A Bookish Adventure

I started this blog to document an extended trip to the US and UK in 2012, introducing children to my Alice-Miranda series. It's hard to believe that it's just on four years since we launched the first Alice-Miranda title - and now there are nine books out in Australia with another five still to come. When I first came up with the idea of this precocious seven and a quarter year old, I had no clue that she would take me on such an amazing journey, not only in Australia but also across the world. I visited 37 schools while we were away in 2012 and gave over 80 talks - it was fantastic. In 2013 I've been on lots of new adventures in the UK - visiting schools from London to Southampton, Lancashire, Scotland, Newcastle and back to London again. After that I headed off to meet readers in Singapore. In Australia I've been to Melbourne, Perth, Albany, Alice Springs and Brisbane. There's a new series too - about a gorgeous little girl called Clementine Rose. She and Alice-Miranda don't know each other yet, but they will soon.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Caledonia Manor - real name Brogyntyn, Oswestry, Shropshire

This afternoon we decided to take a drive into Oswestry, but instead of taking the main road I found an alternate route through some of the back roads and villages.  The countryside is typically pretty, rolling English hills and villages dotted with pubs and tiny cottages.  We reached a section of road with ancient stone walls running along each side – usually an indication of something grand hidden behind.  The wall to the right was in disrepair with several sections dipping down revealing green pastures and lots of sheep and lambs. 

I glimpsed a house – a huge place in the distance and immediately knew that was it.  I couldn’t believe it.  Had we really stumbled on the house that inspired Caledonia Manor, home to Miss Hephzibah Fayle in the Alice-Miranda books?  We drove along further, found a safe spot to turn around and headed back to the gatehouse in the hope of a better look. 
I was almost sure of it – but the house was impossible to see and we were not in the habit of trespassing – although the gate was wide open.

We wondered how we could find out more.  In Oswestry I asked a couple of people in the shops if they knew the name of the place to no avail and then we ran into Sean and Caroline who we had met at Moreton Hall last week.  They suggested the local estate agents or the library.
We decided to visit the library in the morning and so drove back out along the road to see if we could at least snap some photos in the distance – which we did.  But then we found someone outside at the gate house and asked her who owned the place and if we might be able to have a look.  She said that there was a public right of way access through the property but seeing that the gate was open, she thought we could probably drive up and take some photos.  There was another car at the top of the driveway so I hopped out and asked the lady if she lived there and as luck would have it – her partner resides in the stables.  So we wandered about for a while then met Pete, the resident.  I explained why we were so interested – that this was the inspiration for a place in the Alice-Miranda books called Caledonia Manor.  He said that it was most unusual for the gate to be left open and that we shouldn’t really have driven up but after I told him the whole story he was keen to show us around.  He also knows an incredible amount of the history of the Hall, the tragic demise of the family and plans for the future. Settled in the 1600s the house and its estate once presided over the land as far as the eye can see.  The family was one of the great English dynasties and owners of Harlech Castle in North Wales as well.

Unfortunately a string of tragedies including two Lords Harlech dying without wills, leaving massive death duties to be paid, saw the decline of the family fortunes and subsequent sale of the Hall.  Interestingly it was also used during the war by British Telecom as headquarters for communications for the spy network operating in Europe.  Apparently the cellars are bomb proof.  During the time that the Hall was used by BT it fell into serious disrepair and has continued in that vein ever since.  The family eventually sold it about 11 years ago to a development firm who are currently looking at what they could do to save it.  Perhaps a hotel or apartments.  Although Pete said that it is absolutely haunted!
The grounds are utterly gorgeous with towering trees and the remnants of a once much loved garden where in its heyday, 24 gardeners were employed.

The stables are magnificent too and so close to what I had imagined.  I could almost hear naughty Bonaparte whinnying hello. 
It was such a thrill to find this place.  I never imagined that we would – given that when I saw it on the Internet it was an unnamed derelict mansion in Shropshire, which is quite a large county.  I had searched and searched for further clues about this place that I came to call Caledonia Manor but nothing.  There are apparently many derelict mansions in Shropshire and without an exact location or a name the search seemed fruitless.  But today we found it – on a road that we travelled by accident.  Tomorrow there is a chance that we might be able to look inside.  I’m very excited by the prospect. 

6 comments:

  1. Wow Jacqueline!!
    What a co-incidence that was!!! You visited our school( UWCSEA Grade 3 ) Singapore today!! (6th of March)
    I loved the way you expressed all of your books and I was very interested in brogyntyn hall so I decided to look up all of it's history and how old it is!! I asked you for your signature? do you remember?? I'm so glad that I met you and listened to your speech about your books and your tips about writing.. All your stories that you told us were so interesting! You have inspired me so much!! I didn't know books could get so interesting! I plan on reading all your books!
    I've already read one clementine rose book!
    You have inspired me so so so so so so so much! Thank you very much Mrs. Harvey! ( Or Jacqueline)
    All the best to you and the rest of your writing career!! Thank you so much Jacqueline Harvey. I hope I can see you again soon.. :(

    I feel bad that you have to leave Singapore
    You are my inspiration I just wanted you let you know. That you have inspired me so very much!!

    Thank YOU!

    From Charlotte Ion

    Grade 3 JWa UWCSEA Singapore Dover Campus..


    :D :D :D :D!!

    Keep going! your books are AWESOME!!

    and I can't believe you had SUCH a mean teacher!!!
    You are the best writer ever!! KEEP GOING!!

    From Charlotte

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    1. brogyntyn hall was a great place to live, i lived there in 1994, i was 11 yrs old i have a lot of fond memories. im hoping to go visit again with my family soon it will be a lovely trip down memory lane.

      louise.

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    2. It must have been incredible as a child to live on the estate. I hope to get back there again later this year as I'll be touring in Shropshire and hopefully working with Booka Books in Oswestry.

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  2. Brogyntyn Hall is now for sale for £5m with 234 acres if you are looking for a nice holiday house in need of renovation. The agent's 20 page pdf brochure (see link) has further information about the house.

    http://search.knightfrank.co.uk/cho090108

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  3. Oh to have the money to buy Brogyntyn Hall! I hope someone with a wonderful vision and the money to back it buys the place and breaths new life into the estate. If they divide it into apartments I'll be first in line with the cheque book.

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  4. We ran past there yesterday and wondered exactly what the backstory was to the house. Your piece was the first in the search. Thanks for sharing.

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