BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK
Airport plan threatens Dickens' legacy
Still from adaptation of Great Expectation
Marshland: Scene of Great Expectations' opening

An area of Kent marshland immortalised by Charles Dickens could be threatened by government plans to build new airports, due to be unveiled this week.

A bleak churchyard on the Hoo Peninsula provides the setting to Great Expectations' famous opening chapter where the young Pip encounters the escaped convict Magwitch.

Click here to read an excerpt

Options for expanding Britain's airports and runways will be outlined in a consultation paper expected to detail potential extra runways at Heathrow and Stansted, and possibly earmarking Cliffe Marshes as a site of a potential new airport.

Members of the Dickens Fellowship - a group set up to protect the great Victorian author's legacy - say they will vehemently oppose any development at Cliffe.

Thelma Grove and Dr Tony Williams at the Dickens House
The Dickens Fellowship is opposed to the idea
"The distinctiveness of that environment, atmospherically, culturally, ecologically will be lost forever if these plans go ahead," says Professor Malcolm Andrews, editor of the Dickensian.

The fellowship bought Dickens' former London home in Doughty Street after it came under the threat of demolition in 1923 - and it is now their headquarters and the world's foremost repository of Dickens-related material.

But while the landscape of London has changed dramatically since Dickens' death in 1870, the fellowship says there are many areas "Dickens Country" in Kent which are far less changed from the area where the young novelist grew up.

Thelma Grove, the fellowship's joint secretary acknowledges that concerns for the loss of an "intellectual ecology" are unlikely to sway planning decisions.

Charles Dickens
Dickens (1812-70) spent a happy boyhood in Kent
However there would also be fierce opposition to the scheme from ecologists.

The Thames is regarded as one of Europe's most important estuaries by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and there is a 230-hectare nature reserve at Cliffe Pools.

RSPB South East regional manager Chris Corrigan, said, the idea was "unthinkable".

"In environmental terms, it is hard to think of a worse site for an airport in the South East, and we look forward to hearing that this proposal has been immediately consigned to the wastebasket."

Regional plan

Each area of the UK will be covered in the plans, which could also contain proposals for expansion of regional airports such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Birmingham.

Other options could include the converting of old military airfields into civilian airports.

The options are contained in a series of regional studies which will be announced on Tuesday by Transport Minister Alistair Darling.

Publication looms as Dickens lovers from across the world gather in London for the fellowship's centenary conference.

More than 200 people from locations as diverse as North America, Japan and Denmark are staying in London for a week-long programme of talks, film-showings and visits to key areas of the capital made famous in Dickens life and works.

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening.

At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip. (Great Expectations, Chapter One) Click here to return

Latest news



BBC News Online breaks the government's plans down by region

Guide to new airports

BBCi DickensFrom BBCi
Click here to visit the BBC's Dickens website
See also:

13 Jun 02 | England
01 Mar 02 | England
10 May 02 | Entertainment
09 Jul 01 | Entertainment
07 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |