The Exeter Road: Flying Machines, Muddy Roads and Well-Mannered Highwaymen

dust jacket

The following post is the fifth of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana recently obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is chock full of commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A great find for anyone seriously interested in English history!

Traveling in Style

When the elegant and accomplished Barry Lyndon, about the 17th of May, 1773, and shortly after his marriage with the widow of the late Right Honourable Sir Charles Lyndon, K.B., set out to visit his estates in the West of England, where he had never yet set foot, he and his Honoria and suite left London in three chariots, each with four horses; an outrider in livery went before and bespoke lodgings from town to town; the party lay in state at Andover, Ilminster and Exeter; and the fourth evening arrived in time for supper, “before that antique baronial mansion of which the gate was in an odious Gothic taste that would have set Mr. Walpole wild with pleasure.”

George III traveling from Windsor to London

George III traveling from Windsor to London

The “Flying Machines”: “a slow form of lingering death”

For travelers who could not afford three carriages pulled by twelve horses and outriders, there were the “Flying Machines,” stagecoaches whose owners boasted could convey you to your destination in the shortest time possible. The following flyer is from around 1670:

“Flying Machine.

“All those desirous to pass from London to Bath, or any other Place on their Road, let them repair to the Belle Savage on Ludgate Hill in London and the White Lion at Bath, at both which places they may be received in a Stage Coach every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which performs the whole journey in Three Days (if God permits), and sets forth at five in the Morning.

“Passengers to pay One Pound five Shillings each, who are allowed to carry fourteen Pounds Weight—for all above to pay three halfpence per Pound.”

Brockworth - Flying Machine Sign

You have noticed, of course, the disclaimer that should your journey take more than three days, the fault lies with God and not with stagecoach company itself. Our illustrious author, Mr. Tristram, seems to be of the opinion that such claims were exaggerated and that the travelers in Mr. Lyndon’s large retinue would not only arrive before the so-called “Flying Machines,” but in a great deal more comfort as well. Poor roads, snowdrifts and highwaymen were common hazards for all travelers, but Mr. Lyndon’s retinue was more prepared to deal with them than the vehicle that was described as “six cart horses harnessed to a diving bell.”

The Brighton Comet 1820

The Brighton Comet 1820

Hercules’ Pillars


Before Apsley House was constructed across from Hyde Park Corner by Robert Adam between 1771 and 1778, the site was occupied by an inn called Hercules’ Pillars, where coachmen would stop for a drink. Hercules’ Pillars played a prominent part in a very naughty book by Henry Fielding called The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling or simply Tom Jones. I suppose the drinks gave them courage to head into Knightsbridge, two furlongs away, which was known “as a place of bogs and highwaymen.”

Indeed, what better place for highwaymen to ply their trade than “a great impassable gulf of mud” as could be found in Knightsbridge!

An Amiable Outlaw Meets His Match

Into this great impassable gulf of mud the Exeter Fly presently descended, and after desperate flounderings which only made matters worse, stuck fast. To it, when thus safely anchored, entered a gentleman in a vizor and riding a dark chestnut mare, who good naturedly recommended the coachman to alight, and offered to relieve the passengers of their purses. The first to take advantage of this amiability and give up his purse was the [formerly boastful] warrior from Dettingen, who had been loud in his contempt for highwaymen ever since the Fly left the city, and had sketched, with an elaborate garnishing of oaths, the horrid fate to which any marauder would be subject who ventured to bar the way. He spoke no more now of Dettingen, and of the standard he had taken from the musketeer of the French guard. Far from it. He gave his little all to the gentleman who asked for it, counselled submission to his companions, and disappeared to eat straw in the bottom of the coach. The highwayman now asked the ladies to oblige, parenthetically observing that time pressed. The words were hardly out of his mouth when Mirabel [the name assigned by Tristram to the young man of the party], who had been biding his time, obliged him with a sudden blow on that jaw which he had somewhat ostentatiously intruded upon the company, and at the same moment jumped from coach and seized the bridle of the chestnut mare. The highwayman now said, “Zounds”! and discharged his pistol; but as the chestnut mare reared and fell back with him just as he was firing it, the aim was not so true as the intention; in point of fact, instead of shooting Mirabel through the head, he shot the guard through the hat, who announced in stentorian tones that he was a dead man, and left off his blunderbuss at the morning star. Meanwhile, the highwayman and Mirabel had closed and were wrestling in the mud, the ladies viewing the progress of the strife in a state of pleasing suppressed excitement, and the coachman flogging his horses with a view of driving off and leaving Mirabel and his antagonist to decide their interesting difference in solitude and peace. This genial intention was frustrated by the mud which held the coach fast and by the guard, who, mounting one of the leaders, succeeded in waking some watchmen, who, by way of performing their patrol between Kensington and Knightsbridge, were lying in graceful sleep at The Half-way Public House. They came upon the scene just as Mirabel was binding the highwayman’s hands behind his back, the man having yielded himself for worse when he felt eleven stone and a half kneeling on his chest and saw that the chestnut mare had run away. The watch now with great intrepidity took charge of the bound prisoner, helped the Exeter Fly out of the ditch, and Mirabel into the coach, who joined his companions in a somewhat mud-stained, flushed, and exhausted state, but not inwardly unpleased at what he had done.”

