Charles Dickens’ visit to South Shields not all it seemed

Charles Dickens did visit South Shields. But it was his son, not the great author himself, above.
Charles Dickens did visit South Shields. But it was his son, not the great author himself, above.

CHARLES Dickens in South Shields! Yes, I sat up when I read that too.

But like one of the master’s own ghost stories, not all was as it might appear to be.

We know Dickens visited Tyneside during his lifetime, to give his famous readings from his own works (and which he acted out with such a passion, as in the death of Nancy in Oliver Twist, that they’re thought to have contributed to his premature death).

It’s on record, for example, that he visited the ‘New Town Hall’ in Newcastle in 1858, where he read from A Christmas Carol.

But I’ve been surprised to discover that, in 1886, his eldest son, also called Charles, came to Shields, to the Free Library Hall (the museum in Ocean Road) to also read from his father’s books.

Charles Jnr had taken over the editorship of his father’s magazine, All The Year Round, after his death in 1870.

I can find no record of what he read at Shields or how well he was received, but it’s nice to think of that old building being sprinkled with such literary fairy dust.

Sadly Charles Jnr also went on to die prematurely, succumbing to heart disease in 1896 at the age of 59, barely a year older than his father.