Family of Charles Dickens unveil first UK statue of author at Portsmouth Guildhall

By Culture24 Reporter | 07 February 2014

A statue of Charles Dickens aims to bring some of the author's energy to his former hometown, says the sculptor behind it

A photo of an enormous civic building on a square with flags under a blue sky
A statue of Charles Dickens is being revealed at the Guildhall in Portsmouth for his birthday© Courtesy Portsmouth City Council
Edward Fox, the star of the BAFTA-winning 1973 thriller The Day of the Jackal, gave a reading in Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square this lunchtime following the unveiling of Britain’s first statue of Charles Dickens on the writer’s 202nd birthday.

Riding Penny Farthings, members of the Pickwick Cycle club joined the ceremony to see Oliver Dickens – Charles’ nine-year-old great great grandson – play his part in revealing sculptor Martin Jennings’ depiction of Dickens. More than 40 members of the Dickens family were in attendance.

A photo of a historic house on a street with a blue plaque visible on the outside
Charles Dickens' Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth© Courtesy Portsmouth City Council
"This is the culmination of years of hard work by many dedicated people,” said Mark Charles Dickens, the great great grandson of the literary master.

“We really hope that this magnificent statue will stimulate and inspire future generations to discover the genius of his writing and his passionate campaign for social justice.

"The Dickens Family is delighted that a statue of our famous ancestor will at long last be erected in this country, and it is most fitting that it should be on his birthday in the city of his birth where, by coincidence, his mistress and childhood sweetheart are also buried.”

Guests travelled from as far as America to see the statue.

"When we had the idea 20 years ago we knew the statue had to be in his place of birth,” said Professor Tony Pointon, the chair of the Charles Dickens statue committee.

"Finally, after years of fundraising, Charles Dickens and the city are both getting what they deserve."

Lee Hunt, the Cabinet Member for Culture at Portsmouth City Council, called the work “a marvellous tribute” to “an incredible man”.

"We will make sure he's well cared for,” he assured supporters.

“After all, he'll be in good company with Queen Victoria's statue in the Guildhall Square.

“Everyone in Portsmouth should feel immensely proud that the statue of Dickens is here in his home town.”

Jennings has previously reincarnated John Betjeman at St Pancras Station in London and Philip Larkin in Hull.

"I wanted the statue to express Dickens's energy, the richness of his imagination and the abundance of his output,” he said.

“It's also quite theatrical – fitting, I hope, for a man who loved the stage. It's taken many months to make but I hope people think it does justice to the great man."

Five places to discover Dickens:

Guildhall Museum
The Dickens Discovery Room is part of the magnificent 17th century home of a museum founded in 1897. St James’ Church, used in the scene where Pip meets Magwitch in the opening chapter of Great Expectations, is nearby.

Charles Dickens Museum
48 Doughty Street is the place where Dickens wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby while living there between 1837 and 1839. The museum reopened at the end of 2012 following a £3 million redevelopment.

Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum
Visit the parlours, dining rooms and bedrooms of the Regency home where Dickens was born on February 7 1812, set in the centre of Victorian Portsmouth.

Victoria & Albert Museum
Although the V&A has widespread exhibits relating to Dickens, the largest is probably the Forster Collection, given by his friend and biographer, John Forster, following the author’s death in 1870. Manuscripts of his novels and photos from his book tours are among the highlights.

Dickens House Museum
The cottage that inspired part of David Copperfield contains Dickens’ writing box, letters and stories from his long association with the Kent town it is a part of.

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