The Road to Redway (Pt.6)
Location, Location, Location
As mentioned in part two of this blog series, when writing Redway Acres, I tried to base the large estates and houses on real locations whenever possible. This tactic gave me the groundwork for calculating distances between places in my stories.
Redway Acres, itself, is entirely fictitious. Its location based on the site of its near neighbour, Eastease. Here is Nathaniel’s description of the titular estate when he first visited. (Book 1 – Helena)
Redway Acres was a country manor. More extensive than a farmhouse, and not prestigious, like Eastease, but large and well situated. Not too grand a home for what it was primarily, a stable. Overall, Nathaniel felt it was functional and comfortable. He loved it, and that was before he saw the grounds where the stable buildings stood.
Eastease, being so close to the town of Grantham, was loosely based on the sizeable real property in that area, Belton House.
I added the element of the curved frontage, which contains the semi-circular staircases that descend to the entryway. Here’s Genevieve’s description of it from the first time she spotted it. (Book 3 – Martha) Its size and beauty made her believe she could never be mistress of it all.
With trimmed edges, the neat driveway continued uninhibited to a large circle in front of the building… The house itself was majestic in a creamy-brown stone, the entrance curved out from the frontage, and half a dozen stone steps led up to it. Two wings of the house protruded slightly at either side and then continued considerably towards the back. Its overall feeling was pleasantly welcoming.
Nathaniel’s childhood home of Aysthill House, though larger than Eastease, was not as pretty nor welcoming as Eastease. Its location is based on Culverthorpe Hall which is less than ten miles from Belton House (Eastease). I made up the foreboding look of the place to mesh with the unhappy family that lived there. When Nathaniel’s mother, Emmalee, first arrives at her new home, she found it intimidating. (Book 6 – Emmalee)
The house was almost square in dimensions, built in grey brick. There was no entryway jutting out from the front to break up the flat façade, just a dozen shallow steps leading up to the wide front door. Whether due to the overcast day or Emmalee’s sense of foreboding, the many windows seemed like dark cavernous eyes peering down upon her and finding her wanting.
Bainbridge Hall, in Fairfield Market, I based on the location of Beaupré Hall near Wisbech (Wis-BEach) in west Norfolk. That house was demolished in 1966.
I don’t believe I have described the façade of Bainbridge at all, just the feelings people have of visiting there. Instead, here’s a snippet from my new work in progress. (Book 7 – Grace)
Grace stood at her bedroom window and gazed at the overgrown gardens of the Bainbridge estate with a critical eye. It had been six months since they had to let the groundskeeper go, and the young gardening lad who worked in the man’s stead did not maintain the lawns and beds as he should.
Though the Hopwood family appears in Redway’s book two about Maria, we only meet them at Eastease. In Martha’s book, we learn more about Thornbane Lodge in the village of Wenster, which is located in Cambridgeshire. I based the location on Gayne’s Hall near Perry, Huntingdon.
Readers of book three will recognise Huntingdon as the location of Martha’s second haberdashery. Here is Mr. Harker’s view of Thornbane the first time he saw it. (Book 3 – Martha)
Harker had been shocked at the appearance of the place when they had stepped down from the carriage. Much of the brickwork needed attention, and the roof was looking old. He was sure the staff must have buckets and pots they put around their attic rooms when it rained. Paintwork around the windows was peeling, and the place must be cold and draughty in the winter. He was glad it was spring.
How can we mention Wenster without mentioning Copperbeeches? Its location is based on Hinchingbrooke House in Huntingdon, which is now a school. As pretty as the building is, it lacks the rows of copper beech trees lining its driveway. That inspiration came from a place I lived for a few months called Copper Beeches (unfortunately, just a courtyard of cottages, not a sprawling mansion). As I loved the name, I used it and added the trees. Here is Harker’s view of it when he visits his friend, Samuel Woodhead.
The elephant-hide bark was strikingly contrasted by the foliage, where the summer heat had provided a casting of deep green mixed with purple hues. By the fall, the trees would have earned their name as the leaves should turn a shining, orangey-brown… Once the house of Copperbeeches came into view, Harker fully appreciated the picturesque vision of its front entrance central to the last trees. He turned to his friend.
“It has a remarkable prospect. These trees must be thirty feet already and still growing.”
That’s all we have time for in this instalment despite the many properties in other Redway Acres books I could cover. Further down the Road to Redway, we will be visiting those.