At the time, such stagecoach robberies were nearly a daily occurrence along that road.


The Half-way House

Half-way between Knightsbridge and Kensington (until it was demolished in 1846) a disreputable inn frequented by footpads and highwaymen. Needless to say, coachmen generally tended to scramble past it as quickly as possible rather than stopping for a pint.

The Half-way House

The Half-way House

The Bath Road: The Bear Inn at Devizes and the “Pictorial Chronicler of the Regency”

The following post is the fourth of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana recently obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is chock full of commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A great find for anyone seriously interested in English history!

dust jacket

The Bear Inn

bear inn old

The Bear Inn (or Hotel) in Devizes was a popular stopping-off point for travelers headed for Bath. According to Mr. Tristram, author of Coaching Days & Coaching Ways, the Bear Inn was known for its fine stables. After Bath became a popular retreat for the wealthy elite, the roads also became targets for highwaymen, and many travelers abandoned the normal routes to take the one through Devizes. At its peak, the Bear was taking in up to 30 coaches a day.


Among its more prestigious guests were King George III and Queen Charlotte as well as the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria. In 1817, Queen Charlotte wrote that she had had an “elegant repast” at the Bear and that the landlord had put at her disposal “10 pairs of horses as fine as any were put to harness.”


Note: The Bear Hotel continues to be a hotel today. Rooms can be had for as little as 99 pounds. Click here for more information.

Miss Fanny Burney and Hester Thrale Make the Acquaintance of a Young Thomas Lawrence

Miss Fanny Burney

Miss Fanny Burney

In April of 1780, Miss Fanny Burney, who later became a famous novelist (Evelina was published anonymously in 1778), was traveling to Bath with her friend and patron, Hester Thrale. While waiting for supper, the pair sat down to cards, but were soon interrupted by the sound of a pianoforte. Following the music, they found the musician to be “a very handsome girl with fine dark hair upon a finely-formed forehead”. Another girl welcomed them and found them chairs, and it was then that the visitors discovered that the girls were the daughters of the hostess of the inn. “Oh, what a surprise!”

“But though these pretty girls struck us much,” she writes, “the wonder of the family was yet to be produced. This was their brother, a most lovely boy of ten years of age, who seems to be not merely the wonder of their family, but of the times, for his astonishing skill at drawing. They protest he has never had any instruction, yet showed us some of his productions, that were really beautiful.”

Apparently, the father of the future Sir Thomas Lawrence was making good use of his son’s talents. Tristram says that:

Instead of offering lame excuses when the roast had gone wrong, or saying that a bad bottle of claret was simply “sick from a journey,” this original in the way of a host, used to simply to introduce his son to the malcontents, and in a moment where there had been disgust there was wonder. At the simple talisman, “Gentlemen, here’s my son; will you have him recite from the poets or take your portraits?” the most confirmed bald-headed grumbler ceased his monotonous drone, and the storm in the coffee-room fell before the smile of the young genius.

The Rise To Fame Of Sir Thomas Lawrence

Thomas Lawrence self-portrait in pastels

Thomas Lawrence self-portrait in pastels

By the time the family moved to Bath soon after this encounter, young Thomas was supporting his family drawing portraits in pastel. Due to his talent, charm and good looks, Thomas became very popular about Bath society and was allowed to view private art collections. In 1787, at the age of not quite eighteen, he established a studio in London, settling his parents nearby. In 1788 he exhibited five portraits in pastel and one in oil. In 1789 he exhibited 13 portraits, mostly in oil, to critical acclaim. At age 20, he received his first royal commission, portraits of Queen Charlotte and Princess Amelia. After the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1792, George III appointed him “painter-in-ordinary-to-his-majesty.” In 1794, he became a full member of the Royal Academy. He went on to paint many portraits of the elite, as well as important figures in the war with Napoleon, and even the Pope. In 1815 he was knighted, and in 1820 he became President of the Royal Academy.

Sir Thomas and the Siddons Sisters

Sally Siddons

Sally Siddons

Maria Siddons

Maria Siddons

Thomas fell in love with Sally Siddons, one of the daughters of the famous actress, Sarah Siddons. But then he fell in love with her sister Maria. But then he decided to go back with Sally. (Imagine the turmoil in that household!) But neither of the girls was healthy. Before Maria died in 1798, she got her sister to promise not to marry him. Sally did not, refusing to see him for the five years before she herself passed away.


