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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.

markyate-cell-gen-mag-1846-large_sm

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!).

 

 

 

 



		
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The Attraction of the Highwayman Image – an interview with Henriette Gyland

Both Henriette Gyland and I have new books out about  a female highwayman. Fascinated by finding this out, I invited Henri to come and enlighten us about her novel. Henri’s novel is called The Highwayman’s Daughter.  I asked her:

Did you base The Highwayman’s Daughter on a particular highwayman?

This is a hard question to answer. Initially I would say “no” but the idea of the highwayman is firmly lodged in our collective consciousness that I probably did base it on a particular highwayman – or a conglomeration of several – without even realising it! In addition to that I wanted to work from the premise of an “ordinary decent criminal”, the otherwise upright character forced into a life of crime due to personal circumstances.

As a writer of romantic fiction it was important for me to maintain the myth and the romance of the highwayman. Of course, the reality was quite different – most highwaymen were ruthless thugs, and many were rapists and murderers too. Some even did it for kicks rather than necessity, like Lady Katherine Ferrers whose gutsiness I can’t help admiring despite her dubious reasons for taking to highway robbery (she was bored, apparently).

Yes, I agree. The myth and romance is what attracts readers to the idea. The reality may have been somewhat different! I had to think hard about how ruthless I wanted my female highwayman to be before I started writing, and I’m interested to know what you think makes a good female highway robber.

She has to be daring, but she can also be frightened. In the 18th century, who wouldn’t be scared of sustaining a wound from a victim determined to protect his (or her) property? Even if the wound itself wasn’t fatal, it could so easily turn septic, and our highway robber would die an agonising death. Then there was the risk of disclosure and being caught which would lead straight to the gallows, with only the rarest chance of a reprieve.

Like any other thief, our female highway robber would also have to be clever enough to dispose of stolen goods without drawing attention to herself and to blend in with everyday life.

From a purely writerly perspective, in order for her to be an effective female heroine, she has to have to have a Good Reason for committing her crimes. Even though she breaks the law and technically threatens innocent people into submission, she still needs a strong moral code.

Yes, I think you’re right – the motivation is everything. But with such a compelling female protagonist,  how can the hero compete?!

Good question! To avoid the gutsy heroine taking over the story, in my opinion the only way the hero can compete is by having his own strengths. By that I don’t mean physical superiority, although he would likely have that, or an I-must-conquer-this-female attitude, but an inner strength which leaves him in no doubt about who he is and his place in society. However, if he belongs to the upper echelons, he should never pull rank over those less fortunate than himself, including the heroine.

He must be noble, honourable, and even when he makes mistakes, he must possess the courage to admit to these mistakes and do whatever it takes to right those wrongs. Can he break the law too? Sure, but like the heroine he must have a strong moral code.

I have downloaded The Highwayman’s Daughter and I’m looking forward to meeting your characters. I’m hoping that our two heroines don’t meet on the road – or there could be a bit of a battle! Fortunately novelists are a bit more polite, and it’s been a pleasure to have you here, Henriette.

You can find Henriette Gyland on her Website

On Twitter: @henrigyland or on Facebook

You can never have enough books about Highwaywomen!

You may also like:

Shadow_on_the_Highwa_Cover_for_Kindle

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My main character – Lady Katherine Fanshawe

This post is part of a game begun by Debra Brown and passed to me by Sue Millard who lives relatively near me in Cumbria in the North of England. The posts are designed for readers to gain an insight into what writers are working on at the moment. Because my book is part of a series and all the books aren’t finished there are some details I don’t want to reveal yet, but here is an inkling of what has been taking up my time since I finished ‘A Divided Inheritance.’

What is the name of your character?Katherine Ferrers

My main character is seventeen-year-old Lady Katherine Fanshawe. She is a real historical person but also she features in a legend about her double life as noble lady and as a notorious highwaywoman. Find out more about the real person and the legend of The Wicked Lady here

When and where is the story set?

I’ll be taking you back in time to the English Civil Wars, in the mid seventeenth century, a time so turbulent it was known as ‘the world turn’d upside down.’

What should we know about Lady Katherine Fanshawe?

She comes from an illustrious and noble family but when she loses her parents she is forced by her stepfather to marry his lacklustre nephew. This enables her stepfather, Sir Stephen Fanshawe to take control over her land and wealth. She is rebellious, and takes to a secret life of highway robbery to replace her lost fortune.

What is the main conflict she must face?

Whilst disguised as a maid she falls in love with local boy, Ralph Chaplin. Ralph is determined to build a new world in which everyone is equal, where there is no aristocracy, following the ideals of the Digger movement. Ralph hates the nobility and would be horrified to find the girl he thinks of as ‘Kate’ is really Lady Katherine Fanshawe. He would be even more horrified if he knew what she got up to at night!

What is the personal goal of this character?

Kate is courageous and craves adventure and danger, but often does not look before she leaps. She is determined to escape her controlling stepfather, to be free of society’s demands, and to love who she pleases. At the same time she is reluctant to give up the life in which her status gives her privileges and she does not want to give up ordering people about!

When will this book be published?

Actually, this is three books – a series of three novellas, which make up The Highway Trilogy. This is a set of books suitable for adults and young adults of 14+. Each book is about 200 pages. The first book is told from the point of view of Lady Katherine’s feisty maid, Abigail, the second from Ralph Chaplin’s point of view, and the third from Lady Katherine’s (Kate’s) point of view. I thought it would be fun to write some shorter books for young adults in between my bigger books.

Publication date yet to be confirmed. The working title of the first book in the series is ‘Shadow on the Highway’, the next one will be ‘Ghost on the Highway,’ and the third ‘Revenge on the Highway.’

Pictures relating to the books are on my Pinterest Site

Now I need to pass the baton on to these lovely historical fiction writers:

Charlotte Betts

Anita Seymour

Carol Cram