The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012)

Matthew Rhys, Tamzin Merchant & Freddie Fox all staring into the camera against a black background

The Mystery of Edwin Drood featuring Matthew Rhys, Tamzin Merchant & Freddie Fox © BBC

Directed By: Diarmuid Lawrence

Written By: Charles Dickens (Novel) & Gwyneth Hughes (Adaptation)

Starring: Matthew Rhys, Tamzin Merchant & Freddie Fox

Production Companies: BBC, Masterpiece

Kent Locations Used:  Eastgate House, Rochester Cathedral, Riverside Country Park

A new two part drama from the BBC aims to solve The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Dickens’ final and incomplete novel has been subject to many adaptations over the years, with various endings that guessed at what the great author intended. In the style of a psychological thriller penned by Gwyneth Hughes (Five Days, Miss Austen Regrets), this latest BBC adaptation focusses on choirmaster John Jasper’s (Matthew Rhys-Brothers and Sisters) obsession with his student, 17 year old Rosa Bud (Tamzin Merchant-Jane Eyre).

Rather than resolve his frustrated ambition and leave the stifling environment of his home city, Cloisterham, Jasper resorts to taking opium. As the drug slowly fractures his mind, he develops a murderous hatred for his nephew, Rosa’s love interest, Edwin Drood (Freddie Fox- Worried about the Boy).

A darker and more gripping adaptation than previously seen, the series is part of the BBC’s Dickens celebrations  of the bicentenary of his birth in 2012. Another BBC project is the new adaptation of Great Expectations.

Earlier in 2011, the production crew and cast arrived in Rochester to film scenes for the drama. Eastgate House, an Elizabethan mansion on Rochester High Street features in both the unfinished novel and the BBC adaptation. Formerly The Dickens Centre when it housed a Dickensian exhibition, it is now undergoing a £5M development programme which includes the restoration of the writer’s Swiss Chalet, a gift from lifelong friend John Forster for Dickens’ home at Gad’s Hill Place in Higham, where he worked also on his last and unfinished novel.

The misty marsh scenes at Riverside Country Park, which is in Medway and is a beautiful country park set over 100 hectares. There are many various habitats within the park, including mudflats, salt marsh, ponds and grassland, which provide a haven for wildlife.

Eastgate House was a the model for Westgate House in Pickwick Papers (1836) as well as the nuns’ house “a seminary for young ladies” in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870).

The site of Rochester Cathedral was also used in the production. Featuring in both the novel and the 1993 adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood starring Robert Powell, the location has strong links to Dickens.  A memorial plaque can be found inside the Cathedral commemorating Dickens and a annual memorial service is held there during the Dickens Festival.

As the author’s spiritual home and the location for many of his stories, Rochester was the ideal place to film the drama. Some of his most famous characters lived in or visited the city, from Mr Micawber in David Copperfield, to Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, when Dickens found inspiration for “Satis House” at Restoration House in Rochester.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood was shown on Tuesday 10 January 2012 9.00-10.00pm on BBC TWO and is now available to buy on DVD.


For more information about Kent’s Filming History please visit our Movie Map. 

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1993)

The Mystery of Edwin Drood movieposter 1993- close up reflection of a blurry face in the water, the figure of a man stood facing it. The Mystery of Edwin Drood movieposter written in red

The Mystery of Edwin Drood movieposter 1993 © A&E Home Video

Directed By: Timothy Forder

Written By: Charles Dickens (Novel) and Timothy Forder (Adaptation)

Starring:  Robert Powell, Gareth Arnold, Gemma Craven & Michelle Evans.

Production Company: First Standard Media

Kent Locations Used: Rochester Cathedral, Rochester

Famed as Dickens’ unfinished novel, the acclaimed author died in 1870 leaving the ending of the book a mystery forever.  Although both story and film are named for Edwin Drood, the narrative focuses on Drood’s uncle, choirmaster John Jasper, who is in love with his pupil Rosa Bud. Miss Bud is Edwin Drood’s fiancé, but she has also caught the eye of the hot tempered Neville Landless who arrives with his sister Helena. Landless and Drood take an instant dislike to one another just before Drood disappears under mysterious circumstances.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood was scheduled to be published in twelve monthly instalments, each costing one shilling. However Dickens’ died after the publication of the sixth instalment, leaving the story approximately half complete.

Much of the film is set in the fictional city of “Cloisterham”. Dickens was inspired by Rochester when writing many of his novels, including The Mystery of Edwin Drood, so it was only fitting for Director Timothy Forder to shoot the film in the great city itself.

Familiar Rochester sites will include Rochester Cathedral which doubled as Cloisterham Cathedral as well as Rochester Castle, which can be seen in the background of many shots. A row of Edwardian houses near the Cathedral called Minor Canon Row also appears in the film as Cloisterham streets. Famous actress Dame Sybil Thorndike lived at number 2 Minor Canon Row after growing up in Rochester City. Her final TV appearance was 6 years before her death in The Great Inimitable Mr Dickens, a story of the life of the author starring Anthony Hopkins.

Rochester Cathedral is of special significance regarding Charles Dickens. The author expressed a wish to be buried opposite the west front in the Castle moat which then formed part of the graveyard of St Nicholas Church. The spot is marked with a commemorative plaque and Dickens’s ghost is said to haunt the area. Inside the Cathedral, to the right of the Presbytery, by the magnificent Chapter room door, is another brass plaque memorial to Dickens. At 3pm on the last Sunday of the Summer during the Dickens festival held in early June each year, a garland of scarlet geraniums (his favourite flowers) are laid here during a service commemorating his life.

The city of Rochester is the home to many locations that feature in the classic Dickens novels. Chertsey’s Gate on Rochester High Street was the inspiration for Mr Jasper’s home in The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Topes Restaurant for the house of Mr Tope, the verger in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, where the character of Mr Datchery also stayed when visiting “Cloisterham”.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood also features in the Kent Film Office Dickens Trail which lauched in 2012: 

The film was released in cinemas in 1993 and is now available to buy on DVD.


For more information about Kent’s Filming History please visit our Movie Map.