A Writer's refuge
In 1864, the actor Charles Fechter gave Dickens a Swiss chalet as a Christmas present. The chalet was delivered to Gad’s Hill, via Higham Railway station, in 58 boxes. It was assembled across the road from Gad’s Hill Place in the area that Dickens referred to as ‘the shrubbery’. In May 1868 he wrote: “The place is lovely, and in perfect order. I have put five mirrors in the Swiss chalet (where I write) and they reflect and refract in all kinds of ways the leaves that are quivering at the windows, and the great fields of waving corn, and the sail-dotted river.
My room is up among the branches of the trees; and the birds and the butterflies fly in and out, and the green branches shoot in, at the open windows, and the lights and shadows of the clouds come and go with the rest of the company. The scent of the flowers, and indeed of everything that is growing for miles and miles, is most delicious.”
Here Dickens worked on Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend, The Uncommercial Traveller and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In 1859, a tunnel was built under the road so Dickens could cross to his chalet unimpeded by traffic. In the 1960s, the chalet was moved
to the garden of Eastgate House in Rochester, which was fictionalised as the Westgate House Establishment for Young Ladies in The Pickwick Papers and the Nun’s House in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Please note that The Wilderness is