CLAIMS that a building in Malton was the inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge’s counting house in one of Charles Dickens’ most famous tales have been questioned by a former mayor of the town.

Ian Reed, pictured, once a member of the old Malton Urban District Council, said he wanted to add a word of caution to the legend before “the truth gets in the way of a good story”.

He believes that the story of the red brick building in Chancery Lane being the inspiration of the novel A Christmas Carol is based on nothing more than a casual comment made in a council meeting some 40 years ago.

In a letter to our sister paper, the Gazette and Herald, he said: “In the early 1970s, while a teenage councillor on Malton Urban District Council, I remember the subject of this empty building coming up in relation to discussions about to property in the area.

“In trying to explain the location of the former France & Co solicitor’s office, Coun Alwyn Taylor referred to it in the meeting as “that building that looks like Scrooge’s office”.

“From that exact moment on, 40 years ago, the building was known and referred to by the council (and subsequent councils) as The Dickens House.

Mr Reed, who served as mayor of Malton from 1980 to 1981, said it was a more established fact that Dickens stayed at Easthorpe Hall, probably several times, between 1840 and 1845.

Mr Reed’s views were backed by the Charles Dickens Malton Society, which said it wanted to distance itself from “some of the more exaggerated claims”.

Secretary Linda McCarthy said: “When people come to us, all we say is that the building is supposed to be the one on which Dickens based A Christmas Carol; we don’t say it actually was based on the building.”

She said the links between Malton and Dickens were through his good friend Charles Smithson, a solicitor in the town at the time and with whom Dickens is documented to have stayed.