The writer Charles Dickens made several visits to Birmingham during his lifetime, to help local causes. Most notable is that Dickens gave his first public reading of one of his works, A Christmas Carol, in 1853. The event proved so popular that further readings would develop into tours and dominate the latter part of his life.
These are the visits we have been able to find Dickens made to the city:
1844. Support for Birmingham Polytechnic Institution.
In 1844, Charles Dickens was invited to speak in aid of the Birmingham Polytechnic Institution. He arrived on the afternoon of 28th February, 1844, after travelling by train from Liverpool. The speech was held at the Town Hall at 8pm, where Dickens was warmly received. Dickens stayed over that night at Dee’s Royal Hotel in Temple Row.
1848. Support for Shakespeare’s house at Stratford.
In June 1848, Dickens brought his company of friends to perform Ben Jonson’s 1598 comical play, Every Man in his Humour. The play had been first performed at Miss Kelly’s Theatre in Soho, London in September, 1845 and was successful enough to be repeated three or four times over subsequent years as benefit performances. A performance at Birmingham was held at the Theatre Royal, on Tuesday, 6 June. A ballot system had to be used for the show, which was sold out, despite admission prices being raised from the normal. The performance was to raise money to help fund a permanent position for a curator at Shakespeare’s House, Stratford. A second show was added on Tuesday, 27 June, when the company performed The Merry Wives of Windsor. Again, a ballot system was adopted for allocating the best seats which was also held at the Theatre Royal.
1853. Support for the Birmingham and Midland Institute.
In 1853, Charles Dickens was invited to Birmingham by the Committee of the Birmingham and Midland Institute to help aid the establishment of a popular educational institution in the town. The Victorian novelist read from A Christmas Carol on December 27 and again on December 30, and from The Cricket on The Hearth on December 29. About 2,000 people attended each performance.
Dickens asked for one of the readings to be given to an audience composed of the working classes, so the second reading of A Christmas Carol was set aside for that purpose. The institute – a scientific and technical education centre for adults – opened next to the Town Hall, in Paradise Street, several years later. The building was demolished in 1965 and moved to Margaret Street.
|Birmingham Town Hall.|
Charles Dickens gave at least two public performances here, a speech in 1844 and his first public reading of A Christmas Carol in 1853.
|Dee's Royal Hotel.|
Dickens stayed at Dee's Royal Hotel in Temple Row in February, 1844 after delivering a speech at the Town Hall in aid of the Birmingham Polytechnic Institution.
|Original Home of BMI.|
The original BMI buildings were next to the Town Hall in Paradise Street from 1860 - 1965.
|Present Location of BMI.|
Present location of the Birmingham and Midland Institute.
Charles Dickens performed at the Birmingham Theatre Royal in June 1848.
Further Reading on The Circumlocution Office.
Further Reading (external sites).