On Friday, we had a closer look at Deadman’s Island, and its part in the setting for Losing Lizzy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary. Like Deadman’s Island, Burntwick can be found in the estuary of the River Medway in Kent. Although a little larger, also, like Deadman’s Island it is a flat area of marshland. It is approximate 1.2 miles long and two-thirds of a mile wide. It was once attached to the British mainland of Chetney Marshes. It formed the northernmost area of the Upchurch Parish.
On the southern side of the estuary, it is separated by a narrow channel known as Stangate Creek. Just as was Deadman’s Island, Burntwick is crossed by several narrow tidal channels, meaning at high tide the island is separated into several smaller ones.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was used as a quarantine base for disease-infected ships. The bodies of those who died were buried on Deadman’s Island, which lies about 2 miles to the east of Burntwick Island.
With the rise of custom duties in the late 18th Century, especially those on tea and spirits, the island was “claimed” by smugglers, specifically the North Kent Gang, as their staging ground. The North Kent Gang were known for their ruthlessness and for their ability to stymie the efforts of the excise men, meant to capture them.
In 1820, two blockade officers confronted them uploading goods in Stangate Creek. The smugglers escaped, but one of the officers was seriously injured. Eventually, the members of the North Kent Gang—some 50 members in all—were captured. Three were executed on the Penenden Heath near Maidenstone. Fifteen were transported to Tasmania. When the import duties, which necessitated their activities, ended in 1831, smuggling in the area was nearly eradicated.
According to History of Rainham, Kent Website: “Later in 1845 a ship’s surgeon named Sidney Bernard who served on H.M.S Rollo just off the coast of Sierra Leone in West Africa became associated with the island. The crew of another ship, H.M.S Éclair, contracted yellow fever and some of them died. Bernard’s ship was sent by the Royal Navy to assist and Bernard was appointed assistant surgeon on H.M.S Eclair to treat the sailors. The ship returned to England but the naval authorities, worried that the disease might spread to the general population, ordered the captain to moor the ship in Stangate Creek just off the Ham Green peninsular. The cargo was then transferred to one of two hulks permanently moored there and a naval cutter guarded the infected ship to prevent anyone going ashore. Sidney Bernard continued treating the crew but was unable to save them until he also contracted the disease and died aged 27 on October 9th 1845. He was buried on the island and his grave remains there today, maintained by the Royal Navy.
“During the 19th century the island became a dumping ground for refuse from London and even today the ground is covered with Victorian glass and crockery.
“Sheep had grazed on Burntwick Island for years and during the 1840s a shepherd named James Woolley and his wife Sarah lived there in a solitary house. The remains of the house still exist there today. A track ran from Shoregate Lane at Ham Green out to the island and traces of it can still be seen. Later, In the 1860s, the famous ‘Great Eastern’ ship which laid the first cable line between England and the United States was temporarily moored nearby. After that, during the 1870s, a shepherd named Thomas Hoare and his housekeeper Emma Castleton lived there and tended farmer Richard Sands sheep but during the early 20th century the tide flooded the island making it unsuitable for grazing so from that time livestock only grazed on the mainland.
“Burntwick Island eventually became the property of the Ministry of Defense. During the early years of the 20th century a battery was constructed there which included two 12 pounder guns, machine gun emplacements and three searchlights. A torpedo school later became established with a barracks building and ammunition depots with target practice taking place during World War Two. The island then fell into disuse and is now just a desolate haven for seabirds and is completely under water for several hours at high tide.”
Losing Lizzy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary
She thought him dead. Now only he can save their daughter.
When Lady Catherine de Bourgh told Elizabeth Bennet: “And this is your real opinion! This is your final resolve! Very well. I shall now know how to act. Do not imagine, Miss Bennet, that your ambition will ever be gratified. I came to try you. I hoped to find you reasonable; but, depend upon it, I will carry my point,” no one knew how vindictive and manipulative her ladyship might prove, but Darcy and Elizabeth were about to discover the bitter truth for themselves.
This is a story of true love conquering even the most dire circumstances. Come along with our dear couple as they set a path not only to thwart those who stand between them and happiness, but to forge a family, one not designed by society’s strict precepts, but rather one full of hope, honor, loyalty and love.
Loving these bits of history which you incorporated so beautifully into this story. Thanks for all your hard work.