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Bleak House is a four-storey Grade II listed building locating on the cliff overlooking Viking Bay in Broadstairs, Kent. Originally known as Fort House, it was built in 1801 as a residence for a captain of the nearby coastal forts. Charles Dickens spent his summer holidays in Broadstairs, a popular sea-side town from the early nineteenth century, leasing the house between 1837 and 1859. He wrote a number of his famous novels whilst residing in the building, including Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield; it’s also said to have been his inspiration for Bleak House, which was published in 1853. Charles Dickens study looked over the English Channel at a time when it was a busy thoroughfare for the nearby naval fleet in Chatham and passing trade ships. In the early twentieth century the house became known as Bleak House due to its Dickens connections.

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Bleak House in the 1920s. Source: Public Domain.

Twentieth century and today

The house has been extended and renovated over the years. Throughout the twentieth century it served as a private residence as well as being home to a Smuggler’s Museum (Broadstairs was notorious for smuggling in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) and a Dickens Memorial Museum with a recreated Dickens’ study. Today the house also operates as a bed and breakfast and a wedding venue.

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Bleak House looking over Viking Bay in Broadstairs, Kent. Source: Wikicommons.

Visitor information:

Bleak House Museum, including the Smuggling Museum, is open daily: 11.00am – 5.00pm. Opening times may differ over Christmas and New Year, see: http://www.bleakhousebroadstairs.co.uk/about-us.html

Adults: £4; Child under 12: £2

Find out more:

In 1851 Dickens wrote ‘Our English Watering-Place’, an essay about Broadstairs. Available to read here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Our_English_Watering-Place.

A Broadstairs Dickens Festival, which began in 1967, is an annual event in June. People wear Victorian clothes and a production of one of Dicken’s novels is performed. For more information, see: http://www.broadstairsdickensfestival.co.uk/

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