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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Tuesday Tip - The Castle on your Doorstep

Often we fail to appreciate what is on our doorstep. A mere eight miles from where I live is the glorious Sizergh Castle, described in Simon Jenkin's book "The Thousand Best Houses" as one of "the twin glories of the Elizabethan North."

The other of course is Levens Hall, which I know well and used as a model for Fisk Manor, the home of Geoffrey and Stephen Fisk in The Lady's Slipper. I love to sit in an actual location and write a scene. It helps give realism to the architecture and a sense of place.

So when my sister came to stay we went on a long overdue visit to Sizergh Castle, ancient seat of the Strickland family since the 13th century and still inhabited by the same family today. There are photos of family members in 1980's shoulder pads amongst the gloomy-looking portraits, quite a few of them from the Stuart period in which I have a particular interest.

Apart from these gorgeous gates - just right for driving a carriage and pair through, the highlight for me was the Inlaid Chamber - a panelled bedroom, with a hanging plasterwork ceiling. This is mind-bogglingly ornate, the inlaid panelling made of poplar and bog-oak to give a rich texture of ornate renaissance motifs. It must have cost a fortune, but the sheer extravagance came in handy later on during hard times. The panelling was sold off to the V&A Museum by an embarrassed and cash-strapped Strickland for £1000 some years back, but the V&A, magnanimous as usual, have loaned it back for dispay in the house.

Selling off the family panelling might well now make an appearance in my next book, as I like the idea of a hard-up aristocrat stripping away the wealth and luxury to leave a bare room.

As well as an interesting tour around the house, the gardens at Sizergh are a delight, with barns and beehives, rockeries and topiary.

So my Tuesday Tip for writers is to visit that hidden gem that is not very far away, that you have always been meaning to visit, but haven't quite got round to yet.


  1. I always love an article on these amazing homes in Britain. It is as close as I get to seeing them, so it is generous of those who share. It is appalling how these homes were built with rent money from poor tenants and other outrageous means, such as the slave trade, but until one learns about that, it is a fairytale lifestyle that makes for great movies and fiction. Enjoy these locations since you can, especially for the writing space. :)

  2. What a glorious idea - writing on location. It must really help you to get 'in the zone' with the characters and story.

  3. What a glorious idea - writing on location. It must really help you to get 'in the zone' with the characters and story.

  4. Oh man. I am going to have to talk you into more pictures! I need a good visual of the setting in my current WIP which happens to be in London and on the Isle of Man. That castle is gorgeous. I'm not sure I could stay away. :)

  5. Love these pictures. They are a story waiting to be written.

  6. I have just installed iStripper, and now I enjoy having the hottest virtual strippers on my desktop.