Work is set to begin on a $140-million theme park that will bring to life the 19th century world of Charles Dickens.

Scheduled to open in April 2007, Dickens World is being spearheaded by the South East England Development Agency, a group in charge of redeveloping the area. The attraction will be located at the agency's Chatham Maritime Site – a former dockyard – in the southeast region of Chatham, where Dickens spent his childhood.

"Dickens not only lived there, but it is where he originated many of his storylines," said Kevin Christie, chief executive of the $138.7-million project. "His books provide a rich tapestry from which to draw an exciting and entertaining view of this turbulent period in our nation's history."

Dickens World will recreate the Victorian archways and cobbled streets of such books as Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. Highlights will include an Ebenezer Scrooge ride, themed shops and "burlesque" dinner shows that will provide "a menu of naughty delights in the 'Free and Easy' Victorian music hall," organizers said.

Construction on the new enclosed facility is expected to begin in the next two months. A movie theatre complex, bars and restaurants – which will be completed by October 2006 – will also be part of the overall project.

"We anticipate that visitors from all over the U.K. – and further afield – will want to visit this unique complex," said Elwyn Nicol, a project manager with the development agency.