Aleph’s House

Aleph's house in the novel Shadows of the Lost ChildOn 18 February, I’ll be talking about my latest novel, Shadows of the Lost Child, at Acomb Library, York (UK). As you’ll know, if you’ve visited this blog before today, the novel is set in a fictional city, Curdizan, which was inspired by historic York.

At Acomb Library on 18th, apart from reading from the novel, I’ll be talking about York’s part in the story, including the legends and history of York, particularly focusing on Bedern and Hungate.

If you’re in the area and want to attend, contact Acomb Library on 01904 552651, email acomb@exploreyork.org.uk The event is on from 7-8 pm.

See you there!

‘No, Mr Jones, they weren’t tourists, or even the kids who live around here. The children you heard were the School Lane ghosts.’

Aleph Jones is one of the main characters in the novel. When writing about his (haunted?) home, I based it on this very real house in the picture below.

Aleph's House in #ShadowsoftheLostChild
Sadly, this house is no longer there, but was once in Bedern, through the arch and not very far from Goodramgate.

Note that there is no suggestion that the original house was haunted!

Image courtesy of YAYAS (Evelyn Collection)

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In the Shadows, is a House…

I’m stunned to see how long it’s been since I last wrote a post. However, I do have an excuse… my new novel is finally finished and is available NOW, to pre-order. The book comes out on the 18th!

Shadows of the Lost Child, like Ship of Haunts, is partly historical. In it, I explore the challenges of poverty in nineteenth century England, the challenges of loss in twenty-first century England and what happens when the ghosts of the past meet the people of the present. Yes, there are ghosts!

There’s also death, murder, mayhem and mystery with a touch of humour to keep us smiling. And, my favourite, an old and possibly haunted house. This is how we first meet Aleph, when he goes to view his future home.

And what a home it turns out to be!

I’ve always been interested in old houses, and have recently returned from a visit to Sark, a small but very beautiful island, with its own share of assorted houses.

Sark, in case you haven’t heard of it, is one of the smallest Channel Islands, and has no cars, just bikes and tractors. Life in Sark can be quite primitive (despite the excellent internet connection!) – what you eat can depend on whether the boat can call and deliver the food – a boat is how you get to the island, and not a very big boat at that. And the sea can be choppy! Being in Sark is like going back to a world now lost, life in the country, a long time ago.

Sark, Channel Islands

But there’s also quite a lot of wealth on Sark, and the houses on the island reflect that contrast, and Sark’s history, with impressive manors and tiny cottages and strangely, lots of abandoned dwellings.

Sark houseThe one to the right was damaged by fire, and the house lives on, an empty shell, slowly being taken over by nature. That’s rather sad.

While the one below, and yes, there’s nothing there, was once the location of the Beauregard Hotel, itself a replacement for an earlier house, gutted by fire in 1892 and later rebuilt as a hotel. This is all that’s left of it now. Follow this link to see how it was.

Site of previous Beauregard Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

All that’s left is Le Beauregard Cottage, (to the right), rebuilt using its own bricks. Le Beauregard Cottage

Hotels on Sark have a mixed history: on the land below, stood the Hotel Bel Air, an impressive example of a country hotel, which was occupied by the Germans in the Second World War. Sadly, it didn’t survive the war, the roof caught fire and now we have to remember its beauty.

Site of Hotel Bel Air, Sark

Follow this link to see how it was.

Also previously damaged by fire, in 1957, but still with us, is Stocks Hotel, perhaps the most tragic story of them all. A wing burnt down, and the manager, anxious to recover her dog, went back in the building and didn’t survive. Neither did the dog, but several others did.

The wing was rebuilt the following year and Stocks Hotel continues to thrive.

Whenever I go to Sark for a visit, I can’t help admiring the different buildings and want to learn more about their history. One of the two prisons on Sark was meant to be haunted by a white lady (well, what a surprise!) and this proposition was bravely tested by one visitor, who spent the night in the prison in question, and apparently, wasn’t disturbed at all. I suspect the island is too grounded in reality, the practical aspects of daily living, to have many ghosts.

My new novel, Shadows of the Lost Child, has many stories at its heart, one of which is the story of a house, and while the house and the city it stands in, are fictional places, York (UK) is the city which inspired it, and the look of the house is based on a house which once existed. From that house, and from that city, I created a story which crosses time.

One day, soon, I’ll show you the house.

In the meantime, Aleph is rootless, trying to come to terms with the past, Miranda is harassed, wanting to save her mother from trouble, then along comes Alice and changes everything. And the past and present start to collide.

