Charles Dickens wrote
” 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 the bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgina 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, Charles Dickens
St Mary’s became Dickens’ parish church when he moved into Gads’ Hill Place, on the Gravesend-Rochester road, in 1859. He then lived in Higham until he died in 1870 and would have known the building well. In 1860, his daughter Katey was married there. It was in this year that he began one of his most well known novels, Great Expectations, which is partly set in a landscape that seems to be based on that of North Kent. Its famous beginning, above, feature an isolated marshland church, and the deserted gun placement where the convict Magwitch hides from the law corresponds perfectly with the nearby Shornemead Fort.