Bought by Dickens in 1856, and his home until his death in 1870.
‘I am old (I am nine), and I read all sorts of books. But DO let us stop at the top of the hill, and look at the house there, if you please!’
‘You admire that house?’ said I.
‘Bless you, sir,’ said the very queer small boy, ‘when I was not more than half as old as nine, it used to be a treat for me to be brought to look at it. And now, I am nine, I come by myself to look at it. And ever since I can recollect, my father, seeing me so fond of it, has often said to me, “If you were to be very persevering and were to work hard, you might some day come to live in it.” Though that’s impossible!’ said the very queer small boy, drawing a low breath, and now staring at the house out of window with all his might.
I was rather amazed to be told this by the very queer small boy; for that house happens to be MY house, and I have reason to believe that what he said was true.
‘Travelling Abroad’. All the Year Round. 7 April 1860.
Dickens bought Gad’s Hill Place in Higham in 1856 from the novelist Eliza Lynn Linton, a contributor to Household Words who would go on to author the notoriously anti-feminist ‘Girl of the Period’ articles for the Saturday Review in the 1860s.
While Dickens had admired the house as a child living in Chatham, he may also have been influenced by its convenient proximity to London. On a self-styled ‘pilgrimage’ in 1888 W. R. Hughes was taken on to the roof by the current owner, Major Budden, and praised the ‘prospect of surpassing beauty. Right away to the westward is the great Metropolis, its presence being marked by the usual pall of greyish smoke. Opening from the town, and becoming wider and wider as the noble river approaches its ‘festuary’, is the Thames, now conspicuous by numerous vessels, showing masts and white and brown sails, and here and there the smoky track of a steamer.’1 According to Frederick Kitton, another Dickens pilgrim who accompanied Hughes on this trip, Major Budden heroically saved the house from being burned to the ground on one occasion (although his account seems somewhat implausible). ‘It is the old story – a leakage of gas, a naked light, and an explosion; happily, Major Budden’s supply of hand-grenades did their duty and saved the building.’2
See also Mobile Landscapes
Feeling active? You may want to try this Dickens and Higham walk
Or you can simply explore this map of Dickens’sHigham from the comfort of your chair.
Dickens, Charles. ‘Travelling Abroad’. http://www.djo.org.uk/all-the-year-round/volume-ii/page-557.html
Hughes, William R. A Week’s Tramp in Dickens Land. London: Chapman and Hall, 1893 [first published 1891].
Kitton, Frederick G. The Dickens Country. London: A. & C. Black, 1925 [first published 1905].