Charles Dickens and the Victorian Camden Crescent, Dover Seafront, Kent, UK

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John Latter on September 15, 2011

From left to right, a post-sunrise view (the buildings are actually white) of numbers 1 to 4 Camden Crescent at 6.34 am on Monday, 29th of August, 2011 (1).

The photo was taken from the seafront promenade above the beach of Dover Harbour.

Camden Crescent Architecture

The Victorian Camden Crescent was built in 1840 and runs from the Indian Mutiny War Memorial in New Bridge (the buildings behind the tree on the left) to Wellesley Road (by the Gateway Flats, out-of-shot to the right).

The build date of 1840 is at the juncture of two architectual periods:

Georgian architecture is the name given in most English-speaking countries to the set of architectural styles current between 1720 and 1840. It is eponymous for the first four British monarchs of the House of Hanover - George I of Great Britain, George II of Great Britain, George III of the United Kingdom, and George IV of the United Kingdom - who reigned in continuous succession from August 1714 to June 1830. (2)

The term Victorian architecture refers collectively to several architectural styles employed predominantly during the middle and late 19th century. The period that it indicates may slightly overlap the actual reign, 20 June 1837 – 22 January 1901, of Queen Victoria. This represents the British and French custom of naming architectural styles for a reigning monarch. Within this naming and classification scheme, it follows Georgian architecture and Regency architecture, and was succeeded by Edwardian architecture. (3)

The following extract is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence (PSI licence number C2010002016):

Originally a complete crescent similar to Waterloo Crescent, but the other houses have been demolished. Built in 1840. 4 storeys and basement with area. Yellow brick, the ground floor stuccoed and rusticated. Parapet above 3rd floor, cornice above 2nd floor, stuccoed stringcourse above lst floor. Continuous iron balcony with hood on the 1st floor. No 1 has a curved front. 3 windows to each house with restored glazing bars.

The full English Heritage "Listed Building" entry for Camden Crescent is appended below.

Camden Crescent and Charles Dickens

A "Blue Plaque" erected by the Dover Society states:

In 1852 CHARLES DICKENS and his family lodged nearby in Camden Crescent while he wrote parts of Bleak House. The author Wilkie Collins was a regular visitor.

Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed unrivaled popularity and fame during his career, and he remains popular, being responsible for some of English literature's most iconic novels and characters. (4)

Many of his writings, with their recurrent concern for social reform, first appeared in magazines in serialised form, a popular format at the time. Unlike other authors who completed entire novels before serialisation, Dickens often created the episodes as they were being serialised. The practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by cliffhangers to keep the public looking forward to the next instalment. The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print. (4)

Bleak House is the ninth novel by Charles Dickens, published in twenty monthly installments between March 1852 and September 1853. It is held to be one of Dickens's finest novels, containing one of the most vast, complex and engaging arrays of minor characters and sub-plots in his entire canon. (5)

William Wilkie Collins (8 January 1824 – 23 September 1889) was an English novelist, playwright, and author of short stories. He was very popular during the Victorian era and wrote 30 novels, more than 60 short stories, 14 plays, and over 100 non-fiction pieces. His best-known works are The Woman in White, The Moonstone, Armadale and No Name. (6)

Wilkie Collins first met Charles Dickens in the spring of 1851, when they were aged respectively 27 and 39. The introduction came via their mutual friend, Augustus Egg, who recruited Collins to Dickens's amateur theatrical company. (7)

Dickens and Collins at once took to each other and a friendship began which lasted until Dickens's death in 1870. Forster, in his 1873 biography of Dickens, wrote, in one of his few references to Collins in the book, that 'Wilkie Collins became for all the rest of the life of Dickens one of his dearest and most valued friends.' (7)

In addition to performing in Not So Bad As We Seem during 1851 and on a highly successful provincial tour in 1852, Collins stayed with Dickens at Camden Crescent, Dover, in the summer of that year, the first of many such visits to Dickens's homes and holiday houses. (7)

Charles Dickens spent three months at 10 Camden Crescent during the Summer of 1852, relaxing in Pilot’s Meadow and no doubt visiting the nearby Court’s Folly (Dover's "Lost Castle") and Cowgate Cemetery (now a nature reserve).

Correspondence from the two authors during this period can be seen in The Letters of Charles Dickens: 1850-1852 (pp 722) and The Letters of Wilkie Collins: 1838-1865 (pp 89).

The Dickens Corner Cafe in the Market Square (where I usually have a morning coffee) has a wall plaque stating:

Here, while searching for his aunt Betsy Trotwood, David Copperfield rested on the doorstep and ate the loaf he had just bought.

Camden Crescent and World War II

Camden Crescent, a Dover Listed Building, once extended to the right but was damaged during the Second World War. Excerpt from an article (8) quoting a 1941 edition of the Dover Express newspaper:

In an air raid on the afternoon of March 10, Messerschmitt fighter-bombers swept in over the English Channel and dropped five bombs.

One fell in the Granville Gardens on the seafront, where there was a barrage balloon unit, and others in the Granville Dock.

The blast from the Granville Gardens bomb knocked over several airmen manning the balloon site.

The Granville Gardens Pavilion suffered further damage. No casualties were reported as a result of this raid.

It was not until June that an unexploded bomb (UXB) was found in the basement of a house of 8 Camden Crescent and it was believed this had been dropped during this raid.

Other Camden Crescent references

In the 1916 edition of Annals of Dover, John Bavington-Jones has the following entry for one, "Robert Finnis", the Mayor of Dover in 1796:

Robert Finnis was a timber merchant, who bad his residence and timber yard at Finnis's Hill. He also had a timber yard where Camden Crescent now is.

