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Great expectations as Dickens World opens at last

DICKENS World, the new privately-funded attraction in Chatham which aims to give visitors a glimpse into the highs and lows of urban life in the time of the famous


The £62 million venture is seen as key to the regeneration of the Medway Towns.

Visitors over the holiday period were able to see the haunted house, traditional Victorian boys’ school and the splash-inducing boat ride.

The opening of the complex had already been postponed twice, and of the seven zones, the Victorian Music Hall was still not ready in time for the opening. It is now due to open in August.

Manager Ross Hutchins said: “I nearly cried at one point, when the first people came through the door. People will think I’ve gone soft, but to be able to see the first visitors enjoying themselves, after all the years of construction and hard work, was really quite euphoric."

The opening was massively hyped, with reports in national newspapers and journalists around the world asking for interviews.

Mr Hutchins stressed: "The love of Dickens and his work is truly international. We had more than 1,500 people applying for just 50 jobs here and they came from all over Europe and from places like Las Vegas and Seattle.

“We have already had school bookings from Europe and Singapore. A few people have said we are attempting to 'Disneyfy’ Dickens, but we have worked closely with the Dickens Fellowship right from the start to ensure a pure product, and I really think if Dickens was around today he would be here entertaining people himself.”

Medway councillor Craig Mackinlay (Con), whose ward the centre is in, said he had thoroughly enjoyed his first trip around the venue.

He said: “It’s absolutely fantastic and all my expectations have been exceeded. We are hoping it will do for Chatham what Shakespeare did for Stratford-upon-Avon. The will be very valuable for the regeneration of Medway.”

The idea for Dickens World came in the 1980s, from theme park designer Gerry O’Sullivan-Beare.

The attraction is complete with sounds, smells and true-to-life costumes.

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