London

It is in London that David Copperfield experiences life as a child labourer.

Between 1831 and 1925, London grew into a heavily populated city, and the overcrowded conditions, coupled with the pollution of the River Thames, led to many health problems, such as cholera epidemics.

Raw sewage was still being dumped into the River Thames creating a noticeable stench, and industrial smoke mingled with fog to create smog. In some instances the smog was so thick one could hardly see to walk through the streets.

It was during the 1800s that much of London, as we know it now, was built. It was in 1830, for example, that land was cleared for Trafalgar Square. Following a fire in 1834, the Houses of Parliament were rebuilt according to the designs of Charles Barry and A.W. Pugin, and the clock, affectionately known as Big Ben, first appeared in 1859. See a map of Dickens' London here.

It was during the 1800s that many familiar aspects of modern life made their first appearance, including the introduction of the metropolitan police force in 1829 and the foundation of the National Gallery in 1824. Railway stations proliferated as the century progressed. Read more about Dickens' London here.

Canterbury

Canterbury is the location of Dr. Strong’s school and Mr. Wickfield’s place of business and residence.

Canterbury is located in the county of Kent, in the South East of England. It is a beautiful city manifestly steeped in history. Its city wall, for example, was founded in Roman times and rebuilt in the 14th century.

In 1170, Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the cathedral, making Canterbury one of the most important Christian locations in Europe: many people would make an annual pilgrimage to Becket’s shrine. Such a pilgrimage became the basis for Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century collection of stories, The Canterbury Tales

 

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Dover
Dover
GNU Free Documentation License White Cliffs of Dover - Credit: Remi Jouan

Dover is a port in Kent. It is famed for its white cliffs. Due to its proximity to the Channel and the Continent, Dover has proved strategically important throughout its history.

Although Dickens placed Betsey Trotwood’s house in Dover, the residence which inspired Aunt Betsey’s home was actually located in Broadstairs, where Dickens wrote much of David Copperfield. Broadstairs, also in Kent, was a popular seaside resort town. It took its name from the “broad stairs” carved into the chalk cliffs.

Yarmouth

Mr. Peggoty’s houseboat is in Great Yarmouth, a coastal town in Norfolk, at the mouth of the River Yare.

In May 1845, four years before Dickens began writing David Copperfield, Yarmouth was struck by disaster: a suspension bridge collapsed causing the death of seventy-nine individuals, including many children who had gathered to watch a performing clown.

Dickens stayed at the Royal Hotel in Yarmouth whilst writing parts of David Copperfield

 

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