Excerpt from Edwin Lee's 1848 book, The baths and watering-places of England (p. 114):

Dover is greatly improved of late years, and has been more resorted to both as a summer and autumnal bathing-place, and as a winter residence, for which the position is not unfavorable.

...The Marine Parade has a southern aspect, and is fully exposed to the sea breezes. Guildford and Clarence Lawns are more sheltered, and are favourite situations. Wellington-crescent, consisting of larger houses, and the Esplanade, have more of a south-eastern aspect. The Camden-crescent houses, behind the Parade, are much less exposed to the sea winds.

Advertisement in the Musical times and singing-class circular, Volume 12 of 1866 (p. 420):

CHAMBER ORGAN FOR SALE - Compass CC to F, with stopped diapason, open diapason, principal, fifteenth, flute, Cremona; mahogany case, front and side foot blower, composition pedal, general swell. Height 8 feet, width 3 feet, depth 2 feet. Price 25 GBP. Address G., 4, Camden-crescent, Dover.

The 1973 edition of Visitation of Ireland by Joseph Jackson Howard, Frederick Arthur Crisp (originally published 1897) has the following entry on page 278:

Andrew Mitchell Uniacke of Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada), D.C.L.; born 9 November 1808; Barrister-at-Law, Judge Advocate and Custos Rotulorum; Chief Commisioner for Nova Scotia at the International Exhibition, London (or "Great London Exposition"), 1862; D.C.L. of King's College, Windsor, Nova Scotia; died at 4 Camden Crescent, Dover, co. Kent, on Friday, 26th of July, buried in St James Cemetery, Dover, 30 July 1895. Administration was granted at the Principal Registry 18 November 1895, to the Reverend Robert FitzGerald Uniacke, son, and one of the next of kin.

Redmond Uniacke Somerville, ex-Lincoln Militia and British Army 61st (South Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot, had died a few weeks earlier at the same address on Monday, 24th of June, 1895.

The Gloucestershire Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army. Nicknamed "The Glorious Glosters", the regiment carried more battle honours on their Regimental colours than any other British Army line regiment. (9)

After the Childers reforms, the 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot (originally 28th Regiment of Foot) amalgamated with the 61st (South Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot to form the two-battalion Gloucestershire Regiment on 1 July 1881. (9)

Elsewhere in the photo

The empty plinth on Granville Gardens near bottom-left once held The Waiting Miner statue, now relocated to Kent's Fowlmead Country Park (regenerated from the shale spoil tip of the former Betteshanger Colliery).

At top-left is the plateau of Drop Redoubt, part of an extensive Napoleonic and Victorian defense system embedded into the Western Heights. On the other side of the plateau, to the left of the triangular "bump" (an expense magazine), is where the Bredenstone stands, the replica remains of the West Roman Pharos (lighthouse, or watchtower; the East Roman Pharos still stands in the grounds of Dover Castle). Part of the brickwork of Caponier Number 4 is also visible.

Camden Crescent is a Grade II Listed Building group (10).

The following extracts are © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence (PSI licence number C2010002016):

List Entry Summary

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

Name: No name for this Entry

List Entry Number: 1343834

Location

1-4, CAMDEN CRESCENT

The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Dover

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Dover

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: II

Date first listed: 17th of December, 1973

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: LBS

UID: 177724

Asset Groupings

This List entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List Entry Description

Summary of Building

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

CAMDEN CRESCENT 1. 1050 Nos 1 to 4 (consec)

TR 3241 1/3

II GV

  1. Originally a complete crescent similar to Waterloo Crescent, but the other houses have been demolished. Built in 1840. 4 storeys and basement with area. Yellow brick, the ground floor stuccoed and rusticated. Parapet above 3rd floor, cornice above 2nd floor, stuccoed stringcourse above lst floor. Continuous iron balcony with hood on the 1st floor. No 1 has a curved front. 3 windows to each house with restored glazing bars.

Group value with New Bridge House in New Bridge Street.

Listing NGR: TR3206341223

Selected Sources

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

National Grid Reference: TR 32063 41223

Related Photos

Recent "sunrise" photos of Dover's seafront include:

Dover Marina Hotel and Spa of Waterloo Crescent at Sunrise

Panorama of the Victorian Waterloo Crescent at Sunrise

The Seafront Tonkin Liu Artworks or Sculptures at Sunrise

Sir Henry Le Geyt Bruce KCB, a Victorian Knight of 1 East Cliff

Dover Harbour Board’s Harbour House at Sunrise

Recent "sunset" photos:

We Will Remember Them..., Dunkirk War Memorial

At the Going Down of the Sun..., Dunkirk War Memorial

Notes

(1) Photo taken on my morning cycle ride: two laps of Robsons Yard - Eastern Docks - Prince of Wales Pier - Robsons Yard).

(2) Georgian architecture.

(3) Victorian architecture:

(4) Wikipedia entry for Charles Dickens

(5) Wikipedia entry for Bleak House

(6) Wikipedia entry for Wilkie Collins

(7) Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens

(8) The opening lines of Town suffered first civilian casualty of the year in raid begin:

Although life in Dover in March 1941 was considerably quieter that in late 1940, the Dover Express noted the sirens sounded, on average, 50 times a week.

Shelling continued regularly and one that crashed down in Granville Street, near Beaconsfield Road, caused the town's first civilian death of 1941 - Mrs Rosa Nicholls, aged 77.

(9) Wikipedia entry for the Gloucestershire Regiment

(10) Source: English Heritage. Designation: Grade II: buildings that are "nationally important and of special interest". Click to see photos of all Dover English Heritage sites.

A Dover Architecture and Seafront history photo.

An Urban Dover and Dover Listed Building photo.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any red or blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on September 13, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/08/29 06:34:16
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/320)
    • Focal Length: 55.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/8.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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