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Dickens World (Chatham)
Member Name: mad lady
Dickens World (Chatham)
Date: 02/09/07, updated on 02/09/07 (1159 review reads)
Advantages: You have great expectations
Disadvantages: Not so great
It had be given a lot of publicity. The kids had all been talking about the new theme park that was opening just up the road!. Well not quite, 15 miles but to them I suppose it is very near.
Dickens world is the new indoor family attraction. It took approximately 3 years to build. It is privately owned and cost £62 million. How could you not want to visit it when it is only 20 minutes away?
Chatham docks closed over 20 years ago, over the last 5 to 10 years there has been alot of regeneration work going on down there, a large outlet centre, housing, a multiplex cinema. With Dickens world finished recently.
Charles Dickens spent part of his childhood in Chatham as his father worked in the Navy payoffice in the dockyard.
We planned our visit for the week after it opened. We set off with extended family and were really looking forward to a great day out, the sunny was shining what a great start.
As we walked towards the building, which I can only describe as an aircraft hangar, huge and stainless steel.
The first thing I spotted was the queue from the back of the building. We joined the end and two of us went to find out how long we might be waiting. As we turned the corner to the front of the building we were met by a manager from Dickens world, he told us that from the back of the queue it was approximately a 2 and half hour wait.
Okay, we didn't want to spoil things for the kids, after all it was a lovely sunny day, everyone was in good humour and we were literally yards from the huge retail outlet centre, not just bargains in the Next and Clarkes shoes stores, but plently of places to grab some food and drink and so we sent half of us off to do some shopping while the other half stayed in queue. We then all swapped over and did it again. Slowly but surely the queue was moving. My other half was not impressed and insisted that people were giving up and going home rather than getting in. But I had promised the kids the day here and so be it.
Eventually after 2 hours and 10 minutes later we were inside the foyer. Still in a queue for the ticket desks we were constantly being told by managers due to the volume of visitors and a few minor technical hitches they were sorry for the delay.
Well we were now through and going up the stairs to a set of double doors into Dickens world.
As we entered the first thing that struck me was the stark change of lighting, from a modern brightly lit foyer to the darkness of night, the only lights were gas lamps. It was so sudden my 9 year old niece grabbed my hand and said I don't like it! After some reassurance she was fine, we were crossing a bridge with boats going underneath it.
The led us to the main victorian courtyard.
As we stood and look around there seemed to be alleyways leading off of it, we had no map or guidebook and there were people in every direction, then one of the kids spotted a sign for the Great expectations boat ride.
Having a brief look around the courtyard I must say we were very impressed. The victorian shopfronts and the lighting along with the general atmosphere were very impressive.
But the kids were dying to get on the ride, and considering that they hadn't complained about waiting to get in, off we went. We found ourselves at the end of a queue that went into an alley. Hey ho another queue, after 5 minutes into the alley a printed sign on the wall that said WAITING TIME FROM THIS POINT APPROXIMATELY 1 AND AND HALF HOURS. I must admit at this point I wanted to scream. But I took a deep breath, keep calm surely it would be worth it.
We slowly worked our way through the passageways of the Newgate Prison, the walls occasionally broken up by prison cell doors, which the kids hoped to be able to peer inside and see something gruesome, but no such luck, nothing to be seen here. So we were stuck in alleyway with lots of other people waiting to get on. The nearer we got the louder the sounds of water and laughter, sounds good !
Then we were issued with plastic disposable macks.
There were warnings for people of a nervous dispositions or heart complaints not to take the ride. I'm not so sure the queue would be good for people with either of the dispositions ! So finally we climbed into the ride. Up we went very slowly, bearing in mind we are supposed to be sailing above victorian rooftops, up to a peak, then quickly turned around, in the dark, then backwards, down through a dark tunnel, sprayed with water and so then gently along past more victorian dwellings. We did laugh alot and scream abit. But I must say that It was over in less than 5 minutes.
So back to the main courtyard. People seemed as lost as to where to go next as we were.. Spotting a street entertainer, dressed in victorian clothing we asked where we should go next. Try Dotherby's victorian classroom he suggested so we did, again off of the main courtyard we were greeted by a very stern looking schoolmaster, ' Your late get into class' he yelled, much to the amusement of the kids, we all sat in the very authentic looking classroom, we then noticed built into the desks were interactive snakes and ladders. We played on these for while, computer games, at Dickens world. I thought this was very strange.
We did have fun though, especially when he called my nephew into the corner to wear the dunce cap, for laughing too loud.
Back to the courtyard, we then went into see a 4D HD cinema show on the life and times of Charles Dickens, this was really interesting, although the kids got a bit bored, but it wasn't too long so they were okay with it.
Time for a drink. Off of the courtyard were some steps which leads up to the Six Jolly Fellowship porters restaurant. We'd already had lunch in the first queue so we only wanted a drink, had we been hungry I think that we may have been a little bit disappointed. There was nothing unusual here, Sandwiches, baguettes, some traditional English food, nothing special really.
The drinks weren't too expensive although I can't remember exact prices.
Along from the restaurant is Fagin's play den, this was a huge let down, its really just a Kids soft play area in a tiny room , this only really suitable for pre-school children. It was empty when we looked in.
At this point I think we were all really hoping that there ws more to come and that we would stumble across something that we hadn't already seen.
The toilets are very central and immaculate. There are baby changing facilities.
Back to the courtyard, in case you hadn't noticed this where you end up everytime! we had a little chat with one of the Dickens characters, who said we should see the last place we hadn't seen, The haunted house of Ebenezer Scrooge. I asked how long the wait was he said 'only 5 minutes.' Well we got up to the house and were told to wait at the top of a flight of stairs. Groups of people were to be escorted in by one of the guides. While we were waiting I decided that this so called house looked more like something out of a spaghetti western, not victorian times.
Twenty minutes later after much dicussion on her walkly talkie, which she kept pulling out from under her really beautiful victorian dress, she apologised for the delay due to a technical hitch. At this point we decided not to bother.
The only bonus to this part of the day was that due to almost everyone else having gone home, the kids went back on the boat ride 5 times with no queue and no waterproofs as there were none left, they got drenched to the skin but had a great time.
Exit Dickens world is through the Olde curiousity shop, which is full of overpriced rubbish, It doesn't resemble olde at all , with its bright lights, laminate floor and automatic doors.
Overall I feel very let down by our day out. Although I think it was very educational, it certainly is not what Dickens world advertise, Yes it was fun in parts, Its not the day out of a life time as they advertise. They haven't thought about the queues. The scenery and the costumes are amazing. But the whole place is lacking a certain something.
Opening times 10am - 7pm ( exc. Christmas day )
Children £ 7.50
Thanks for reading.
Summary: I wouldn't recommend for families with pre-school children.
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