Lawrence never married. His companions in later life were Elizabeth Croft (half-sister of Sir Richard Croft, the accoucheur who apparently botched the delivery of Princess Charlotte’s son and who committed suicide soon after) and Isabella Wolff, separated from her husband and whose son Herman may have been Lawrence’s.

Plagued With Financial Problems

One might expect that, with all the commissions pouring in and his prolific work ethic, Lawrence should be a wealthy man. On the contrary, he was constantly in debt, to the point where he seemed to be always on the brink of bankruptcy and had to be rescued by his friends, dying insolvent. Nobody is quite sure why this was, except for an assumption that he was unable to keep good accounts, and perhaps he was too generous with family and friends. He himself wrote:

“I have never been extravagant nor profligate in the use of money. Neither gaming, horses, curricles, expensive entertainments, nor secret sources of ruin from vulgar licentiousness have swept it from me.”


The director of the National Portrait Gallery described Lawrence as “a huge figure. But a huge figure who we believe deserves a great deal more attention. He is one of the great painters of the last 250 years and one of the great stars of portraiture on a European stage.”


Queen Charlotte

George IV at his Coronation

George IV at his Coronation



Sabrina York: Defiant (Noble Passions Book Five)

About Defiant

When rakish Ned falls in with the wrong crowd, his brother decides to send him to the Continent for “seasoning”. For Sophia, this just won’t do. She’s loved Ned for ages—and also longed for adventure. She runs away from her boring suitors and disguises herself as a cabin boy on the Defiant, the ship sailing Ned to Italy.

Ned knows he’s not good enough for Sophia, but once they’re on the Defiant, he can’t stop himself from touching her, tasting her, loving her. Not when a wild tempest and a band of ruthless pirates threaten them. Not when every look from her gives him such pleasure. And certainly not when she comes, warm and wild and willing, to his bed.

If they survive their voyage, Sophia’s brother might kill him, but it will have been worth every moment and every hot, sweet kiss.

A Romantica® Regency historical erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

Ellora’s Cave • Amazon


Sophia stood on the bow of the boat in the dark as the wind and rain lashed her face. She loved it. Loved it. Not only was the storm elemental and fierce, it hid her tears.

Surely she hadn’t expected Ned to greet her with open arms. Not when she had barged in on his adventure as she had. But she certainly hadn’t expected him to be so horrid. His expression had devastated her.

defiant copyFoolish girl, it said.

But then, her heart agreed.

She was foolish.

Foolish to ever think that he—

“You’re soaked.”

She whirled around, though she knew what she’d see. More glowering.

She was right.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m reveling.” She thrust out her chin, in case he didn’t believe her.

He gaped at her. “Reveling?”

“Yes.” She didn’t mean to shout, but his wintry demeanor annoyed her tremendously. She threw out her arms. “Look at this!”

“It’s a storm.”

“It’s beautiful. The waves are wild, untamed—”

“You could be swept overboard.”

“The wind is howling and the rain is savage. It’s glorious.”

“It’s freezing. Come inside.”

“It’s not freezing. It’s summer.”

I’m cold.”

“Then you go inside.”

“Sophia Fiona—”

“Don’t call me that.”

“It’s your name.”

“You sound like Ewan.”

“I’m starting to think Ewan is a saint.”

She glared at him. “What a beastly thing to say.” She hated that her chin wobbled a little. Hated that he winced.

“I’m sorry, Sophia. This has been trying for me.” He sluiced the water from his face. “Won’t you please come inside?”

“All right. Fine.”

“You will?”

“You did say please.”

He blew out a breath and offered her his arm. She frowned at it. “I’m a cabin boy, remember? You don’t offer a cabin boy your arm.” When he didn’t lower it, she smacked it. “Someone will see.”

That caught his attention and he slowly lowered his arm. “Right then. Come inside.” He followed her back to the cabin, his stride decidedly unsteady. If anyone was tipping overboard, it was most likely him.

When she once again stood in his chambers, she realized the folly of her actions. She hadn’t brought a change of clothes and she was drenched. So was he. Without a word, he relit the lamp and then opened his trunk and pulled out several shirts, two of which he tossed to her. “Change.”

That was it. One word. Just “change” and then he presented her with his back. She huffed a breath, but did as he asked because she was really rather cold. The feel of the cloth falling over her chilled flesh warmed her. Because it was his shirt. It had touched his skin. She wasn’t sure why the thought sent heat scudding through her belly.

“Use the other shirt to dry your hair,” he suggested, as he began toweling off as well.

She huffed a laugh. “All of your clothes will be wet.”

“They’ll dry. Are you clothed?”


He turned. And froze. His gaze locked onto her bare legs. “I-I thought you said you were clothed.” A squawk.

