Deadman`s island is the site of a mass grave, prisoners were kept in Hulks on the Thames estuary and when they died they were buried on Deadman`s Island. The bones of Napoleonic prisoners as well as Cholera victims are supposedly lying on the shore. It is difficult to get there though, it is an island and unfortunately I do not have a boat and even if I had a boat it is a bird preservation and the wardens are not particularly friendly.
`The marshes were just a long black horizontal line then, as I stopped to look after him; and the river was just another horizontal line, not nearly so broad nor yet so black; and the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed. On the edge of the river I could faintly make out the only two black things in all the prospect that seemed to be standing upright; one of these was the beacon by which the sailors steered – like an unhooped cask upon a pole – an ugly thing when you were near it; the other a gibbet, with some chains hanging to it which had once held a pirate. The man was limping on towards this latter, as if he were the pirate come to life, and come down, and going back to hook himself up again. It gave me a terrible turn when I thought so; and as I saw the cattle lifting their heads to gaze after him, I wondered whether they thought so too. I looked all round for the horrible young man, and could see no signs of him. But, now I was frightened again, and ran home without stopping.` Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
The idea of Deadman`s Island is seductive, an echo from the past, a marker so to speak. I started to consider if an imprint of that history could be explored . I began researching and found a place called Horrid Hill, not far away. When prisoners tried to escape from the Hulks on the Thames (near Deadmans Island) they swam for this hill as it is higher ground than elsewhere, unfortunately when they were caught they were also hung there, as a deterrent to ward off further escape attempts. Apparently also during the Napoleonic war, French prison hulks were moored off Horrid Hill, the screams of the maltreated prisoners were said to be heard, leading perhaps to another alternative origin of the name.
Once again the weather was foul snowing actually. The vista was bleak but the island was joined to the main land long ago and we decided to walk to the tip. The area is marshy with reed beds all around with the odd wreck thrown in. I took some shots of the wrecks but was`nt happy with the results so I took several shots all round the island. There were a lot of people out and about with dogs and children even in the snow which ruined the bleakness somewhat and made some shots difficult. The shot below of the island from across the reed beds was hit and miss trying to avoid the visitors, i`m sure if you look closely there are some distant figures!
I was only happy with two shots from the day, the one above and the one below, somehow they talk to me of the echo, not certain why instinct maybe.
I asked the Kent History Forum about the intriguing named `Slaughterhouse Point` opposite `Bedlams bottom` but that`s for another day.