Due to the Corona Virus pandemic the house is closed to the public. It will be open again when the safety of visitors and our team of volunteer guides can be assured. Social distancing in the smallest rooms means only a few people can stand inside together, and our usual 16-person tours with one guide are not viable. Updated information will be uploaded to this website.
Gad’s Hill Place was the country home of Charles Dickens for the last 15 years of his life, and the only house he ever owned. He first saw it as a small child, living in Chatham and walking in the Kent countryside with his father. The Georgian rectory on its hilltop site with spectacular views made an indelible impression on the imaginative boy. When he had risen far from his humble origins, and overcome the humiliations and heartbreak of his youth to become the greatest novelist of his age, he bought it. Gad’s Hill was the much-loved retreat which represented his spectacular achievements, and where he returned for family life and recuperation. Here he completed A TALE OF TWO CITIES and wrote his last two novels, GREAT EXPECTATIONS and OUR MUTUAL FRIEND, and the unfinished MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD. He died in the house on June 9th, 1870, following a stroke, at the age of 58. After Dickens’s death his eldest son Charley lived in the house until 1878 when his reduced financial circumstances required him to sell it.
The house is now a school, and can be visited, with pre-booked tickets, on seven weekends each year, from April to October.
“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 the window with all his might.
The Uncommercial Traveller
The Historic House
Gad’s Hill Place was built in 1780 for a former Mayor of Rochester, Thomas Stephens. In March 1856 Charles Dickens paid £1,790 to buy it from Mrs Lynn Linton, with 26 acres of land, including a large shrubbery across the road. Dickens immediately set about a programme of improvements and repairs. His family moved into the house a year later. Shortly afterwards he separated from his wife, Catherine, and her sister Georgina Hogarth became his housekeeper and the carer of his younger children – six sons aged from 15 to 6. Gad’s Hill Place is a Grade 1 listed building, and the ground floor rooms – hall, study, drawing room, dining room, billiard room and conservatory – remain structurally unaltered since Dickens’s occupation. These rooms, and the garden, are open to the public, while still in use by Gad’s Hill School. Click on the rooms below to explore further.
He chose a snug ground floor room for his study. The door features a mock bookshelf that when closed is indistinguishable from the bookshelves that line the walls. Some of the dummy books titles he invented reflect his own prejudices and sense of humour including History of a Short Chancery Suit in twenty-one volumes, and Cat’s Lives in nine volumes. This was an extremely important room to Dickens that was always kept locked when he was not occupying it and no servants were allowed to enter.
The drawing room was extended eastwards to accommodate his large family. This however caused some structural problems with the house which were eventually resolved by installing two large girders. The extension to the drawing room also allowed Dickens to add a conservatory to the rear of the dining room.
In this room, which retains its original fireplace, Dickens suffered a fatal stroke while sitting down to dinner with his sister-in-law Georgina on the evening of June 8th 1870. A sofa was carried into the dining room, and here he lay, never regaining consciousness, until he died the following evening.
From the dining room, visitors enter the conservatory.
Dickens was particularly proud of this final addition to the house, which is a splendid example of a large Victorian glasshouse and gave him a lovely view over the Medway Valley. It retains its original tiled floor. He did not live to fulfil his plans for his new conservatory as he died a few weeks after its completion.
Dickens extended and converted the breakfast room into a billiards and smoking room. He added green and white tiles to stop the ends of the billiard cues damaging the walls in such a confined space.
When the weather was good Dickens wrote in a miniature Swiss Chalet, a gift from his actor-manager friend Charles Fechter. Dickens installed it in the shrubbery, known as the Wilderness, on the far side of the road from the house. He reached it via a previously built tunnel which still runs under the present highway.
The Chalet can now be seen in the garden of Eastgate House in Rochester.
At the present time, due to the CoVid-19 pandemic, the house is closed to the public, and the dates of reopening are unknown. This website will be updated as soon as restrictions allow.
In normal circumstances, each tour is limited to 16 people.
Adults: £9.50 Children 7 to 12 years £5.00
Children 6 years and under free.
How to Book
Tours on public days must be booked via Visit Gravesend
by Tel: 01474 337600,
or in person at Visit Gravesend Visitor Information,
Gravesend Borough Market, High Street
Gravesend, Kent DA11 0AZ
(Tuesday to Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm; Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm.)
Guided tours for private groups at other times by prior appointment.
Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
How to find us
Gad’s Hill School
Kent ME3 7PA
(on the A226)
The car park is at the rear of the school – turn into Crutches Lane immediately alongside the right-hand side of the house. Parking available for group coach bookings.
There is limited disability access and regrettably no wheelchair access to the house
Gad's Hill School
In 1923 John Burt bought Gad’s Hill Place to convert it into a residential school for girls. Now it is a fully co-educational independent day school that offers education from nursery up to GCSE level for over 380 pupils. In 2010 a modern school building was erected on ground to the rear of the garden, allowing kindergarten and junior children to move out of the historic house. The seniors continue to be taught on the upper floors of Gad’s Hill Place.
Dickens is thought to have referred to Gad’s Hill Place in ‘A Christmas Carol’ when he notes that Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Past “left the high road by a well-remembered lane and soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a weathercock surmounted cupola on the roof, and a bell hanging in it.”
Charles Dickens Centre (Gad’s Hill) Ltd.
Registered Charity Number 1140957