“I am.” But the intensity of his stare made her self-conscious, so she slipped into the bed.

“Close your eyes,” he said as he unbuttoned the damp linen clinging to his chest.


“I need to change as well. I’m f-freezing.”

“Okay.” She did. But she peeked.

He ripped off his wet shirt and her breath caught at the sight of his broad back. Muscles rippled as he moved and she swallowed. He was beautiful. He tugged the fresh shirt over his head and she nearly whimpered as that magnificent vision disappeared. But then, he unfastened his trousers.

All pretense of not peeking evaporated.

He sat and took a moment to work off his boots. And then he stood. His trousers were tight, as was the fashion, and he had to peel them off. As he bent, she caught a flash of his bare behind.

She must have made a noise because he whirled around. His cheek bunched when he saw her watching. “You’re supposed to have your eyes closed.”

She hunkered in the covers, as though that would disguise the fact that her eyes were open wide.


It was probably wrong to grin at him, but she couldn’t help it.

“Sophia Fiona!”

“Stop calling me that. It always makes me think I’m in trouble.”

“You are in trouble. You have no idea how much trouble you’re in.”

She tipped her head to the side. “We both know Ewan will be so relieved to see me, he’ll forget how angry he is—”

Ned stilled and fixed her with a dark glare. “What makes you think I’m talking about Ewan?”

“I… ah…”

“I’ve a mind to bend you over my knee.”

Why a shiver rippled through her, she had no idea. She’d been spanked once or twice as a child and she hadn’t cared for it in the slightest. But something dark and domineering in Ned’s tone made her womb warm.

“You-you wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t I? Now, look away. Your brother would skewer me if I gave you the education you’re about to have.”

She attempted not to snort. Ned—and everyone—thought her a prim and innocent miss on account of the polish she’d acquired at Lady Satterlee’s. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a child, before Ewan had made his fortune, they’d lived a hand-to-mouth existence in the slums of Perth. She’d seen more than one couple rutting against a wall in a dingy alleyway. And at one point, she and her brother had taken refuge in a bordello. She’d been only seven, but if she’d had an education, she got it there. She could probably teach Ned a few things.

Still, because he seemed to expect it, she squeezed her eyes tight and didn’t hardly peek at all as he finished changing. Besides which, the spot she was interested in was mostly shadows.

With a great huff, he threw himself back into the chair. “Now, go to sleep.”

“Don’t you want me to put out the light?”

“No. I want to be able to see where you are.”

“I’m not leaving again tonight.” Probably. Unless her despair overcame her once more.

“Leave it on.” A grunt, and not a very nice one at that. Why he had call to be annoyed, she couldn’t fathom.

Blast and damn, he was an annoying man. Sophia grunted as well and rolled over, facing the wall of the cabin. She studied the patterns the swinging lamp made for a long while, listening as he shifted one way and then the other.

It was really unfair for him to have to sleep in the chair. This was his room. But he would never share her bed. She grimaced at the way the words came out, but it was true. He wouldn’t. Unless…

She rolled over again and watched him twist in the chair. He caught her eye and frowned.


An impatient groan. “Yes, Sophia?”

“Ned, I’m cold.”

He stilled. Then barked, “Put on another blanket.”

“There aren’t any more.” She faked a shiver. She wasn’t cold in the slightest. She never was. Ewan said she ran hot. “Brr. My teeth are chattering.”

His glower became a frown.

“I hope I don’t get ill.”

He paled. “You shouldn’t have gone out in the rain. Why did you go out in the rain?”

She sneezed. Or something like it. “I don’t know.”


“Am I running a fever?” She put her palm to her forehead. “I think I’m running a fever.”

His brow wrinkled. He stood and made his way across the tiny chamber as though on his death march. He set the backs of his fingers to her cheeks. His frown darkened. “You are warm.”

“No. I’m cold.” She shivered and peered up at him, her eyes as wide as she could make them. “Won’t you warm me?”

He wrenched his hand away as though she’d burned him. “What?”

“Lie here beside me and warm me up?”

“There’s not enough room for both of us.”

“I’m small.”

“Sophia.” She’d never heard her name in such a strangled voice, not even when Ewan was at his wit’s end.

“Just for a bit? You can be on top of the covers. Surely that is decent.”

The muscle in his cheek bunched again, as though he were grinding his teeth.


He gusted a sigh. “All right, Sophia. Scoot over and make room.”

She did. With alacrity.

“And roll over, facing the wall.”

She frowned at him “Why?”

“Just do it. Please.”

“Oh, all right.” But only because he said please. And because, when she was facing the other way, he couldn’t see her grin.

He settled in behind her and a shiver rocked her. He was warm. And he smelled delicious. Not fishy in the slightest. It was delightful, lying here with him. She closed her eyes and imagined he wanted this as much as she.

