Monday, July 13, 2015

The House that Inspired me to write Danger Wears White

When I write a historical novel, I like to have a place in mind. For “Danger Wears White,” I had a place saved for it especially. It’s been one of my favorite places for a long time, and it was a delight to be able to write about it. I fictionalised it for the book, moved it a few miles north and tweaked the layout a tiny bit, but basically, Imogen lives in Little Moreton Hall.

My hobby is miniatures, or doll’s houses. Little Moreton Hall is like a life-sized doll’s house. It really shouldn’t exist. The owners employed builders rather than architects to build it, and when they fancied a new extension, they stuck it on where it would fit.
It’s a half-timbered house built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by a family of self-made men, or rather, the builders they employed. They built it with green wood, and as it dried out, it twisted, so the house is England’s Leaning Tower of Pisa. But so beautiful.
Timber framed houses are just that – the main structure of the house is wood, and it’s infilled with wattle and daub, a woven screen of flexible strands of wood, filled with a noxious mixture of dung, straw and other ingredients. The wall is then plastered. It can be filled as the house moves, and these houses do move. When England was covered in woods and forests, this was what people did with it.

The windows are mullioned, of course. Above the windows on the main range is the proud boast and the name of the man who had the Hall built, William Moreton, together with his builder, Richard Dale. As the years passed, the timber framing became more complex, but all those studs and stars are structural.

The last thing to be built was the Long Gallery. In building it, they cut off some rooms, made them non-fucntional, but they left an opening in the Long Gallery. In effect, they made a suite of secret rooms. These are important in my story. They are the rooms where Imogen hides Tony when she thinks he’s a Jacobite spy.

The house went into decline after the Civil War in the seventeenth century, and by the end of the eighteenth century, it was a storage place, where pigs rooted in the Great Hall. The last Moreton and her heir started the renovations in the late nineteenth century, and finally, the house was bequeathed to the National Trust just before World War II. I did deviate from history a bit there, when I had Imogen and her mother live there. 

In my version, the Hall is all they have left from a larger estate, after Imogen’s father took the wrong side in the Jacobite Rebellion. Lancashire was a centre of support for the Stuarts in the early eighteenth century, a Catholic stronghold in a Protestant country. All Imogen wants is to live in peace and avoid any further conflict, to hold on to the onhly thing they have left, and then she finds Tony on her land, wounded, and to all intents and purposes, a Jacobite spy.  How could I not use the Hall for that?

Take a look at the pictures, and see what you think. And if you’re ever in Cheshire, don’t fail to pay a visit!

You can buy Danger Wears White here:
You can read an excerpt and preorder this book now!
Kensington website
Barnes and Noble

Lynne Connolly


Amanda said...

I love this house, Lynne, it's absolutely beautiful and so English with its quirkiness.

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

What a wonderful house, Lynne. It looks as if it just grew out of the earth like some weird mushroom! It's a place I've always wanted to visit. I can see that it would make a wonderful setting for a story - all those hidden rooms.