Three old houses that inspired the settings and parts of the plot of Treacle Moon: House No.1 is Chastleton House

I have to be quite careful with this, in that I do not want to giveaway any spoilers as Treacle Moon is not out yet. But I want to share some of the houses that inspired me to think about the lifestyle of one of the characters. I shall not say which character, because that may giveaway a plot line ūüėÄ .

Having heard about the houses, though, you will be able to spot the connections to reality when you read the book.

The first house that began firing my imagination is Chastleton House . Chastleton House is situated in a very quiet, tiny, sleepy little village nestled amongst the Cotswolds hills and it has a rare and particular charm.

The National Trust only took over ownership in 1991, and when they took over the management of the property, they discovered a 400 year old time capsule.

The property does not belong to a stately family, it is basically a very grand Jacobean farm house. The family member who built the property was a wool merchant, and he had his eyes on progression. He built a huge country house between 1607 and 1612 to display his wealth and status in the hope that, as it had for many others, it would draw some recognition his way and he would acquire a title. He did not succeed in winning a title although the family mixed in such circles.

Then, later during the 1600s family members held noted positions in the Royalist army. They were so close to Charles I they have his bible in the house, as well as other memorabilia of that time that helps to teach children about Charles I’s martyrdom. But yet again, they did not receive any formal recognition for their service and dedication.

But at the end of the 1600s the family became impoverished. Yet their loss, is today’s gain. Most stately homes have had their Jacobean characters hidden behind Georgian facades, knocked down or stripped away. The Georgians were the most prolific for changing their homes; putting on new fronts, ripping off panelling and papering the walls instead. Taking out roofs and adding ornately decorated ceilings. I love the Georgian decors, and this is what I usually picture and describe in my books, but this house, with its lost-in-time charm, was something that captured my imagination in a different way.

It is so Miss Havisham. Yet, not.

All the rooms are as they were 400 years before, because no one has been able to afford redecoration. The furniture was bought 400 years ago, because the rooms are so large no one has been able to afford replacements. Even down to ornaments, dinning room chairs and wine glasses. You can imagine the cobwebs sweeping over the dining room table.

But, as I said, it does not really fit Miss Havisham, because it seems a loved and valued place. A home. A house that could speak a million stories if it could talk. Everything that is 400 years old has been used and treasured for 400 years.

The last family member to own it until 1991, was a spinster. She lived in the huge house alone, and her world had narrowed down to only a few rooms. With 15 cats for company, who kept the mice and rats under control. She lived her life tucked up under blankets in the huge house because she could not afford to heat the rooms. But she was still happy and proud of her family house.

So proud she gave it to the National Trust charity to preserve it.

IMG_1071One of the most special rooms in the house, though, is the long hall in the attic, that was used for exercise. I have often seen this in properties remodelled into a portrait gallery by the Georgian relative, and I have included such halls in other books. But this hall is in a farmhouse! Middle-class country families are not normally so extravagant with living space and the money it would have cost in the additional building of the space is exceptional for a merchant.

So, to me, Chastleton immediately became both a place and a way of life that I wanted to capture for a character in some way.¬† You will of course find out my twist on this in Treacle Moon…

I will tell you about the second house next week.

 

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The Whitehall Palace Banqueting House

 

A long time ago¬†someone¬†told me that under the buildings by the river Thames near to Westminster Palace was Henry VIII’s wine cellar. I always thought it was strange to have a wine cellar a distance away from Westminster. I also knew that the street called Birdcage Walk, where I used to facilitate training events a few years ago, was named Birdcage Walk because it used to be the site of James I’s bird cages. But I could never work out how that related to anything else either.

But when I visited Banqueting House in London, I discovered why. Alongside the river, just over the road from the palace of Westminster, there used to be the largest palace in the Europe, Whitehall Palace.

HRP-Reconstruction-1670_HRP257

The property and land belonged to the church initially and the kings of England stayed in Westminster Palace when in the London. But in the hands of Cardinal Wolsey’s the old palace became the grandest house in London. So when Henry VIII removed the Cardinal from power, he decided to make it his home when he stayed in London. It was renovated and extended to become fit for a King and his court. The image below is an impression¬†of the palace. You can see how easily the King could have travelled on the river from the palace.

White hall Palace

The current banqueting house was completed in 1622, commissioned by James I. He loved the fashionable masque’s that the royal family put on to impress their courtiers and had the engineer who created the moving scenery for the plays design the hall itself. It became a hall in which our¬†royalty loved to show off; whether that was through plays that professed them to be gods and saviours of humanity, or through huge banquets to greet and impress dignitaries from foreign¬†countries.

But there is a morbid tale to tell about the banqueting house too. King¬†Charles I was lead out of Whitehall Palace through the banqueting house to a platform that had been built on scaffolding outside so that the crowds could see him. His footsteps would have rung on the broad wooden floor and echoed about the huge room. Above him, as he walked, were the paintings he’d had commissioned that portrayed both himself and his father as honoured and disciplined gods. He stepped out onto the platform through one of the hall’s windows¬†and then his head was severed before the backdrop of the beautiful hall.

 

images (3) banqueting house

When the Royals were reinstated in England, King Charles II spent much of his time with his court at Whitehall. Samual Pepy’s diaries tell¬†us about life in the palace when it was at its height.¬†A story of life at Whitehall Palace

We don’t know about Whitehall Palace now because it was destroyed¬†in a fire in 1698. The only part of it that survived was the banqueting house… Oh and a wine cellar obviously.

ūüôā I thought this was a good little story to share while the Gunpowder period drama is on, as the programme has many scenes around Westminster and Whitehall.

 

The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama

The Tainted Love of a Captain¬†#8 ‚Äď The last episode¬†in the Marlow Intrigues series

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The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all 

The Illicit Love of a Courtesan #2 

The Passionate Love of a Rake #3

The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4

The Dangerous Love of a Rogue #5

The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel #5.5

The Persuasive Love of a Libertine¬†#5.75 ¬†now included in Jealous Love, (or free if you can persuade Amazon to price match with Kobo ebooks)¬†ūüėČ

The Secret Love of a Gentleman #6 

The Reckless Love of an Heir #7

Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback

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Go to the index

For

  • the story of the real courtesan who inspired ¬†The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
  • another free short story, about characters from book #2,¬†A Lord‚Äôs Scandalous Love,
  • the prequel excerpts for book #3 ¬†The Scandalous Love of a Duke

Jane¬†Lark¬†is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional¬†Historical and New Adult¬†Romance¬†stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‚ÄėThe Illicit Love of a Courtesan‚Äô.Click¬†here¬†to find out more about Jane‚Äôs books, and see Jane‚Äôs website¬†www.janelark.co.uk¬†to¬†learn more about Jane. Or click ¬†‚Äėlike‚Äô on Jane‚Äôs¬†Facebook¬† page to see photo‚Äôs and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras,¬†which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at¬†@janelark