If only. If only.

Check out the other books in the Noble Passions Series from Sabrina York


Follow the decadent exploits of friends and enemies as they find love and passion in the glittering world of the Regency—and its dark underbelly.

folly_msr (final) copyBook 1: Folly

2014 EPIC eBook Award Finalist

2013 Passionate Plume Finalist

Widowed and threatened with penury by her heartless in-laws, Eleanor–Lady Ulster–hatches a plot to save herself. Determined to produce the Ulster “heir”, she seduces a stranger at a tawdry masquerade. Little does she know, this magnificent masked lover is none other than her husband’s greatest nemesis. And God knows Ulster had plenty.

Ethan Pennington is mortified to arrive at a house party and discover Lady Ulster in attendance. He has wanted her and hated wanting her–his enemy’s bride–for years. When he overhears Eleanor’s predicament and her plans to place a cuckoo in the Ulster nest, he is more than willing to oblige. The opportunity to finally claim her–while taking the revenge he craves–is more than he can resist. Ethan strikes a bargain with Eleanor, promising to provide her with the heir she so desperately needs…if she will meet his needs in return. Every decadent one of them.

darkduke_msrBook 2: Dark Fancy

The sizzling prequel to Folly

2014 Winner of the Carolyn Readers’ Choice Award

When Lady Helena Simpson flees an unwanted marriage to a revolting lord, she finds refuge with James, a charming, handsome man unlike any she’s ever known. Helena concocts the perfect solution to her problem. She asks—begs—James to ruin her. Surely her betrothed will repudiate her if she is no longer pure. And if all her efforts fail and she still ends up married to a horrid man until the end of her days, she will at least once have known true passion.

But James is not all he seems. He is, in fact, a wicked lord with a dark fancy. When Helena awakens his desire, he becomes determined to take everything she has to offer and more. No matter the cost.

darkfancy_msrBook 3: Dark Duke

Edward Wyeth, the Dark Duke of Moncrieff’s life has been turned on its end. His well-ordered home has been invaded. By destitute relatives. From Scotland. How on earth can he write Lord Hedon’s salacious novels with hellions battling in the garden and starting fires in the library? But with the onslaught has come a delicious diversion. His cousin’s companion, the surprisingly intriguing Kaitlin MacAllister. He is determined to seduce her. Using her desperate need for funds and her talents as an artist, he convinces her to draw naughty pictures for his naughtier books…and he draws her into his decadent web.

But Kaitlin has a secret. She’s fled Scotland—and a very determined betrothed. When Edward’s cousin is kidnapped and held in her stead, Kaitlin is honor-bound to return to her homeland and rescue her—much to Edward’s chagrin.

Because suddenly he can’t bear the thought of Kaitlin marrying another man. He can’t bear the thought of losing her at all.

brigand_msrBook 4: Brigand

Kidnapped and held prisoner by menacing Scottish brigand, the notorious McCloud, Violet Wyeth does her best to persevere…and resist his rakish charms. But when she realizes The McCloud is really Ewan St. Andrews, the boy who once saved her life, the boy who once kissed her and made her heart flutter, she is lost.

Ewan has every intention of marrying Lady Kaitlin MacAllister. He desperately needs the entrée into the ton this bride can provide. But when his bride is delivered—bound and gagged—it’s not Kaitlin. It’s Violet Wyeth—the girl who betrayed him and ruined his life when he was a boy. He keeps her, determined to punish her for her sins. But when he discovers the truth about what really happened so long ago, and seething passion rises between them, he can no longer hold on to his rusty grudge. By the time he realizes how much he loves Violet—that he always has—he’s lost her.

All he can do is follow her. Follow her into the bowels of hell—and partake in the torment of the glittering London Season, where the harpies are far more dangerous than a Scottish brigand.

About Sabrina York

Sabrina_head_smHer Royal Hotness, Sabrina York is the award winning author of over 20 hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & sexy erotic romance to scorching BDSM. Connect with her on twitter @sabrina_york, on Facebook or on Pintrest. Check out Sabrina’s books and read an excerpt on Amazon or wherever e-books are sold. Visit her webpage at to check out her books, excerpts and contests.

Free Teaser Book: And don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara!

The Bath Road: Lacock Abbey

The following post is the third of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana recently obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is chock full of commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A great find for anyone seriously interested in English history!

dust jacket

Lacock Abbey and Romance

While I’ve visited the village of Lacock, wandering through the charming little town which was filmed as Meriton in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice on two occasions, both were group tours not allowing enough time to visit the Abbey. All I could do was peer longingly through the iron gates and vow someday to return. Next time.

