Dickens anniversary: where it all began

Universally recognised as one of the truly great Victorian writers, Charles Dickens created stories which have helped to reveal a vivid picture for us all, of life in early Victorian England.

So, it is fitting that in the 150th anniversary of his death, on June 9, 1870, Hampshire is once again associated as having a major connection with the author.

Hampshire, of course, was in the spotlight in 2017 – during the year that marked 200 years of one of the county’s best-loved daughters, Jane Austen.

But what few people might know is that Dickens was also born in Hampshire: in Portsmouth, on February 7, 1812.

Today, Charles Dickens’ birthplace is a Museum, which, eight years ago, was at the centre of events to mark the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth.

Many years after moving from his birthplace, Dickens paid a visit to Portsmouth when writing The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby,and included references to the city in that novel.

Keeping to the literary theme, some of Portsmouth’s – and nearby Southsea’s – former residents included the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; and acclaimed writer and poet, Rudyard Kipling.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his first two Sherlock Holmes stories while living in Portsmouth where he had arrived in 1882 to set up a doctor’s practice at 1 Bush Villas, Elm Grove, Southsea. The stories were A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887, and The Sign of Four, in 1890. More stories soon followed, and it wasn’t long before Doyle found himself more successful as a writer than as a doctor – saying he felt at home in Portsmouth, a city with its literary connections.

Today, the world class Conan Doyle Collection, bequeathed to the city of Portsmouth by Richard Lancelyn Green (www.visitportsmouth.co.uk/conandoyle), brings together books, photographs, objects, documents and memorabilia chronicling the life of Conan Doyle and beyond.


Doyle was single, and had less than £10 in his pockets when he arrived in Portsmouth. But during his time in here, and in Southsea, he met, fell in love with and married a sister of one of his patients, Louise Hawkins. And by the time they left the city, he was acclaimed both as a writer and a society man.

There are many references to both Southsea and Portsmouth, as well as other surrounding areas, in his Sherlock Holmes stories.

In all, Doyle ended up writing four Sherlock Holmes novels and 56 short stories. The author’s journeys took him and his consulting detective around the globe, but wherever he ended up there’s one thing that can’t be denied – while Sherlock Holmes is notoriously secretive about his family and past, all of this adds-up to the simple fact that one of the world’s greatest fictional detectives was born in Portsmouth!

Born much further away, in Bombay, Rudyard Kipling was sent home to England for his education. His time in Portsmouth, between 1871 and 1877, wasn’t especially happy as he suffered at the hands of his foster family while living at Lorne Lodge in Campbell Road, Southsea.

Another literary connection in the same area is H.G.Wells who, for two years from the age of 14, was apprenticed at Hyde’s Drapery Emporium, in Southsea. Here, in a shop in St Pauls Road (formerly Grigg Street), he worked a thirteen-hour day and slept in a dormitory with the other assistants.

All tourist information for Hampshire can be found at http://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk