Page last updated at 19:34 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 20:34 UK

Dickens' desk sells at auction

Charles Dickens' desk and chair
The money raised will buy new equipment for Great Ormond Street

A desk and chair belonging to Charles Dickens have sold for 433,250 at a charity auction in London.

It is thought they were used by the author when he wrote Great Expectations at his Kent home Gad's Hill.

The items were expected to sell for between 50,000 and 80,000, but Christie's said bidding had been "extremely fierce".

Proceeds from the items, donated by a relative, will go to London's Great Ormond Street children's hospital.

The mahogany desk bears a bronze plaque which carries the name of its famous owner.

Along with the walnut chair, it was passed down to the author's great-great-grandson Christopher Charles Dickens, and when he died in 1999, his wife Jeanne-Marie, Countess Wenckheim, donated both items to Great Ormond Street.

"Charles Dickens was a champion of the poor and needy and an enthusiastic patron of Great Ormond Street Hospital in its early days," the countess said.

"I felt that it was Charles's wish and it is an honour for me to fulfil this wish."

Early fundraiser

The buyer, Irish collector Tom Higgins, said the items would be given pride of place in his home in Wicklow.

Former journalist Mr Higgins, 49, said: "I'm a big Dickens fan, I always have been.

"It's an important piece of literary history."

Dickens was one of Great Ormond Street's first patrons and spoke at its first fund-raising dinner in 1858.

Charles Denton, of the hospital's Children's Charity, said he was "very grateful" for the "generous gift".

"Money raised from the sale will help rebuild and refurbish the hospital, buy vital equipment and fund pioneering research."

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