For the Kings Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick - CoverIt was on one of the tours that I learned the connection between Lacock Abbey and a book I had recently read by Elizabeth Chadwick, For the King’s Favor. Highly recommended for any fan of British history! It’s the story of a former mistress of Henry II who is torn away from her son and married off to another. A small part in the story is played by the illegitimate son, William Longespée, brought up in the king’s household. It turns out that William married Ela, 3rd Countess of Salisbury and became the 3rd Earl of Salisbury. (Yep, a title that could be inherited by a female, believe or not!)

It must have been a happy marriage, not only because they had at least eight children (not that unusual in those days), but because when he died, his widow founded an abbey in his honor, endowing it with rich farmlands which returned large profits from wool. The inscription on her tombstone indicates that she was a very well-loved lady:

Below lie buried the bones of the venerable Ela, who gave this sacred house as a home for the nuns. She also had lived here as holy abbess and Countess of Salisbury, full of good works.

In the sixteenth century during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, Lacock Abbey was fortunate to escape destruction when it was sold to Sir William Sharington for 783 pounds, and he turned it into a private residence, demolishing the church and making extensive renovations, apparently showing quite good taste. His tastes were expensive, however, and later on he was convicted of embezzling from the Bristol Mint.



A Famous Elopement (Don’t try this at home!)

From Coaching Days and Coaching Ways:

Here [Lacock] there is an Abbey with a romance attached to it, which tells how a young lady, discoursing one night to her lover from the battlements of the Abbey church, though strictly forbidden to do so by her papa, remarked “I will leap down to you” (which was surely very unwise), and leapt. The wind came to the rescue and “got under her coates” (the ulster I presume of the 16th century) and thus assisted, the young lady, whose name was Sherington [sic], flopped into the arms of the young man, whose name was Talbot, and killed him to all appearances fatally dead on the spot, at which she sat down and wept. Upon this the defunct Talbot, who had been only temporarily deprived of breath, came to life again, and at the same moment the lady’s father, with a fine instinct for a melodramatic situation, jumped out of a bush and observed that “as his daughter had made such a leap to him she should e’en marry him,” meaning Talbot, which was rather obscure, but exactly what the young lady wanted, and married she was to Talbot, whose Christian name was John, brought him the Abbey as a dowry, and lived happily ever after.”

As much as I enjoy Mr. Tristram’s turn of phrase, there are times when I have doubts about the accuracy of his statements. While it is true that a Sharington owned Lacock Abbey, I cannot find that he ever had any children. Nonetheless, it is true that Lacock Abbey was owned by Talbots in its later years, including the famous William Henry Fox Talbot, who is credited with the invention of the calotype process, a precursor of photographic processes of the 19th and 20th centuries. I even saw his grave at the Lacock cemetery just outside the village. So…who knows? It might be true!

William Henry Fox Talbot

William Henry Fox Talbot


Visiting Lacock, Lacock Abbey, and the Fox Talbot Museum

cottageWhile you’re there, why not stay in a timber-framed cottage located right in the heart of the village? A bit pricey, perhaps, but it has four bedrooms and sleeps six, and what better way to relive the past than to live in a charming cottage in a quaint little town for a couple of days! (You might also check out the bed and breakfast establishments available in the village.)

Anybody recognize the cloisters from a famous movie?

Anybody recognize the cloisters from a famous movie?

Update: Lacock Abbey stumbled upon this post and informed me that the young lady who accidentally “killed” her lover was Olive Sharington, daughter of Henry Sharington, who inherited the Abbey from his brother William, who had no children. Mystery solved!


Piper Huguley: The Lawyer’s Luck (Home To Mitford College Series)

Lawyer copy

About The Lawyer’s Luck

Oberlin, Ohio – 1844

Lawrence Stewart is a rare man. Raised with his grandmother’s Miami Indian tribe, he’s a Negro with brown skin, and has consistently walked between two worlds most of his life. He devotes his time and study to becoming a lawyer, fully intending to obtain justice for the ousted Miami Indians. No Negro man has accomplished these things before, but he is not daunted. His life is perfectly set until one June day….

Aurelia “Realie” Baxter made her way from enslavement in Georgia to the free land Lake Huron in Ohio. Far from happy as a slave doing the bidding of a woman cooped up in a house all day, Realie is a bona fide tomboy with a special gift with horses. Now, she is so close to freedom in Canada, she can smell it, but her plans are interrupted when Lawrence shoots her…by mistake….

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About the Author

piper-huguley-rigginsPiper G Huguley is the author of “Migrations of the Heart,” a five-book series of inspirational historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters.  Book one in the series, A Virtuous Ruby won the Golden Rose contest in Historical Romance in 2013 and is a Golden Heart finalist in 2014.  Book four in the series, A Champion’s Heart, was a Golden Heart finalist in 2013.

On release, the prequel novella to the “Home To Milford College” series, The Lawyer’s Luck reached #1 Amazon Bestseller status on the African American Christian Fiction charts.

