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How a cemetery in Bodmin, Cornwall inspired the idea for a Time Travel novel

I’m delighted to introduce Diane Scott Lewis to talk about her new book, Beyond the Fall, and the visit that inspired it.

A Cemetery in Bodmin, Cornwall inspired the idea for a Time Travel

Over a decade ago my husband and I visited Cornwall, England so I could research a novel. In the city of Bodmin we explored the eighteenth century courthouse and the Bodmin church, St. Petroc’s. St. Petroc is the patron saint of Cornwall. He founded a monastery in Bodmin in the 6th century. The name Bodmin, the largest Cornish settlement recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, may mean “Abode of monks.”

A ruin—which could have been the chapel of St. Thomas Becket from the 1300s—was next to the church were a woman in a large hat and loose gown walked through the overgrowth. When next we looked, she was gone. My husband and I laughed that perhaps she was a ghost.

RuinsBodmin (2)

The church, a wonderful gothic structure, dates back to the fifteenth century. We entered the dim, cool interior, where we inspected the twelfth century Norman font, carved with eyes that are supposed to open during baptisms. The effigy of Prior Vyvyan—a Cornish bishop in the 1500s—lies on a chest, both carved from Catacleuse stone and grey marble. Fine woodwork, a rood screen and bench ends were constructed around this time.

To the side of the church was a cemetery of weathered headstones and Celtic crosses, crooked and ancient-looking in the shadows.

Bodmin cemetery (3)

Years later when I looked at the photograph my husband took, inspiration struck. What if a woman researching her ancestors poked through a neglected cemetery, moved a fallen headstone and was whisked back in time to 1789? How would a modern woman survive in the more primitive eighteenth century where women had few rights? Miners out of work, grain riots, and the French Revolution, all happened in this year. Would she be condemned as a spy, or a witch, with her strange ways and odd clothing?

My recently release novel, Beyond the Fall, a time travel adventure, tells that story.

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Blurb: In 2018, Tamara is dumped by her arrogant husband, travels to Cornwall, England and researches her ancestors. In a neglected cemetery, she scrapes two fallen headstones together trying to read the one beneath, faints, and wakes up in 1789, the year of The French Revolution, and grain riots in England. Young Farmer Colum Polwhele comes to her aid. Can a sassy San Francisco gal survive in this primitive time and fall for Colum, a man active in underhanded dealings or will she struggle to return to her own time.

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For more information on Diane’s books, find her on her website: www.dianescottlewis.org

About Diane: Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She now lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.

 

 

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The Ghosts of Markyate Manor – a hermit, an heiress, a highwayman

Common_seal_of_the_Priory_of_MarkyateThe name Markyate is derived from the Old English words mearc and geat and means ‘the gate at the boundary’, presumably between Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. In the 12th century, with the consent of his abbot, a monk went out from st Alban’s and into the woods to seek a place to make a hermitage. God guided him to Caddington, not far from Watling Street. There he lived a solitary life, until a woman came to him, Christina of Markyate, in the firm belief that she too was called to a silent life of contemplation. He duly fastened her into an adjoining cell, where she was walled in for for four years!  She saw nobody in all that timeonly coming out to walk at dusk when she would see not a soul, supporting herself through her exquisite needlework. She was (unsurprisingly) taken over by heavenly visions, and when the original monk died she had gathered quite a following and was allowed to set up  a priory under Benedictine rule. The seal of the Priory can be seen right, and more about Christina’s extraordinary life can be found here.

The Priory did not fare well during the dissolution because it had become run down, and there were charges of corruption and lack of chastity brought against the nuns. The Priory was eventually demolished in 1537, and Markyate Manor was built on its footprint, although it is still sometimes known as Markyate Cell –  George Ferrers retained the name when he bought the land in 1548. The Ferrers family controlled this land when Markyate Cell was the home of Katherine Ferrers, also sometimes known as The Wicked Lady, a title I am hoping to overturn!

Markyate Manor BBC

The Manor was left to Katherine by her mother, but it was soon in the control of her uncle, Simon Fanshawe, and she was forced into an arranged marriage with his nephew, Thomas Fanshawe.  After that, the story gets even more interesting as the legend credits her with being a notorious highwaywoman. She lived in the house through the years of the turbulent English Civil War, much of it alone as her menfolk were away fighting. She finally died there, having been mortally wounded trying to rob a coach on Nomansland.

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Her ghost has been seen dressed in highwayman clothes riding her horse at full gallop, and in 1840 part of Markyate Cell was destroyed by fire, and the blaze was blamed on Lady Katherine.  Whilst helping to put out the fire several locals said that they felt a ghostly presence and that they were being watched, by the ghost of Katherine. But Katherine is not the only ghost that haunts this building – in the late 1850s workmen repairing a wall saw the figure of a nun. Perhaps this was the anchorite Christina. The nun has been seen several times since, walking in an avenue near St John’s Church.

In 1957 the bypass around Markyate was being built. A night watchman was sitting by his brazier one night when he looked up and saw someone warming their hands by the fire. The figure was that of a young man who promptly vanished as the night watchman was looking at him. Was this an appearance of Markyate’s legendary Phantom who may also haunt Hicks Road and the High Street?  Luton Paranormal Society

So it Spirit of the highway final ebook coverwas not just Lady Katherine Fanshawe that haunted Markyate Manor. There was also a young man.

There has always been  a mysterious man, Ralph Chaplin, associated with the legend, although I can find no trace of him in historical records. That gave me fuel for thought, and led to the story-line for ‘Spirit of the Highway’.

Like to know more? check out this article in the Daily Mail for a summary of the life and legend of Lady Katherine Ferrers (Fanshawe).

Spirit of the Highway is out today, published by Endeavour Press. It is suitable for teens 14+ (and adults too!).