The two storey Swiss Chalet, where Dickens wrote some of his greatest works, was used by him from 1865 until his death in 1870.
It was given to Dickens by the French actor Charles Fechter, arriving in ninety four pieces on Christmas Eve 1864. Dickens attempted to construct the Chalet with the help of his friends but failed disastrously. Eventually he went to the stage carpenter of the Lyceum Theatre in London for help.
The Chalet was erected on land Dickens owned across the road from his house on Gads Hill (about 3 miles north west from Rochester). Access was by an underpass which he had built under the road in 1859. The Chalet was oriented to allow views of the river Thames in the distance, and he set up a telescope so that he could see passing boats.
On the day of his death, 9 June 1870, Dickens was working on ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ in the chalet. Late in the afternoon he was on his way back to the house when he collapsed and died from a stroke.
After Dickens’ death the chalet passed to his eldest son, then to Dickens’s sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth, and later to the then Lord Darnley, who erected it in the grounds of Cobham Park, Kent.
The Chalet has deteriorated over time and the Dickens Fellowship are looking for funds to restore and move it to a more prominent position. It is currently sited in the gardens of Eastgate House in Rochester High Street.
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