Gadshill Place from the Gardens
Ernest William Haslehust (12 Nov 1866 - 3 July 1949), RI, RWA
Water colour painting
16.5 x 11 cm framed
[Click on image to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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What Abbotsford was to Scott, that, almost, to Dickens in his later years was Gadshill place. From his study window in the "grave red-brick house" "on his little Kentish freehold" — a house which he had "added to and stuck bits upofl in all manner of ways, so that it was as pleasantly irregular and as violently opposed to all architectural ideas as the most hopeful man could possibly desire", — he looked out, so he wrote to a friend, "on as pretty a view as you will find in a long day's English ride. . . .Cobham Park and Woods are behind the house; the distant Thames is in front; the Medway, with Rochester and its old castle and cathedral, on other side." On every side he could not fail to reach, in those brisk walks with which he sought, too strenuously, perhaps, health and relaxation, some object redolent of childish dreams or mature achievement, of intimate joys and sorrows, of those phantoms of his brain which to him then, as to hundreds of thousands of his readers since, were not less real than the men and women of everyday encounter. . . .
As the queer small boy in the Uncommercial Traveller said, Gadshill Place is at the very top of Falstaff's hill. It stands on the south side of the Dover road; — on the north side, but a little lower down, is "a delightfully oldfashioned inn of the old coaching days," the "Sir John Falstaff"; — surrounded by a high wall and screened by a row of limes. The front view [of Gadshill Place, Haslehust's being a rear view], with its wooden and pillared porch, its bays, its dormer windows let into the roof, and its surmounting bell turret and vane, bears much the same appearance as it did to the queer small boy [a Dickens vision of his former self]. But amongst the many additions and alterations which Dickens was constantly making, the drawing-room had been enlarged from a smaller existing one, and the conservatory into which it opens was, as he laughingly told his younger daughter, "positively the last improvement at Gadshill" — a jest to sadly prophetic, for it was uttered on the Sunday before his death. The little library, too, on the opposite side of the porch from the drawing-room and conservatory, was a converted bedroom. Its aspect is familiar to most Dickens-lovers from Sir Luke Fildes's famous picture of The Empty Chair. [Dickens-land, 6-10]
On a walk from Chatham in 1821, when Charles Dickens was nine, he saw the big house on Falstaff Hill for the first time, built in 1780 for a former Mayor of Rochester, Thomas Stephens. From boyhood walks with his father John along the Dover Road Gadshill Place inspired Charles Dickens with ambition, for his father had assured him that, if he were to work very hard, one day he would own that mansion on the hill by which their rambles periodically took them. At the age of forty-four, Charles Dickens realized that childhood dream, through the agency of his subeditor at Household Words, W. H. Wills, purchasing the estate from novelist from Mrs. Eliza Lynn Linton for £ 1790 0n 14 March 1856. However, he did not make it his primary residence until 1860, under the domestic management of his sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth.
Lynch, Tony. Dickens England: An A to Z Tour of the Real and Imagined Locations. A Traveller 's Companion. London: Batsford, 2012.
Nicklin, J. A. Dickens-land. Il. E. W. Haslehust. Beautiful England series. Glasgow & London: Blackie & Son, 1911.
Paroissien, David. The Companion to Great Expectations. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2000.
Last modified 26 February 2014