Happy birthday Charles Dickens

It's 201 years since the birth of Charles Dickens on Thursday and there are celebrations at  his Birthplace Museum.
It's 201 years since the birth of Charles Dickens on Thursday and there are celebrations at his Birthplace Museum.
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Two-hundred and one may not be a catchy number, but it’s still worth celebrating.

Yes – Charles Dickens’s bicentenary year is over, but at his Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth, they’re marking The Great Inimitable’s birthday, as they do every year.

Thursday is the big day and the museum on Old Commercial Road has plenty planned. It will be open for free from 10am to 5pm, with last entries at 4.30pm.

At 11am, it will host a ceremony with a speech from The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Frank Jonas, who will hang a wreath on the door of the birthplace.

Then, every hour on the hour from noon until 4pm, members of the Portsmouth Dickens Fellowship will give readings from Dickens’s works.

The author is most famous for Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol, in which he created some of the most memorable characters in literary history.

But, as well as being a novelist, Dickens was also a journalist and social commentator. And, although he moved to London and Chatham later, his very early life was spent here.

At the time of his birth, the Birthplace Museum address was known as 1 Mile End Terrace and was the first married home of his parents, Navy Pay Office clerk John and Elizabeth Dickens.

Today, it’s home to displays presenting the furnishings and style of the Dickens family.

A fully-furnished parlour, dining room and bedroom feature genuine Regency furniture and household items.

There are also exhibits belonging to the man himself, including personal possessions like his snuff box, inkwell, paper knife, and the very couch on which he died in 1870.

After the birthday celebrations, the museum will close until March 29, when it reopens through to September 29.

There’s also an exhibition titled The Dickens Quilts at Portsmouth City Museum on Museum Road.

Members of the Portsmouth area branch of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles have made 12 quilts to celebrate Dickens’s birth and these will be on display until October.

Meanwhile ataleofonceity.portsmouth.gov.uk, which began as part of a Guide Award-winning bicentenary exhibition, has been turned into Portsmouth’s new community history website and online archive. For more information about Thursday’s events, call (023) 9282 7261.