Huh?? Did Charles Dickens really live in Wanstead?

dickens

A property listing for a house in Grosvenor Road makes a startling claim. It says the property is:

…a smart fully furnished 3 bed character flat once occupied by Charles Dickens!
Charles Dickens (Wikimedia, public domain)
Charles Dickens (Wikimedia, public domain)

Can this be true? And if it is, why isn’t it common knowledge?

It’s perhaps surprising, but yes it appears to be true, at least in part. Documents dating from 1869 which were sold by Bonhams for £840, indicated that Dickens’ did purchase a new villa in Grove Road (now presumably Grosvenor Road).

The description of the documents by Bonhams says:

Dickens’s signatures stand at the head of both these documents concerning the sale of the “detached Villa residence” at No.16, subsequently No.18, Grove Road, Wanstead. The first is signed in his characteristic turquoise ink, without flourishes, the second in brown ink with the usual flourished underlining.

The documents explain, the auctioneer said, that the author acquired an interest in November 1860, that the property was on a new road, was unoccupied and had only recently been built. But there is a mystery over the transaction because the solicitor involved wasn’t Dickens’s usual trusted lawyer. There could however be an explanation, the firm said.

A possible motive may lie in Dickens’s affair with Ellen (Nelly) Ternan, whom he had met in 1857. She is recorded as having retired from the stage in 1860, that is at about the time that Dickens made his Wanstead investment. He is known to have bought the Ternan family a house in St Pancras, transferring the lease to Nelly on her coming of age on 3 March 1860. But for a house where he could stay with her, he seems to have preferred places further out from central London, renting for her, under the pseudonym ‘Charles Tringham’, properties in Slough and Peckham. So, just possibly, it was his love for Nelly Ternan that gave Dickens this taste for the suburbs; and that it was their future together he had in mind when making his Wanstead investment.Bonham's auctioneers

So he owned and may well have stayed at the property, though he may not have occupied it for very long. It is thought by some that he gave readings at an archery ground and lodge which later become Wanstead Quaker Burial Ground, the site of the current Wanstead Quaker Meeting hall on Bush Road.

As ever, anyone who knows more about this subject is very welcome to get in touch to share their knowledge. Email us at info@wansteadium.com.

9 thoughts on “Huh?? Did Charles Dickens really live in Wanstead?”

  1. Since the records talk about a “Grove Road,” and it’s said that he made appearances at what is now the Quaker grounds, is it possible this is not Grosvenor Road, Wanstead, at all, but the actual Grove Road in Leytonstone….far closer to the Quaker grounds?

    Or Grove Park, Wanstead?

    Either way, it sounds like misleading BS to rent out their overpriced room. 640 pm for one room in a shared house with no other privacy used to be the price of a whole flat, and is another example of how inflated and greed-driven things have become.

  2. Dickens appears in our deeds as one of a syndicate that purchased a parcel of land from the Grove estate. It was subsequently sold on to a builder from Walthamstow who built the existing houses in 1910.This is 40-52 Grosvenor Road.It has been alleged he purchased other plots in Grosvenor Road.

      1. I live in Grosvenor Road, whisky WAS known as Grove Road until the 1950s. It’s not the first time I’ve heard about Dickens owning property down here. It was talked about years ago when I was a child.

  3. So Dickens, who died in 1870, once lived/owned a house in Wanstead that was built in 1910. Right, I see. Glad we’ve got that one straight.

    Could it be that the estate agent is exaggerating or even lying??? Who knew?! Who knew?!

    1. I did not say he lived/owned a house that was built in 1910. He part owned a plot of land that was sold off and subsequently built on. I suspect he never lived in Wanstead, these were investments.

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