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Charles Dickens' former home at Higham school set to open to the public
AN INDEPENDENT school in Higham will soon be sharing with the world its unique place in literary history.
The grounds of Gad’s Hill Independent School include Gad’s Hill Place – the house where Charles Dickens lived from 1856 until his death 14 years later in what is now the school dining room.
The world famous author penned classic novels such as Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities in the house, which he bought at the age of 44.
The Grade One listed Georgian property will soon be open to the public for the first time since its former owner's death in 1870 after the completion of the first phase of a multi-million pound project to build two new schools in the grounds of the old house.
The John Melville Building will be officially opened by Marion Dickens, Dickens’ great-great-granddaughter and trustee of the charity due to take over Gad’s Hill Place.
Spanning two floors, the new school boasts a sports hall, theatre/concert hall, dining area, ensemble and performance room and two performance spaces and academic classrooms for kindergarten and junior school children.
The building is named after Gad’s Hill’s chair of governors who, alongside Headmaster David Craggs, has campaigned for pupils to vacate the increasingly fragile 18th century house Dickens used to call home.
Work can now begin to referbish the house and make it into a visitor attraction.
Mr Craggs, said: “Ninety years ago John Burt brought Gad’s Hill Place to convert it into a residential school.
“Since then, thousands of children have had the rare honour of being able to learn English in what was Charles Dickens bedroom.
“However, this old building can no longer keep up with the demands of modern day education.
“While I will miss the unique privilege of running a school from the great man’s own study, I feel that we have built a new school of the highest quality and standard that the 21st century can provide.”
An opening ceremony for the new school is taking place on September 4 at 10.30am with Marion Dickens and Harry Lloyd, the great-great-great-grandson of Dickens and star of Game of Thrones, the BBC’s adaptation of Great Expectations and Doctor Who, also set to attend.
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