VISITORS to a museum were given a literary treat yesterday with a lecture from Charles Dickens’ great-great-grandson.

Gerald Dickens retraced the steps of his famous ancestor to help mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.

He was invited to Bowes Museum, in Barnard Castle, by the Dickens in Teesdale group, and was joined by Valerie Browne Lester, the great-great-granddaughter of Hablot Browne, who illustrated Dickens’ books.

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The two are giving separate talks nationally, but met to give a lecture at the museum.

Mr Dickens, 48, an actor from Oxford, said: “I am very excited to be part of the celebrations and it has been really incredible to see the enthusiasm for Dickens, even now.”

He said the enduring popularity of Dickens’ books was down to the complex plots and intriguing characters.

He added: “Some of those characters, like Scrooge, have entered the English language, and he was also writing about issues still relevant today.”

Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812 and his first work, The Pickwick Papers, appeared in 1836.

He visited County Durham in 1838 as he researched local schools to gather details to use in his third novel, Nicholas Nickleby.

He died in 1870 while writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

On Tuesday, Gerald Dickens attended a reception at Buckingham Palace with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to mark the anniversary of Dickens’ birth.

He was also at a service in Westminster Abbey on February 7, where the Prince of Wales laid a wreath on the writer’s grave.

Michael and Val Fryer, who set up the Dickens in Teesdale group, were also at the Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey events.

Mr Fryer said: “It was fantastic and a great experience to attend and it is something we never dreamed would happen to us.”

The Dickens in Teesdale group’s website is at dickens