The Lanes, Malton Links with Charles Dickens

The Counting House Door in Chancery Lane Malton

World Wide Shopping Mall (or The Lanes as we are known locally) is based in Chancery Lane, Malton. Unknown to many Malton and Chancery Lane has historical links with Charles Dickens. Formed to promote the connection, The Charles Dickens (Malton) Society had a fruitful 12 years where its faithful and dutiful members organised events and displays to raise funds culminating in the opening of a small museum in the original Smithson Solicitor office and named in the Dickens novel ‘A Christmas Carol’ as ‘The Counting-House’ occupied by an Ebenezer Scrooge along with his partner Jacob Marley. The museum was opened by local celebrity Selina Scott.

The Charles Dickens connection with Malton, an underused historical fact.

  • Charles Dickens Esquire the admired and talented author of Chancery Lane by World Wide Shopping Mall"Pickwick" was the title of an article that appeared in the Yorkshire Gazette, on July 8, 1843, it told of a visit by Charles Dickens to his good friend Charles Smithson who was a solicitor in Malton he stayed with Smithson at his home at the rather grand sounding Easthorpe Hall some three miles out of Malton. (Easthorpe Hall no longer exists as it burnt down in 1971 and thereon demolished)
  • Charles lived at Easthorpe Hall near Malton until the autumn of 1843, when he moved to the Abbey House in Old Malton, before this he lived in another grand building York House on Yorkersgate Malton, now used as a wedding venue for the Talbot Hotel.
  • Charles Dickens came to Malton sometimes to visit his friend whom he had met whilst both were undertaking apprenticeships in a solicitor’s office in London, Charles Smithson had to return to Malton to take over the family’s solicitor business in Chancery Lane as his elder brother Henry had died.
  • Charles Smithson was the eleventh child and sixth son of Richard and Sarah Smithson. He was baptised at St Michael’s Church, Malton on Christmas Eve, 1804. At the age of nineteen, Charles became articled to his eldest brother John in Chancery Lane where he and his father were partners. Today this building is marked by a commemorative plaque. On the death of John at the early age of 39, Charles moved to London to continue his training under the auspices of another older brother Henry at the firm of Smithson and Dunn. Three years later their Father died which necessitated Henry returning to Malton to carry on that firm, whilst Charles remained in London.
  • The times were not good for the Smithsons with life expectancy not great with Richard, John, Henry, and then Charles all dying prematurely, the funeral of Charles Smithson was nearly missed by Dickens which took place at St Mary’s where he is buried. Old Malton is a delightful village midway between York and Scarborough.
  • Dickens used many of the people he met and their circumstances as characters and storylines for his books with many of his tales containing references one being Mr Spenlow who failed to leave a will as Smithson did.
  • Charles Dickens along with his younger brother Alfred Lamert Dickens was one of the administrators who extracted the grant of letters of Administration as Charles Smithson although a solicitor failed to leave a will.
  • Alfred Lamert Dickens also had a connection with Malton as he had married a local girl (from Strensall Near York) and lived at Scarborough Road Norton he worked in Malton as a railway engineer with an office in the Market Place.
  • The story that comes up every Christmas in Films, TV and stage productions. The Christmas Carol story Dickens had told Smithson's wife he had based on Smithsons Chancery Office. A Signed edition of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was bought for Malton and said to be the original given to Mrs Smithson.

A little known fact was Charles Dickens performed readings from his books in Malton one of which is said to be in a theatre on Saville Street although there is no record of a theatre existing there strangely enough there was a chapel called the Ebenezer now renamed Saville House as a building quite capable of holding a substantial audience all dutifully enwrapped in the Dickens tales.
Sadly The Charles Dickens (Malton) Society no longer exists, although the hard-working and dedicated members were there until the end, time catches up, and no doubt Dickens himself could have used the stories and characters involved in its running.
Thanks to all those who took part in The Charles Dickens (Malton) Society who are no longer with us, a Lasting Tribute to those departed may their Memory Live Forever. Stephen Joll, John Collins, Sidney Henry Woodhams, Derek Spencer.

If you are ever visiting Malton, please pop in to see us at Chancery Lane to learn more. The Lanes does have more information inside The Shopping Mall on this history. The Offices and its plaque are still there but all shuttered up waiting for someone else to continue the story.

Last Updated 28th May 2022