Shadows of the Lost Child (ebook, out 18 September) is available for pre-order now, from Amazon.

http://tinyurl.com/ks3ksng (US)
http://tinyurl.com/nbofbnv (UK)

About Shadows of the Lost Child

This is a ghost story.
It’s also the story of a tragedy that happened over one hundred years ago.
And it’s a mystery. Can you solve it?

When Aleph rents a run-down house, his whole life changes, along with the lives of the people he meets. This is their story.

The Present

Aleph Jones is running away but the house he ends up in turns out to be haunted. Or is it just him? For Aleph has a dark secret that’s changed his life.

Cressida Sewell needs Aleph’s help. Her daughter, Alice refuses to speak and a team of specialists don’t know why. But Cressida has a hidden agenda and Alice knows more than she’s letting on. About Aleph.

Guinevere James is not what she seems. Disguised as Aleph’s business client, she really wants to solve a murder that happened over a century ago. And what about the children who vanished? Aleph and Alice can hear them scream.

The Past

Miranda and Thomas live in poverty. Miranda wants to protect her mother but when she seeks help from friends Ben and Tom, they set on a path to even more trouble.

Then Tom meets Alice and the past and the present begin to collide with dangerous consequences.

Harvard House: no ghosts but plenty of history

Harvard House Stratford-upon-Avon. Remains of a wall painting on 2 plaster panels, probably from the late 16th century and currently undergoing conservation. Adjacent walls have been painted to show the original appearance.‘the college agreed upon formerly to be built at Cambridge shall be called Harvard College’  (1639)

On rare occasions, both locals and visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, have the chance of a glimpse at a slice of history. The history in question is Harvard House and although to my knowledge there aren’t any ghosts, there are plenty of stories. The visit starts outside the property.

The house was rebuilt in 1596 (probably because of the local fires of 1594 and 1595) by Thomas Rogers, whose initials, along with those of his wife, can be seen on the elaborate facade.Harvard House Stratford-upon-Avon

Rogers, who was a wealthy businessman, also owned numbers 27-28 High Street, and it’s supposed but not proved, that the original staircase for Harvard House, located in a turret, could have provided access to the other house too. After Harvard House was sold in the mid-seventeenth century, the staircase was rebuilt inside the house, and subsequently moved to its present location. The external staircase had been removed.

Rogers had a daughter by the name of Katherine, and it’s through her that the house gained its name and became well-known. She married a man called Robert Harvard of Southwark, London, and, because of Southwark’s theatrical connections, it’s possible that Harvard knew Will Shakespeare and maybe that’s how Harvard met Katherine. Alternatively, however, Harvard and Rogers were both butchers, so maybe a meeting came through trade – or through Thomas Rogers’ connections on the local council.

Harvard House Stratford-upon-Avon: earlier construction materialsKatherine’s married life as Harvard’s second wife wasn’t easy. They lived in London but in 1625 an outbreak of plague killed her husband Robert and four of their children, leaving Katherine alone with just two sons, one being John (baptised 1607). Robert left £600 to the two boys and provision for his widow, who married again (twice), but her second husband died within just five months. He too, left her well provided for. The estate remaining on her subsequent death in the 1630s, allowed John to be a generous benefactor.

John Harvard was focused on the ministry and after extensive study at Cambridge University and the death of his mother, he and his wife, not long married, set sail for New England. He made his home at a place called Charlestown, working with the pastor and teaching the Scripture. But success was brief as he died shortly afterwards, in 1638, aged just thirty-one.

His spoken bequest left half of his estate and all of his library to a proposed new college at Cambridge, Massachusetts. A plan for the college was already in place but John’s bequest made the plan more feasible.

Harvard House Stratford-upon-Avon: staircaseToday, Harvard House is managed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, but its current preservation is thanks to the work of  popular novelist Marie Corelli who purchased the property in the 1900s ‘to save it from ruin’ (Teresa Ransom, p146). She brought it to the attention of some American contacts who generously funded its restoration, Corelli having already purchased the property. The restoration took four years and the opening ceremony was held in Stratford-upon-Avon on 6 October 1909.

Harvard House Stratford-upon-AvonMiss Corelli has exercised her own taste and simply removed all modernities, and allowed the house to show itself as it is and as it was in the days when John Harvard saw it as a child.’  Whitelaw Reid, American ambassador (Teresa Ransom, p 168)

Sources

Harvard House/John Harvard and Harvard University [leaflet, n.d.]

Ransom, T. The Mysterious Miss Marie Corelli, Sutton Publishing, 1999.