A Blacksmith’s shop that could have been the model for Joe Gargery's Forge at Chalk in Dickens's Great Expectations (December 1860) — Early 20th c. postcard: 8.5 x 13.4 cm (3.5 inches by 5.44 inches). Since Dickens​ and his bride, Catherine Hogarth, had honeymooned in Chalk, he would have known the Kent village long before he wrote the 1860-61 novel, and would have visited it often in 1860 on walks from his estate at nearby Gads Hill. The forge and adjoining cottage belonging to the village blacksmith, Joe Gargery, is about five miles west of Cooling, where the novel opens, at the grave of the Pirrips. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Thanks to Margaret Mackenzie of the Victoria Branch of The Dickens Fellowship for sharing the image of the postcard with our readers. It may be used without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you credit link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.—  Philip V. Allingham.

Passage Illustrated

Joe's forge adjoined our house, which was a wooden house, as many of the dwellings in our country were, — most of them, at that time. When I ran home from the churchyard, the forge was shut up, and Joe was sitting alone in the kitchen. Joe and I being fellow-sufferers, and having confidences as such, Joe imparted a confidence to me, the moment I raised the latch of the door and peeped in at him opposite to it, sitting in the chimney corner. [Great Expectations, chapter 2]


The blacksmith's forge stood on the corner where a lane leading towards Singlewell and Cobham intersected the old Dover Road. Dickens often passed by on walks and knew the smith, Mr. Mullender, quite well. The forge adjoined the wooden house, and the kitchen door led to the forge, whose roof at the back reached down to within four feet of the ground. . . . [Paroissien, p. 40]

According to Dickens's narrator, Pip, Joe could enter his wife's kitchen directly from the forge, without going around the house. This layout corresponds to the clapboard house typical of the construction of Kentish houses up to the beginning of the 19th c. The little garden on the side of the house adjoining the lane, the large open fireplace and the seats in the chimney corner in the blacksmith's house at Chalk correspond precisely to the details of Joe Gargery's home and forge, an historically listed building in the little village of Chalk, now a suburb of Gravesend. On the honeymoon in April 1836, Dickens worked on the second instalment (Chapters 3, 4, and 5) of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. As Michael Slater notes in his biography, "Their first child Charles, always known as Charley, was to be born exactly nine months later" (68). When Catherine's health was flagging, the Dickenses returned for two months in 1838 to Chalk, where, as editor of Bentley's Miscellany he was writing The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress.

Related Materials


Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. London: Chapman and Hall, 1861.

Paroissien, David. The Companion to 'Great Expectations'. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2000.

Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens. New Haven and London: Yale U. P.,2009.

Last modified 15 September 2017