A NORTH Yorkshire society devoted to the life and work of Charles Dickens is to keep a watching brief on a new book which claims their town was the inspiration for one of his most famous works.

An original copy of A Christmas Carol is believed to have been bought at auction in New York, complete with an inscription by Dickens. It is to Mrs Charles Smithson, wife of one of the author’s friends, where he confirms he used an accountants’ office in Chancery Lane in Malton as the setting for the tale.

The book is expected to be publicly unveiled next week. The building in Chancery Lane was once the office of Charles Smithson, a solicitor who lived at the 18th Century mansion Easthorpe Hall just outside the town, and Dickens travelled to Malton on several occasions to visit the couple.

Linda McCarthy, Charles Dickens (Malton) Society secretary, said the group was looking forward to seeing the full inscription.

“If there is tangible proof that A Christmas Carol was inspired by Malton, we would obviously be over the moon. However, we do have to wait and see.

“There have been rumours about this over the years, but nothing conclusive.

“There are provable links between Dickens and Malton, in the form of letters and correspondence between him and the Smithson family, and we know he stayed at Easthorpe Hall where he wrote part of Martin Chuzzlewit.

“It will also be very interesting to see how this book came to be up for sale in America and what its provenance is. Meanwhile, a one-man performance of A Christmas Carol will be staged at York Castle Museum as part of its line-up of festive events.

Actor Chris Cade will don an array of outfits to tell a short version of the classic tale on the museum’s Victorian street, Kirkgate, which will be stocked with Yuletide goodies from that period. Weekends will see a traditionally-dressed green Father Christmas paying a visit and the chance for visitors to make Victorian Christmas cards and taste mince pies through the ages.

The traditional Carols In Kirkgate events will be at 7.30pm every day between next Tuesday and Saturday.

Museum manager Helen Young said: “Many of the Christmas traditions we have today were first made popular in the Victorian period, and examples of these can be seen on Kirkgate this Christmas.”

All events are included in the Castle Museum admission price, with free entry to York Card holders. More details at yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk