Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Caversham Court Gardens. Using and adapting local elements in stories

Imagination is what keeps a writer writing but a lot of "what ifs" are triggered by facts, events and places in our daily lives. Recently a group of Romantic Novelists' Association writers met up to discuss historical research and to visit Caversham Court Gardens. This site has just reopened after a major renovation.

The medieval manor that existed here from the early 1200s was improved into a beautiful Tudor wooden beam and plaster building called "The Striped House". Further additions followed and a total makeover took place in the 1820s, giving the house crenellations and a mock gothic facade. The gardens remained as lovely as ever, with a long terrace and a lower lawn running down to the river Thames.

         

At the back of the gardens the crinkle-crankle wall has been preserved through the centuries. The winding shape both holds back the earth of the hill behind and collects heat which encourages the plants in the kitchen garden to grow well.


The house was demolished in the 1930s but thanks to restoration by the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens, there is now a brick "footprint" of the house, with plaques showing which room was which. Here are some of our writers /researchers, taking tea in the drawing room.

                             

As I live in Caversham, I used this lovely setting in April and May. Rivercourt, home of the heroine's aunt, is based on Caversham Court. It is a thrill to adapt something in this way but sometimes I wonder if it blurs reality and imagination a little too much....?

My heroine, Rose, stays with her uncle and aunt at Rivercourt. Rose is artistic and she finds plenty to paint in the grounds of the old house. But her aunt and uncle are antiquarians and more interested in ancient Egyptian civilisation than in keeping their home in good order. While Aunt Emily tries to decipher hieroglyphics, Rose worries about restoring the crumbling plaster, and curing the damp.