Writing historical novels obviously involves a great deal of research but I have not done all of it shut away in record offices or reference libraries. I love getting out to experience the places where real people lived or explore museums where I can combine filling my notebooks with historical data and have a great day out.
With the summer and holidays spreading ahead here is a list of my favourite places that inspired me when writing ROGUES AND PLAYERS and KNAVES AND PLAYERS the two Elizabethan novels in the ANGEL PLAYERS SERIES.
1. The Weald and Downland Museum Chichester Sussex. Living in Sussex I regularly visit here as the houses on display cover 600 years of British history and their rural life exhibitions are great fun. Above is a picture of Bayleaf a type of house that would have been lived in during the 15th/16th century. You can walk all round the houses and really experience how everyday life would have been lived by the Elizabethans on a rural level. Below is another setting to be explored and enjoyed. These are all original huse than have been rescued and rebuilt by the Museum. The city of Chichester itself was a setting for Rogues and Players.
3. The Globe theatre London. A fantastic reconstruction of an Elizabethan playhouse and a fascinating museum. Not far for them their in Southwark is the Clink Museum about prison life in olden times.
4. Mary Rose at Portsmouth. I have not yet been to the new exhibition here but it is next on my list to visit. I visited the original exhibition several times. The Mary Rose was Henry VIII's flagship that sank near Portsmouth and to see the preserved timbers and artefacts from the wreck is a real insight into naval life in Tudor times. Nelson's flagship The Victory is also closeby so it is a great day out with lots to see.
6. Hampton Court outskirts of London. The great Tudor Palace filled with history. An inspiration to all historical writers and lovers of history.
7. Knole in Kent and Hardwick Hall in the Midlands. Two more Elizabethan houses that made a great day out.
8. A less well know manor is Parham House, Nr Storrington, Sussex. This is one of my favourites as it not a grand stately home and gives you a feel of how the lesser nobility would have lived. Again this is close to where I live and is a great favourite of mine. Picture below. Beautiful setting on the South Downs and it has been the inspiration as the manor house for several of my novels.
9. Victoria and Albert Museum. Whenever I am in London I try to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum. It has a Tudor and Stuart gallery, rooms recreating varying periods in history and a must see costume gallery for historical fashion. And of course The British Museum is another must visit.
10. To round up a Top 10 I would add The National Portrait Gallery also in London at Trafalgar Square. This has portraits of the Kings and Queens of England eight back to the earliest portraits of Richard II and of course London intself has so many inspiring places to visit. The Tower, The Cutty Sark, just walking through the parks or a trip along the river can take you back in time in your imagination.
There are many more historical sites and I will include some of these in later articles that inspired some of my other novels.