She blogs about the history behind her novels at She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

The Frost of Springtime: Rachel L. Demeter

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Rachel will be awarding a $15 Amazon gift card and 5 autographed bookmarks via rafflecopter during the tour (US ONLY). Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

About The Frost of Springtime

To rescue her was to rescue his own soul.

On a cold Parisian night, Vicomte Aleksender de Lefèvre forges an everlasting bond with a broken girl during her darkest hour, rescuing her from a life of abuse and misery. Tormented by his own demons, he finds his first bit of solace in sheltering little Sofia Rose.

But when Aleksender is drawn away by the Franco-Prussian war, the seasons pass. And in that long year, Sofia matures into a stunning young woman—a dancer with an understanding of devotion and redemption far surpassing her age.

Alongside his closest friend, Aleksender returns home to find that “home” is gone—replaced by revolution, bloodshed, betrayal—and a love always out of reach. Scarred inside and out, he’s thrust into a world of sensuality and violence—a world in which all his hours have now grown dark, and where only Sofia might bring an end to the winter in his heart.

Inspired by the 1871 Paris Commune, The Frost of Springtime is a poignant tale of revolution, redemption, and the healing power of love.


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Sofia saw the memories buried within his eyes. Gunshots. Screams. Rolling cannons and the faded cries of despair. They lodged inside Aleksender, battling for his soul.

MEDIA KIT Teaser 1 PAIN IS IN THE MIND - TEASER QUOTE copySofia rose from the ground and tentatively crouched behind him. Remaining silent, her hands sunk below the material of his dress shirt and encouraged him with gentle caresses.

“Disease and death were everywhere. Men with boils and rashes the size of saucers. Anyway, we almost managed to escape. It was a good mile away that we were spotted. They were corrupt soldiers, nothing but hungry dogs with a taste for blood-lust. We were tied at the wrists and ankles, crammed inside a tent. Whether it was days or weeks, I cannot say.” Scoffing under his breath, he spat, “The fools demanded answers. They demanded our plans. Strategies. We refused each time. Even so none of us knew anything.”

“Oh, Alek. Why didn’t you tell them? To think you could have avoided so much pain.”

His shoulders lifted into a dry shrug. “I suppose we took a morbid delight in their frustration.” His voice was icy, harsh and void of all emotion. “And besides—it was the prospect of whipping information from our skin that kept us alive. But we were eventually returned to the camp. Bloodied, battered and burned—but alive.” Aleksender passed fingertips through his hairline. “Till this day, I have no idea what changed their minds …” Aleksender sighed and gave an afterthought, “Word had spread of their rather unorthodox methods, so to speak. According to rumor, they’d paid dearly.”

“I pray they burn in hell,” Sofia gasped. “Every last one of them!”

Aleksender laughed, amused by her goodhearted blasphemy. “Ah, Sofia, ma chérie. You do wonders for me.” And then a sudden thought came to his mind. “Christophe was there with me.”

“In the tents?” Sofia murmured, her heart reaching out to both heroes.

Aleksender merely nodded.

Although she’d never had the pleasure of meeting Monsieur Cleef, his name inspired a strange twinge of nostalgia inside her gut. Aleksender had often spoken of his dear friend—a rather admirable man of big ideas and too little restraint. From what she knew of the roguish skirt-chaser, she’d always admired him very much.

“Such wonderfully brave men,” she crooned, caressing one of many scars. “You have a soldier’s heart.”

Cloaked beneath the darkness, Sofia’s fingertips moved over his back in hypnotic motions, not leaving an inch of him unloved. “Do they pain you much?”

“No,” he hoarsely answered, “they are no bother.” His body trembled within her arms. “Not any longer.”

Between tentative kisses and muffled sniffles, she whispered, “To think of the pain you endured. The cruelty—your suffering.”

Aligning their two bodies, Aleksender cradled Sofia’s face between his palms and sweetly stroked her skin. Sofia’s toes curled against the barrier of her slippers. It was intoxicating. By far the sweetest moment in her nineteen years of life. With a last kiss, he whispered into her mouth, “Pain is in the mind. And, in my mind, ma chérie … I was with you.”

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About the Author

MEDIA KIT RachelDemeter_portrait copyRachel L. Demeter lives in the beautiful hills of Anaheim, California with Teddy, her goofy lowland sheepdog, and high school sweetheart of ten years. She enjoys writing dark, edgy romances that challenge the reader’s emotions and examine the redeeming power of love.

Imagining stories and characters has been Rachel’s passion for longer than she can remember. Before learning how to read or write, she would dictate stories while her mom would jot them down for her. She has a special affinity for the tortured hero and unconventional romances. Whether sculpting the protagonist or antagonist, she always ensures that every character is given a soul.

