THE people of Malton have welcomed home a unique piece of the town’s Dickensian heritage after it was won in a nail-biting auction in New York.

Television presenter and Malton resident Selina Scott was one of those who battled to win the leather-bound and signed edition of A Christmas Carol, which its author, Charles Dickens, had commissioned in 1844 to present to the wife of his friend, the lawyer Charles Smithson.

A long-standing belief has it that the office of Scrooge was based on Smithson’s office in Chancery Lane in Malton, and that various characters of Dickens were based upon people living in the area.

Dickens visited Mr and Mrs Smithson on a number of occasions.

Ms Scott said: “Over the last century or so Dickens intimate association with Malton has largely been based on anecdotal evidence. I have however, discovered in the early archive of my grandfather, who was born in 1867 and was, at one stage, editor of the Malton Messenger, many references to Dickens and A Christmas Carol and Malton’s literary heritage.

“For more than 100 years it has been widely acknowledged that Dickens drew his characters like Scrooge from those he met in the town. When this rare and remarkable book came up for auction in New York, we had to act.

“The whole town has come together, raiding savings and piggy banks to raise enough funds.

“We’re proud to have bought the ghost of Dickens’s Christmas back.”

The town managed to raise $43,750 (£27,100) in the four weeks before the auction, in a campaign led by local business man Stephen Joll and Clair Challenor-Chadwick, head of specialist fundraising and marketing company, Cause UK.

Mr Joll said: “Dickens was a great social philanthropist, advocating education and encouraging the well-off to care for the needy.

“We’re planning to spread that spirit, through education, the arts, charitable initiatives and community engagement.”

The book will be housed at Castle Howard until Christmas, when it will be displayed in Malton.