Thursday, December 29, 2011

A death in the marshes

A tragic story from 1877:

'At daybreak on Saturday morning a boy employed to frighten crows from a cornfield discovered the body of a gentleman up to the waist in water in the marshes forming a portion of Woolwich Arsenal, The body was subsequently identified as that of Mr David Darling, a pensioned officer from the Royal Arsenal, of 7 Amersham Grove, New Cross. The deceased was last seen alive at the grave of his wife in Plumstead Churchyard, and it is conjectured that in walking through the marshes he was overtaken by the darkness and got into a bog from which he was unable to extricate himself' ('Lost in a Bog', The Times, 5 March 1877)

The elements of Kent marshes, a churchyard and a frightened boy put me in mind of a story written not long before, albeit set further out in North Kent (believed to be based on the marshes around Cooling, beyond Gravesend):

'Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard... and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip' (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, 1861)

4 comments:

Deptford Pudding said...

Fantastic isn't it. The new film (not the TV series) is being shot partly on the Isle of Sheppey at Shellness. The crew have made 3 visits I think, Ralph Fiennes has been seen driving an old Mustang in Leysdown. I wonder where the TV marsh location was, might have been Elmley on Sheppey. The graves for Pip's fictional family are at Cooling church on the Isle of Grain. (trivia:Jools Holland lives at Cooling Castle)

John said...

The Ship & Lobster in Gravesend appears in Great Expectations in its original guise of The Ship, I believe. It's very difficult to find if you don't know the area, and in all honesty, it probably isn't worth the effort!

Transpontine said...

Apparently the opening scenes of Great Expectations in the current BBC adaption were filmed at Tollesbury Wick Marshes in Essex

Deptford Pudding said...

I like the Ship and Lobster, been going there for years to walk the dog along the river wall to the old Napoleonic era fort. Next to the pub is the bizarre police riot, terrorist and general civil unrest training area: a minature town complete with tube train, and station, shops and houses. Like a film set. Its highly visible from the river wall.