Places in my books, pt. 6
Miss Bingley and the Baron comes out in just one week, so I thought I would talk about more of the places featured in it. Raven’s Cliff and Fairclough might be fictional mansions, but the houses that inspired them are real.
Raven Hall, Ravenscar, Yorkshire
Just up the coast from Scarborough, Raven Hall sits at the southern end of Robin Hood’s Bay. It is known for its beautiful panoramic coastal views, terraced gardens, and lush Yorkshire moors.
The current house, originally known as Peak House, was built in 1774 by Captain William Childs, owner of the local alum works. During construction, remnants of a 5th-century Roman fort were discovered and are now on display at Whitby Museum.
The house passed down to Captain Child’s daughter, Ann Child Willis, the wife of Admiral Richard Willis. Admiral Willis is best known as the son of Rev. Dr. Francis Willis, the physician who treated King George III during his earlier bouts of mental illness. Reportedly, the king even stayed at Peak House during some of those times.
Admiral and Mrs. Willis’ son, the Rev. Dr. Richard Willis, was responsible for building the battlements and beautiful terraced gardens that can be seen today. His extravagant spending led the estate into debt, and it was eventually foreclosed on and passed into the hands of Mr. William Hammond, of London, then later sold to the Peak Estate Company to be developed as a resort.
The newly-expanded property opened as a hotel under the new name Raven Hall in 1895, and soon after the village of Peak was renamed Ravenscar. Extensive plans were made to turn Ravenscar into a seaside resort not unlike Scarborough and other Victorian-era resort towns. However, although preparations were made and the roads laid out, only two of the houses on the marine esplanade were ever built. No one knows exactly why the resort couldn’t gain enough popularity. It has been speculated that the steep cliffs and rocky coastline made it unsuitable to potential buyers, who were expecting sandy beaches like those found in Scarborough and Whitby.
Whatever the case, Raven Hall managed to survive and still operates as a hotel and wedding venue today. If you’re ever in that area, you can book your stay there.
The battlements, terraced gardens, and situation on the cliffs of Robin Hood’s Bay next to the moors made Raven Hall an ideal inspiration for the fictional home of Lord Theodore Connally. I went through several names in the earliest drafts of my story, but eventually settled on calling it “Raven’s Cliff” as an homage to Raven Hall, and named the nearby village Ravensclough for its similarity to Ravenscar.
Scampston Hall, Malton, Yorkshire
It was evident from the maps that there were no other large historic homes near Raven Hall. However, I did not have to look too far away to find my inspiration for the Hurst’s mansion, Fairclough.
Scampston Hall, located near Malton, belonged to the St. Quintin family since the estate was acquired in the late 17th century. The St. Quintin family, dating all the way back to Herbert St. Quintin, one of William the Conqueror’s knights, have been prominent landowners in Northern Yorkshire since the 11th century.
The present day house was built in 1700 and remodeled in the Georgian-era style in 1795 by famous architect Thomas Leverton. His design includes a circular portico with columns and a rotunda.
The house passed through marriage to the Legard family, who updated it in the 1990’s with modern electricity and plumbing and a new roof. The house is currently the home of Christopher and Miranda Legard.
The grounds boast some of the most spectacular gardens in Yorkshire. The stunning walled garden designed by Dutch landscaper Piet Oudolf includes a lime walk, reflecting pool, and a glass conservatory.
The surrounding parklands, designed in 1772 by landscape architect Lancelot “Capability” Brown, boasts a Palladian bridge, a cascade fountain, and a chain of lakes. A rock garden was also added in the 19th century.
Although Scampston Hall does not border the ocean like Fairclough Manor does in my book, I did incorporate several features of the gardens in my scenes, including the reflecting pool, conservatory, and rock garden.
There is a lovely virtual tour of the gardens and, if you would like to explore for yourself.
Order your copy of Miss Bingley and the Baron today.
Miss Bingley and the Baron is a companion to Not in Want of a Wife, but can be enjoyed as a standalone.