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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Where did Charles Dickens find his inspiration?

Charles Dickens drew much of the inspiration for his books from people, places and events in his childhood He spent part of his early years in and around Rochester, when his father worked at nearby Chatham Dockyard. He certainly would have seen this stone in the graveyard of Rochester Catherdral - in fact it is clearly visible from the road that Pip would taken to Satis House in Great Expectations. Perhaps this is where he found the name for Little Dorritt and her family; who knows?

The stone reads:
 
Sacred to the memory of
Mr JOHN DUNBAR DORRETT
of this city,
who departed this life
 on the 21st day of  October 1837
aged 52 years.
Also his wife
REBECCA DORRETT 
who departed this life
on the [5th] day of  September 1839
aged 59 years.
 Also
FANNY DORRETT
 who departed this life on the [7th] day of  August 1854
 aged 79 years


The wills of John Dunbar Dorrett and his widow Rebecca were proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC); John, described as a corn dealer, left his entire estate to Rebecca, who was also his sole executrix. When she died three years later, she too was described as a corn dealer. The couple appear to have had no children, since Rebecca's bequests were all to her brothers, sisters and a niece. One of her sisters, Ann Beverstock, lived in Ordnance Place, where Dickens lived as a child, so it may be that he even met Mr and Mrs Dorrett.

No relationship is given for the third person named on the stone, Fanny Dorrett, but an earlier will shows that she was John Dunbar Dorrett's sister: the will of Elizabeth Dorrett, widow, names these two as her children in 1814.

PCC Will of Rebecca Dorrett 16 September 1839 PROB 11/1916
PCC Will of John Dunbar Dorrett 2 December 1839 PROB 11/1887
PCC Will of Elizabeth Dorrett 20 January 1814 PROB 11/1551

Downloadable from DocumentsOnline

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