In the gardens of Eastgate House you can see the Swiss Chalet, where the great author Charles Dickens worked on some of his best known novels.
It was given to Dickens as a present from an actor friend called Charles Fechter. It arrived at Higham Railway Station on Christmas Eve 1864, packed in 58 boxes!
The chalet stood at Dickens’ home in Gad’s Hill, in a part of his garden known as The Wilderness. He arranged the building so that the second floor gave him a view of the River Thames. To avoid the busy and muddy road he had to cross to reach it, Dickens constructed a tunnel to go underneath the road. The tunnel still exists today.
Dickens used the chalet as a place to write and also to rehearse for his many public appearances (it is believed the second floor was lined with mirrors for this purpose). He was writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood in the chalet on the day he died, in 1870.
The chalet was later moved to Cobham and then finally to Eastgate Gardens in 1960.
Plans are now underway to make essential repairs to the chalet. At present it is unsafe to go inside but it is hoped that in the future it can be opened for visitors.
Gardens are open daily.