Another “What the Dickens?” Moment

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.

DIWELL, DICKENS & HENTY GRAVES

 

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!

 

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7 responses to “Another “What the Dickens?” Moment

  • Ann O'Dyne

    beautiful monument for Elizabeth – Richard was clearly devastated.
    your confluence of graves is quite wonderful and that’s why cemeteries are so fascinating.
    a further Dickens WD connection is the story of his desk. although there are plenty of ‘Dicken’s desks’ on record, one was given to 2 women cousinjs in Victoria, but it was burned in the awful 1944 fires. I think the connection was Chatsworth house (the WD one). memory failing me right now, but it is documented.

    • Merron Riddiford

      Hi Ann
      Interesting story about the desk. Alfred & Jessie’s daughters went back to London after their mother’s death then returned to Melbourne (Toorak) until the early 1920s before they finally went back to London. Maybe some furniture came back to Melbourne with them and then passed on to family when they returned. Maybe Jessie’s side, the Devlins. I must find the year Violet and Kathleen came back to Melbourne. Neither of them married.

  • fi

    Wow! What a find!! It is incredible to have so many notable figures buried in the same area.

  • Natalie Rhook

    Hi Merron, Love your site! Richard and Elizabeth are my gg grandparents also! Their daughter Margaret (Coustley) is my great grandmother. Cheers,
    Natalie.

    • Merron Riddiford

      Hi Natalie
      Thank you for your comment, it is great to hear from you. I think I know exactly how you fit in. Was your grandmother Edith Coustley? She was probably named after my great grandmother Edith. Margaret would have been like a mother to Edith.
      My Nana, Linda Hadden, who married Bill Gamble, Edith’s son, was born in Hamilton in 1919 and knew the Coustley family. And Rhook is a Hamilton name I know well.
      Merron

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