Charles Dickens

The British £2 is one of the most striking coins in circulation. As well as being the only mainstream bimetallic coin in the UK, it is wider and heavier than any other. With its golden edge and silver centre, it has become the coin of choice to commemorate events, people and institutions of national significance. The current series of the £2 coin was launched on 15 […]

A two pound piece

The London and Birmingham Railway, opened in 1838, was the Victorian equivalent of HS2. In fact, it was far more transformative than its twenty-first century successor – horses, carts, carriages and canals gave way to steam powered locomotion at speeds that radically changed the British economy, society and people. This engineering wonder heralded the start of the modern age and was built in less than five […]

The original HS2

Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the most haunting, spectacular and interesting places I have ever visited. The sprawling complex served as one of Pennsylvania’s primary high security prisons for over 140 years before being closed in 1971. The Penitentiary was built in 1829 in a cherry orchard amidst open fields to the north of the city. By the time the prison closed, the burgeoning […]

Penitence through patience

It was a bright summer’s day in Kent as the Folkestone Boat Express thundered towards London. The Express, an integral part of the iron link between London and Paris, had reached England on the afternoon of 9 June 1865 and had cleared the South Downs, a little over 45 miles from its destination. The train sped through Staplehurst at 50 mph and was crossing the iron […]

Charles Dickens’s near death experience

Earlier this week I highlighted Claire Tomalin’s excellent biography of Charles Dickens. I have been pleasantly surprised by the numerous revelations of surprising idiosyncrasies and quirks that make him a particularly fascinating subject. One of the most surprising facts is that Dickens was a passionate believer in mesmerism (sometimes referred to as magnetism). He even went so far as to practice this unconventional form of medical […]

The magnetic Mr Dickens

In a year that is crowded with major anniversaries and major events, the bicentennial of Charles Dickens’s birth looms large. The BBC has been awash with documentaries, adaptations and readings and exhibitions on the great man are being staged across London, Portsmouth and Rochester. My own ‘tribute’ has been to read Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin. It is a cracking biography, and provides a fascinating […]

Like maggots in nuts – Dickens in the Inn