Like the last house that I wrote about, Chastleton House, Swarthmoor Hall has a particular charm.
When you look at the front door that you walk up to now, Swarthmoor Hall does not look at all grand. It just looks like a large house. But this large house was originally an Elizabethan Manor and it has a very special story and a wonderful atmosphere.
It has changed a lot since the picture on the lower left side, above. But the setting of the property, on the top of a hill in northern England, near the coast on the edge of the Lake District, gives it a very Brontë Sisters feel.
But it is not only the position of Swarthmoor Hall, it is also the stone flags on the floors and the dark wood panelled walls. It has the look of a set from a Brontë Sisters story. A middle class home. With large drafty, cold rooms. With dark corners, and flickering candle flames.
But unlike a Brontë Sisters story, this house has a wonderful sense of peace. When I say Swarthmoor Hall has a special story, it has a claim to an important step in history. The Quaker movement began at Swarthmoor, and the family took their religious beliefs to Pennsylvania and began the Quaker movement there too. Perhaps that is why it feels so peaceful.
Compared to Chastleton House, Swarthmoor Hall has a sense of being a home. A peaceful welcoming home. So, when I walked around Swarthmoor Hall, in my head the lost-in-time house for my character, that had first come to my mind at Chastleton (in a stark, almost lost, property that reminded me of Miss Havisham’s home) became a quiet peaceful place that oozed love from its dark panelling. Every room became a room that my character would think was precious.
You will spot some direct reflections in Treacle Moon, for instance, the Porter’s Chair. The hooded chair in the top left picture. I sat in the chair, and it had a very different feeling sitting in a enclosed chair that protected you from the drafts and felt like it hugged you.
I love old staircases too. The shallowness and width of the steps. The way that steps have been worn down by use, and the imperfections of staircases in the oldest houses. The number of times I try to capture what old staircases look and feel like in books, and yet I never feel as though I quite express it for someone who has never walked up them. But, hey, stairs do not play much of a part really.
The hallways, though, and the transfer from room to room, express a very different atmosphere from the atmosphere in a stately, grand, home. The halls and stairs I usually depict are lined by echoing marble and polished stone or wooden cantilever staircases wrapping around walls in large rooms.
Jacobean and Elizabethan stairs, creep through the house. Georgian staircases stride.
Of course Swarthmoor has another special point of interest in the hall, graffiti on the wall. Graffiti that has no story behind it, anymore than any other name that has been carved into a wall. Except that this was carved in the wall of the hall, in a period when the property was lived in.
So this is the property that turned my character’s house into a home. A place that is loved and kept locked in one point in time because they could not bear to change a thing, not just because of poverty.
Just one more house to tell you about, next week.