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