ROCHESTER DICKENS FESTIVAL
The Swiss Chalet
The Swiss Chalet, where Dickens wrote some of his greatest works, is now sited in the gardens of Eastgate House. It was given to Dickens by the French actor Charles Fechter, arriving on Christmas Eve 1864. It was originally located opposite Dickens' house on Gads Hill.
The Chalet is a remarkable and fascinating reminder of Dickens' connection with the Rochester area. At first sight It looks in good condition, but in reality it needs a huge amount of restoration. The Rochester and Chatham branch of the Dickens Fellowship has set up an appeal to raise the £100,00 needed. The Fellowship does not underestimate the immensity of the task it has set itself.
If you wish to contact the Fellowship by email please use the Dickens Fellowship website
Branch chairman, John Knott, writes:
As you may know, since it was first erected the Chalet has stood on stilts. We now find that many years ago, when the Chalet started to tilt and there was a fear that it might topple, brickwork was put round the base of the structure to stop it from falling. This is now the only thing that is holding the Chalet up, so we have had to bring in a firm of specialists to prop the building up and stop it from collapsing completely. When the Chalet is restored, it will have to be re-sited on specially constructed foundations, which will have proper drainage and raise the Chalet to a safe height above the ground. We think that the only furniture and fittings that can be saved from the inside are the five mirrors, so this adds more to the expense. The original estimate of £100,000 appears to be spot on, which is a lot of money to find. The fundraising events that we are holding range from garden parties, dramatic evenings, an Elvis show, craft fairs, etc, etc. We are submitting a bid to the Heritage Fund, but even if this is successful they will only give a grant for part of the cost, so we would be most grateful of any help that anyone can give us.
There appears to be some confusion over statements that the Eastgate House gardens are being restored to their former Victorian glory and that land adjacent to the gardens is to become a cultural centre. This speculation is correct, but this is being funded by the Medway Council and is not part of our fund raising.'
There is more about the Swiss Chalet appeal on the Dickens Fellowship website