D. G. Rossetti was a prolific English poet, painter, and illustrator of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. He was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848.

His sister Christina was a poet associated with the Pre-Raphaelite literary movement. Her most famous collection was Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862).

‘Birchington Churchyard’
A lowly hill which overlooks a flat,
Half sea, half country side;
A flat-shored sea of low-voiced creeping tide
Over a chalky weedy mat.
A hill of hillocks, flowery and kept green
Round Crosses raised for hope,
With many-tinted sunsets where the slope
Faces the lingering western sheen.
A lowly hope, a height that is but low,
While Time sets solemnly,
While the tide rises of Eternity,
Silent and neither swift nor slow.

Christina Rossetti

Due to his declining health Dante Gabriel Rosetti came to stay at his close friend’s country house in Birchington, just outside Margate (the favoured resort of an earlier painter J. M. W. Turner. There was a popular Victorian belief in the healing properties of seaside or country air, of which Kent could boast both. For this reason many writers have visited Margate and its surrounding villages. Rosetti never recovered, and on Easter Sunday 1882 he died. He had been addicted to chloral, a sedative he used to ease his insomnia. He was not buried at the Rossetti family grave in Highgate Western Cemetery in London, perhaps owing to his desecration of his wife’s grave years earlier. When his wife, Lizzie Siddal, died, most likely as a suicide, Rosetti buried a volume of poetry with her in his grief. Nine years later, he had the grave dug up so he could retrieve the poetry. He was buried where he died, which inspired his sister Christina Rosetti to write a eulogistic poem. The poem emphasises Kent’s combination of coast and countryside: ‘Half sea, half country side’ that many believed to be healing and recuperative, but then contrasts this with the ‘Crosses raised for hope’. Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s gravestone in the Parish church, itself a large Celtic Cross designed by his friend Ford Madox Brown, can be visited, alongside the commemorative stained-glass window inside the church, which was inspired by one of Rossetti’s own paintings.


Rosetti, Christina. Birchington Churchyard Accessed 1 September 2020.