The Marshalsea

I’ve been getting my Christmas fill of film and TV adaptations of the works of Charles Dickens. A few days ago, I saw the last episode of the latest BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit. Overall, I found it disappointing. The biggest problem for me were the 30-minute episodes. Each one fairly raced along, as the different threads to the story all had to be worked in.

Surprisingly, the Marshalsea debtor’s prison where Amy Dorrit was brought up didn’t look all that bad. The family seemed to have ample living quarters and the place was clean, and mostly empty. I’m not what historical basis there was for the production team’s vision of life in the prison, where Dickens’ family ended up in 1824.

During my stay in London this year, I visited The Borough area several times (it’s just up the road from where I was born) and saw the last remaining piece of the prison – a wall with two original arches. This photo is taken from the Wiki entry on the prison, which is extensive and very informative. The plaque on the wall mentions Little Dorrit.


This is the churchyard/small park between St. George’s Church (St. George the Martyr)  and the arches in the picture.


In the novel, Dickens says Little Dorrit was baptized in St. George’s, and it is there that she marries Arthur. The kneeling figure of Amy Dorrit features one of the church’s in a stained glass windows. The composer of the Christmas carol “While Shepherds watched their flocks by night,” Nahum Tate, is buried there.

Dickens lived in lodgings close to the church and prison, in a street that no longer exists.

This restaurant is in nearby Park St.


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