 1967, the Birthplace was furnished and refurbished as it would have been in 1812, and the book collection was transferred to Portsmouth Central Library Local History Section as “The Dickens Special Collection.”

Besides the normal furniture, the Museum holds the couch on which Charles Dickens died on 9th June 1870 at Gad’s Hill near Rochester.

Special Collection of Dickens-related books, journals, biographies, letters, etc. in the Portsmouth Central Library
To ensure access to the “Special Collection”, contact the Central Library – see Portsmouth City Council Website.

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