Ceremony marks 203rd birthday of Charles Dickens

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WREATHS were laid at the birthplace and statue of Portsmouth’s most famous son to mark 203 years since he was born.

Saturday marked the birthday of Charles Dickens, who was born in Old Commercial Road February 7, in 1812.

Cllr Steven Wylie speaking next to the statue of Charles Dickens in Guildhall Square.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (150212-088)

Cllr Steven Wylie speaking next to the statue of Charles Dickens in Guildhall Square.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (150212-088)

Addressing a crowd gathered to mark the occasion, Councillor Steven Wylie, Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, said it was a ‘great honour’ to be able to lay the wreath at the museum in his own ward.

He added: ‘It is an amazing journey for someone like Charles Dickens, who came from fairly humble beginnings from this city and went across the globe. We’re here today to celebrate his 203rd birthday.

‘The museum is a splendid place and it’s great to be able to lay a wreath here and at the statue.’

There was free entry to the museum all weekend and readings from his novels were held throughout the day.

In the evening, there was a lecture at John Pounds Memorial Church in Old Portsmouth.

The bronze statue, in Guildhall Square, was unveiled on what would have been Dickens’ 202nd birthday last year.

It took 20 years for the statue to finally be put in place after professor Tony Pointon, a trustee of Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum and chairman of the statue committee, came up with the idea.

Speaking of the Oliver Twist author’s legacy Prof Pointon said: ‘The effect he had on people, and on this country, over the years has been enormous. If you go back to the time he was writing he was introducing the British people to themselves.

‘Groups that didn’t recognise each other came together.

‘Queen Victoria read Oliver Twist and recommended it to Prime Minister Lord Melbourne.’

An exhibition of selected pieces from the city’s large Dickens collection will begin at City Museum on February 14.