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The Marsh Country

image of the Guildhall plaqueGreat Expectations was first published in the UK in weekly instalments, in Dickens’s own magazine, All The Year Round. The first part appeared on 1 December 1860, which makes 2010 its 150th anniversary.

It is unusual amongst Dickens’s novels in that it was first seen in this country without accompanying illustrations, either in the magazine, or in 1861 when the first complete version was published.


Great Expectations is celebrated especially in Medway since much of it is set in the area. Dickens appears to have been inspired by the landscape of the north Kent marshes and important local buildings such as the Rochester Guildhall, Restoration House and churches in Higham and Cooling.


At the beginning of 2010, the Guildhall Museum set out with three local primary schools to provide the famous opening of the novel with the illustrations that those early instalments were lacking. These schools were:

  • Greenvale Infant
  • Twydall Junior
  • Saxon Way Primary.


Artist Wendy Daws provided the expertise and inspiration. Renaissance South East and Medway Council provided the funding.


The Marsh Country


The project was designed to bring together three things to enable children to create suitable images:


  • Great Expectations itself
  • objects from the museum’s collection
  • the practice of making silhouette pictures.


Children found out about the story and the characters in school. They visited the museum to research the historic context and were able to handle examples of objects that appear in the novel. They then worked with Wendy Daws in school to pick a scene, make props and costume appropriate to it, and pose a tableau that could be photographed in silhouette.