Directed By: Adam Smith, Dearbhla Walsh & Diarmuid Lawrence
Written By: Charles Dickens (Novel) & Andrew Davies (Adaptation)
Starring: Clare Foy, Matthew Macfadyen, Tom Courtenay, Amanda Redman & Mackenzie Crook.
Kent Locations Used: Deal Castle
Writer Andrew Davies achieved success with his adaptation of the Dickens’ classic Bleak House in 2005. Now the BBC has commissioned him to bring another Dickens tale to life, this time it was the bard’s eleventh novel, Little Dorrit.
The novel was originally published over 19 monthly instalments between 1855 and 1857 and Davies’ adaptation tried to mirror this by creating 14 half hour episodes. First shown on BBC One over the festive period in 2008, it can now be purchased on DVD.
The series boasts an all star cast with appearances from Clare Foy (Upstairs, Downstairs) in the title role, Matthew McFadden (Pride and Prejudice), Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who), Amanda Redman (New Tricks) and Kent’s very own Mackenzie Crook (The Office).
Telling the tale of young Amy Dorrit, known to those around her as Little Dorrit, who lives with her father in Marshalsea Debtors Prison in London, Dickens hoped to highlight the shortcomings of government and society at the time. With the arrival of young Arthur Clenham, a business man returning to the family home after an extended stay in China, Amy Dorrit finds her whole world turned upside down. Hindered by the poorly run Circumlocution Office, Clenham begins an investigation into the secret his elderly mother is hiding and hopes to restore the Dorrit family’s wealth.
The production visited Deal Castle in April 2008 to film scenes set in Marseilles. Many locals were confronted with the strange sight of a French flag flying high over the Tudor fortress. The castle itself was transformed into a traditional Moroccan market, complete with aromatic spices, bright cloth and exotic birds in elaborate Victorian cages.
A fan of the Kentish Coast, Charles Dickens often spent time in the county’s popular seaside towns. From his summer residence in Broadstairs he would often enjoy “a walk of ten miles” to Deal, “a seaside town with no cliff”. He wrote about Deal in his novel Bleak House, where he set the temporary home of Richard Carstone, one of the wards in the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, who was visited by Esther Summerson.
It was also in Broadstairs that Dickens found inspiration for one of his most famous characters, that of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. In what is now The Dickens House Museum, there lived a woman named Miss Mary Pearson who would often entertain Dickens with her belief that she had the right to stop donkeys from crossing the front of her cottage. It was this peculiarity that would find its way into David Copperfield.
Deal Castle is a Tudor castle built by the order of King Henry VIII located on the seafront. The Deal area has previously had filming from The Tunnel: Sabotage (2016), Antiques Roadshow (2015) and Legacy (2013).
The first hour long episode aired on Sunday 26th October 2008 at 8pm on BBC1 and is now available to buy on DVD.
Little Dorrit also features in the Kent Film Office Dickens Trail which launched in 2012: https://kentfilmoffice.co.uk/kent-movie-map/dickens-movie-trail/
For more information about Kent’s Filming History please visit our Movie Map.