© By Cheryl Bolen
My copyeditor recently questioned a reference in one of my books he was editing. “Can this be?” he asked. “Over 300 rooms in this house?”
Yes, many of the British stately homes run to more than 200 rooms and some to over 300 rooms. And because I write a lot of novels about the English aristocracy (both historical and contemporary), I have made it a point to tour as many of these aristocratic homes as possible on my frequent travels to England.
One of my favorite of these stately homes is Chatsworth House, family seat of the Dukes of Devonshire, nestled in the foothills of Derbyshire’s Peak District. The “house” has 297 rooms! (It’s the one I use in the banner on my blog, Cheryl’s Regency Ramblings, http://www.cherylsregencyramblings.wordpress.com.)
Knole, in Kent, is home to the Sackvilles, cousins of the first Queen Elizabeth, and was once home to the Dukes of Dorset. This rambling “house” has 356 rooms, 52 sets of stairs, and seven courtyards!
I have toured more than 30 of these homes, and I add new ones each trip my husband and I take to England. They make good fodder for the fictional homes in my 20-plus books. While none of these homes is exactly replicated in any of my novels, I do borrow from different houses I’ve had the pleasure of touring.
My book which can most be identified with a particular property is probably My Lord Wicked. The abbey in which my not-so-wicked lord lived was somewhat modeled on Hever Castle, the girlhood home of Anne Boleyn. Instead of the drawbridge at Hever, my fictional abbey has a clock tower which was supposedly built to disguise the abbey’s former bell tower.
In my book, Love in the Library, my heroine lives at Number 17 Royal Crescent in Bath. Here’s a picture of me in front of one of the magnificent townhouses on Bath’s Royal Cresent in June of 2013.
If you’d like to see what a Georgian townhouse (of the wealthy) looked like, you can tour Number 1 Royal Crescent in Bath. Or you can see the photos of Number 1 here: https://plus.google.com/115605333815650580996/photos?hl=en
—Cheryl Bolen’s newest release, Oh What a (Wedding) Night, Brazen Brides Book 3, releases April 19.
You can never go wrong in the authenticity department by touring the homes a character might live in. Many of the homes I use in research are torn down, unfortunately. Some day I’ll find the place where they keep them…
I have a bourgois mind. All I could think of was the logistical nightmare of being housekeeper to over 200 rooms, how one would have to order linseed oil and beeswax by the hundredweight to make enough furniture polish, the tons of beeswax needed for candles, the time it would take to beat the bed curtains and turn the mattresses in dozens of bedrooms, and if you lost some small article, how the devil would you set about looking for it? and how would you amass enough tea leaves to clean all those carpets? could you really efficiently check up on the maids by running a finger along the top of a door to check if it had been dusted? and however many staff would be needed? a hundred? one maid to four rooms, plus cooks, undercooks, footmen [and every male servant incurring extra tax] …
It hurts, doesn’t it, to contemplate those that were torn down, Angelyn? Still, the Brits revere the old. Thankfully there are still several hundred very fine homes intact.
Sarah, I once read that about 300 years ago at Chatsworth, one single servant’s job was to open the casements and close the casements in the house. It took all day. Bizarre. The older I get, the more I fancy a smaller house.
I have a Victorian pile which is theoretically 4 bedrooms, but if you added all the passages together you could get 2 more small rooms upstairs and down. It’s like the ruddy Forth Bridge to paint 28x 6′ high sash windows every other year and as for cleaning it, well I vacuum where it shows. You can’t open all our windows. Some of them are painted shut, and that keeps the draughts out too. I fancy it would take me a lot of time to open and shut them all though if they did. . I have every sympathy for that servant. And for those assigned to sweeping the stairs. cleaning the wax out of the candle sconces. polishing the fireplaces before laying the fire. etc etc. [I did a LOT of research into what the servants actually do for one of my books where my heroine is under cover as a housekeeper…]