Using Stately Homes as Book Settings

© 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.

Chatsworth House, home of the Dukes of Devonshire

Chatsworth House, home of the Dukes of Devonshire

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 House in Kent

Knole House in Kent

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.

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Hever Castle

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.

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Me in front of Bath’s Royal Crescent

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.

Jane Austen’s Bath

jane austen center

Bath’s Jane Austen Center

© Cheryl Bolen

Cheryl wrote this for Mary Gramlich’s blog last year

It’s no coincidence that the Jane Austen Center is located in Bath, England. The city has so many associations with her. She visited there several times, so it was only natural she set two of her novels (Persuasion and Northanger Abbey) there.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

The Georgian era in which she lived is reflected in the city’s Palladian-inspired architecture more than in any other town. Few cities in the world are graced with the uniformity of architecture that Bath has. Throughout the famed watering city, most of the graceful buildings are clad in the pale, golden Bath stone.

Architects John Wood the Elder (1704-54) and his son, John Wood the Younger (1728-1782), designed some of the city’s most prominent buildings, including the Royal Crescent, the Circus, and the Assembly Rooms. These building are well maintained in the 21st century. The Assembly Rooms look as they did when Jane Austen visited and can be toured today. The lovely townhouse at Number 1 Royal Crescent is also offered for touring.

The Romans built a city on Bath’s seven hills much as their own Rome had been built on seven hills. Like Rome, Bath is dissected by a river, the Avon. The heart of the city lies to the west of the River Avon. That is where the old Roman baths, Bath Cathedral, most shopping, the Circus, Queen Square, the Royal Crescent, and the Assembly Rooms are located. The beautiful Pulteney Bridge, built by Robert Adam in much the same style as Florence’s Ponte Vecchio, links the two parts of the city.

Bath's Pulteney Bridge, which crosses the River Avon, was designed by Robert Adam.

Bath’s Pultney Bridge, which crosses the River Avon, was designed by Robert Adam.

Visitors can easily walk the compressed city, though double-decker tour buses will provide interesting commentary.

Cheryl Bolen standing in front of Bath's Royal Crescent.

Cheryl Bolen standing in front of Bath’s Royal Crescent.

A two-time visitor to the city , I was excited to set my popular Brides of Bath series there. The latest installment is the novella, A Christmas in Bath, which brings together most of the characters of the earlier books—with a brand new love story that was hinted at in Book 2, With His Ring.