When I write my Pride and Prejudice based vagaries, I tend to place Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s fictionalize Rosings Park in the Rochester/Higham area of Kent. I choose this area for two basic reasons: (1) Rochester is about 30 miles from London. If one takes the 23 miles between Hertfordshire and London and adds the 30 from London to Rochester, such makes Mr. Darcy’s comment from Chapter 32, “Though it is fifty miles, it is a good road and only a half day’s journey” make more sense from his perspective. (2) Moreover, as an English teacher, I know Charles Dickens based many of his novels on the area, as he owned Gads Hill Place in Higham. Therefore, literature speaking, it called to me.
Rochester is the lowest bridging point of the River Medway. Nowadays, along with its neighbors—Chatham, Gillingham and Strood, and several other villages—Rochester is part of what are known as the Medway Towns.
One of the most historic places in Rochester is the Rochester Cathedral and the school associated with the Diocese of Rochester, The King’s School (604 A.D.), which is recognized as the second oldest continuously running school in the world. The Cathedral itself was built under the direction of Bishop Gundulf of Rochester. Rochester comprises numerous important historic buildings, the most prominent of which are the Guildhall, the Corn Exchange, Restoration House, Eastgate House, as well as Rochester Castle and Rochester Cathedral. Many of the town centre’s old buildings date from as early as the 14th century up to the 18th century. The chapel of St Bartholomew’s Hospital dates from the ancient priory hospital’s foundation in 1078.
Rochester has for centuries been of great strategic importance through its position near the confluence of the Thames and the Medway. Rochester Castle was built to guard the river crossing, and the Royal Dockyard’s establishment at Chatham witnessed the beginning of the British Royal Navy’s long period of supremacy. The town, as part of Medway, is surrounded by two circles of fortresses; the inner line built during the Napoleonic era consists of Fort Clarence, Fort Pitt, Fort Amherst, and Fort Gillingham. The outer line of Palmerston Forts was built during the 1860s in light of the report by the Royal Commission on Defence of the United Kingdom and consists of Fort Borstal, For Bridgewood, Fort Luton, and Twydall Redoubts, with two additional forts on islands in the Medway, namely Fort Hoo and Fort Darnet.
Meanwhile, Higham is a large village in the borough of Gravesham. The St Mary priory was built on land granted to Mary, daughter of King Stephen. In 1148, nuns from Brittany (St Sulphice-la-Foret) arrived and moved into the priory. Later, the priory was known as “Lillechurch.” On 6 July 1227, King Henry III confirmed the royal grant to the abbey of St Mary and St Sulpice of Lillechurch. The original parish church, the Church of St Mary, is situated to the north of the present village. It is open to visitors daily and has a wonderful display of medieval woodwork. Its pulpit is one of the oldest in Kent, dating from the 1300s.
As far back as 1558, Gad’s Hill was known for its thieves. There is a ballad from that year entitled, The Robber’s of Gad’s Hill. In Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV, Part 1, Falstaff organizes a highway robbery, taking place at Gad’s Hill, As is typical for Shakespeare, Prince Hal and Poins turn the tables on Falstaff and his men and perform their own robbery.
Charles Dickens purchased Gad’s Hill in 1856 for a little less than 1800 pounds. He died there in 1870. The Swiss chalet in which Dickens composed his works has been moved from Gad’s Hill’s garden to those at Eastgate House (pictured above) in Rochester. However, visitors can view sighs at the parish boundaries depicting Dickens’s characters.
Gad’s Hill Place is now used as a private school, originally for girls, but now mixed.
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.
Follow Darcy and Elizabeth’s quest to the Rochester area of England to confront Lady Catherine de Bourgh.