Vignette for title-page: Rochester Castle, c. 1910
Ernest William Haslehust (12 Nov 1866 - 3 July 1949), RI, RWA
Pen-and-ink drawing, wood-engraving
7 x 5 cm vignetted
[Click on image to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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August Snodgrass in The Pickwick Papers describes this venerable stone fortress built by the conquering Normans opposite Rochester Cathedral on Boley Hill as "a magnificent ruin," to which the effusive actor Jingle responds in a series of periodic sentences:
"Ah! fine place," said the stranger, "glorious pile — frowning walls — tottering arches — dark nooks — crumbling staircases. . . ." [Chapter 2, "The Travellers in the Ancient City of Rochester," p. 9] Commentary continued below.
Amid the rather sordid encroachments of modern industrialism, Rochester still keeps something of an air of an old-world country town, and in the precincts of its Cathedral there still broods a cloistral peace. The dominating feature of the town, from whatever side approached, is the massive ruin of the Norman Keep of Bishop Gundulf, the architect also of London's White Tower. Though the blue sky is its only roof, and on the rugged staircase the dark apertures in the walls, where rafters and floors were once, show like gaping sockets from which the ravens and daws have picked out the eyes, it seems to stand with all the immovable strength of some solid rock on which the waves of rebellion or invasion would have dashed and broken. [Nicklin, 14-15]
Boley Hill, Rochester Castle (February 2012).
The first Norman monarch, William the First (otherwise, "William the Conqueror") introduced stone castles to England as a means of imposing his will militarily upon his Saxon subjects. Like many other towns of Roman foundation, Rochester acquired its Norman Keep shortly after the Conquest of 1066. The castle on the height of land called Boley Hill is so situated that it dominates the River Medway and the old Roman road running from the coast to Londinium, Watling Street. The "Gundulf" to whom Nicklin refers is the Bishop of Rochester who petitioned William the Second ("Rufus") to permit the construction of a fortress to protect the town from invasion after the destruction of the original keep in the rebellion of 1088. The new stone castle, the work of Norman military architect William de Corbeil, fell under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a result of the decree of King Henry the First in 1127. It survived three sieges, the last by the leader of the rebellious barons, Simon de Monfort, in 1264. In 1381 the castle failed to withstand the Peasants' Revolt, and its custodianship reverted to the Crown. Shortly after Dickens's death, the site became a public park.
- Rochester Castle, drawing by G. A. Symington
- Rochester Castle, drawing by Tomblesons and engraving by P. Sands
- Charles Dickens and Rochester
- Rochester Cathedral in Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Il. Robert Seymour and Phiz. The Charles Dickens Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Kitton, Frederick G. The Complete Mystery of Edwin Drood, by Charles Dickens: The History, Continuations, and Solutions (1870-1912) by J. Cuming Walters. With a portrait and illustrations by Sir Luke Fildes, R. A., F. G. Kitton. Facsimiles and a Bibliography. London: Chapman and Hall, 1912.
Lynch, Tony. Dickens England: An A to Z Tour of the Real and Imagined Locations. A Traveller's Companion. London: Batsford, 2012.
Nicklin, J. A. Dickens-land. Il. E. W. Haslehust. Beautiful England series. Glasgow & London: Blackie & Son, 1911.
Last modified 25 February 2014