Rachel strives to intricately blend elements of romance, suspense, and horror. Some common themes her stories never stray too far from: forbidden romance, soul mates, the power of love to redeem, mend all wounds, and triumph over darkness. Her dream is to move readers and leave an emotional impact through her words.

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The Bath Road: Littlecote and Wild William Darrell

The following post is the second of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana recently obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is chock full of commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A great find for anyone seriously interested in English history!


Littlecote House

Littlecote House

Littlecote House, near Ramsbury, Wiltshire, was first a medieval mansion, built around 1290 by the de Calstone family. It fell into the hands of William Darrell in 1415 when he married Elizabeth de Calstone. The Tudor mansion was built in the mid-sixteenth century. Henry VIII courted his third wife Jane Seymour here; her grandmother was a Darrell. Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II and William of Orange stayed here.


Wild William Darrell (1539-89)

The last Darrell at Littlecote is best remembered for his contentiousness and scandals. His father having left Littlecote to his mistress, Mary Fortescue (who liked to call herself Lady Darrell), William set in motion a series of lawsuits to wrest it away from her. This was the first of countless lawsuits filed in his lifetime, which ended by draining him of his fortune and forcing him to mortgage or sell most of the 25 manors inherited from his father. Litigation with his mother’s family over one such manor lasted 20 years!

Not the sort of man you’d want as a neighbor!

Darrell was also known for his amorous exploits. The most famous was his affair with the wife of Sir Walter Hungerford, who was subsequently abandoned by her husband when she wrote this to Darrell:

“I, by the oath I have sworn upon the holy evangelist, do acknowledge that if Sir Walter Hungerford, my husband now living, do depart out of this life … I will take you to my husband.”

An Elizabethan Horror Story

Enjoy Mr. Tristram’s dramatic narration in Coaching Days & Coaching Ways:

The whole story would pass before us under a ghostly, shimmering, ghoul-like glamour: the midwife at Shefford, a village seven miles off, waked in the dead of night, with a promise of high pay for her office on condition that she should be blindfolded! the headlong ride through the wild weather behind the silent serving man! the arrival at a large house which was strange to her! the mounting of the long stairs, which the woman, shadowed already with some grim foreboding, counted carefully as she passed up them! the delivery in a gloomy, richly furnished room of a masked lady! the entrance of a tall man “of ferocious aspect”, who seized the newborn child, thrust it into the fire that was blazing on the hearth, ground it under his heavy boot till it was cinders! then the trembling departure of the pale spectator of the hideous scene, blindfolded as she had come, aghast, speechless, carrying a heavy bribe with her as the price of guilty silence, but carrying also a piece of the curtain which she had cut out of the bed—all this scene of horror how the author of The Dragon Volant would have described it for us! And all this horror is history!

The original deposition made on her death-bed by the midwife, whose name was Mrs. Barnes, and committed to writing by Mr. Bridges, magistrate of Great Shefford, is in existence to this day, and is proof beyond cavil. It is from this point that rumour begins. That rumour, backed in my opinion by damning circumstance, has for two hundred years connected the tragedy with Littlecote House and William Darrell, commonly called Wild Darrell, then its proprietor. It is alleged that the midwife’s depositions set justice on the murderer’s track, and that the fitting of the piece of curtain which Mrs. Barnes had taken away with her into a rent found in the curtain of the Haunted Room at Littlecote, marked the scene of the murder. Wild Darrell was tried for his life, it is said, but escaped by bribing the officers of the law with the reversion of his large estates. But—so runs the rumour—the memory of his crime pursued him. He was haunted by ghastly spectres which he tried to forget in wild excesses, but which no seas of claret would lay. Finally as he was riding recklessly down the steep downs, with the scene of his atrocity in sight, at headlong speed, the reins loose, his body swaying in the saddle, pale, wild-eyed, unkempt, the very picture of debauched and guilty recklessness, tearing from the Furies of the past, that past confronted him. The apparition of a babe burning in a flame barred his path. The horse reared violently at the supernatural sight. Darrell was violently thrown, and the wicked neck, which had escaped the halter by a bribe, was broken at last as it deserved to be.

Wild Darrell is remembered but as a name now, and as a name for all that is wicked. (Coaching Days & Coaching Ways, pp. 38-41)

Sir Walter Scott recounted this story in the notes to his narrative poem, Rokeby. (Free on Google, check out p. 400).

Littlecote House Hotel

Guess what? Not only can you visit Littlecote House, but you can stay overnight in the Tudor mansion, as Susana did recently at Chatsworth, Hever Castle, and Leeds Castle! Besides the house and gardens (and ghosts, perhaps?), there are remains of a Roman villa and a lovely mosaic as well. Check it out!

The Great Hall

The Great Hall

The garden of Littlecote House Hotel in Wiltshire

The gardens

Roman mosaic

Roman mosaic

Ruins of Roman Villa

Ruins of Roman Villa