To mark the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, I posted about Alfred Tennyson Dickens who lived in my hometown of Hamilton. Entitled “What the Dickens?“, the post describes my amazement that a son of Charles Dickens could have lived in Hamilton. Alfred left the town due to the accidental death of his wife Jessie.
Yesterday I was in Hamilton for several reasons, one of which was to visit the Hamilton Old Cemetery in search of the grave of Jessie Dickens, and as a result, I had another “What the Dickens?” moment.
My visits to Hamilton are infrequent day trips so I try to cram in as much as possible. Visits to the cemetery are quick, usually to search for a specific grave or graves. Yesterday was no different, except I had absolutely no idea where in the cemetery Jesse was buried. With Mum, we headed to the oldest and biggest graves.
We found the grave quicker than expected. It turns out the grave of Jessie Dickens is immediately behind my gg grandparents Richard Diwell and Elizabeth Jelly who I have posted about before. We couldn’t believe we had previously visited the Diwell plot before, unaware the grave of the daughter-in-law of Charles Dickens was right behind. As we were earlier unaware of the Dickens link to Hamilton, we had not made the connection.
What I couldn’t believe was that I had missed the grave immediately behind Jessie’s. It was that of Stephen George Henty one of the Henty brothers, Victoria’s first settlers. Stephen, thought to be the most influential of the brothers, was the first to settle inland from Portland, at Muntham, Merino Downs, and Sandford stations.
Both the Diwell and Dickens headstones were chosen by heartbroken husbands, shattered by their wives’ premature deaths. Jessie was only 29, thrown from a horse-drawn carriage on Portland Road in 1878 and Elizabeth died at 44 due to complications of childbirth in 1900. I have updated the “What the Dickens?” post with a photo of Jessie’s grave.
When I came home I checked the photos I already had of the Diwell grave, and sure enough, you can see the two other graves in the background. One of these photos appears on the post “Elizabeth Ann Jelly“.
The thing that struck me was that within a distance of about 6 metres lay the remains of 10 people. Great Victorian pioneers, Stephen George Henty and wife Jane and their son, Richmond; the wife of the son of one of the greatest novelists of all time and my gg grandparents, Richard and Elizabeth Diwell and four of their children, Ralph, Rebecca, Ernest, and an unnamed baby. Wow!