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A Regency Road Trip Story with a Side of Romance Legend (and a Twist) Part Two

A good road trip story, no matter the era, usually includes at least one good vehicle breakdown and Between Duty and the Devil’s Desires is no exception. Add the elements of roads not as well-maintained as the Great North Road, mud, snow, and sleeting rain, and it is little wonder the company sought the security and warmth of a coaching inn once they’d pushed their coach out of a ditch or two.

Excerpt from: Between Duty and the Devil’s Desires

“I hear and obey,” Lord Hadley announced as he strolled into her chamber as if it were his own. She suspected he walked into every room in the same fashion. Just as he took up all the air in any room he entered.

“When have you ever obeyed a woman, my lord?” she asked, checking the knot she’d tied in the belt of her robe, for some odd reason.

“Depends upon the woman. And what she asks me to do.” He glanced around her chamber before his heated gaze came to rest on her.

He was followed by several of the inn’s male servants. They pulled a table from the corner of the chamber and set it before the fireplace. A substantial fire burned therein, eliminating every bit of chill in the room. In moments they had the table set for two and had filled it with covered dishes of food. Once they placed the two fireside chairs on either side of the table and Elegy had taken her seat, the servants filed out, each one stopping to receive a not-so-surreptitious vale from Lord Hadley. Whilst his attention was diverted, she snatched the toweling from her hair and tied up the unbraided, barely brushed bulk of it, haphazardly, with the piece of green ribbon she found in the pocket of her robe. She wished she might see the mirror, but perhaps it was for the best she could not.

“You know this is completely improper, my lord,” Elegy said as she placed the serviette in her lap and lifted the lid on a tureen of thick beef stew.

“Will you force me to fill my plate and take my meal outside like some groom at a ball? I have had my fill of standing about in the snow and the mud for today at least.” He stood next to the chair opposite her, looking more than criminal handsome in black breeches, clean but scuffed boots, and white shirt topped with a black wool banyan. He’d shaved and his freshly washed hair hung past his shoulders.

To allow him to stay was playing with fire. Once she received her payment and left Braemar Hall forever there would be no opportunities for impropriety. Her plans demanded she live the life of a woman beyond reproach. And Elegy was so weary. She did not remember a time she had not conducted herself with the strictest attention to what was proper, what was expected, what she must do to maintain her place.

“Sit down, Lord Hadley,” she finally said. “I have never been fond of dining alone.”

 

This scene takes place at The Marlborough Arms in the village of Woodstock in the Cotswolds.

The industrious and well-informed Miss Perkins makes an excellent choice in The Marlborough Arms, which was established as a coaching inn in 1469 when it was called the George Inne. The village of Woodstock appears in the Doomsday Book in 1086 and was given a royal charter in 1179 by Henry II. Which was no accident as the village grew around the Royal Hunting Lodge which is now Blenheim Palace.

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204)

The building which would eventually become the George Inne has a royal connection as well. It was originally built as the residence for Henry II’s mistress, Roseamunde Clifford. Seems Henry’s wife objected to the woman staying at the hunting lodge. A separate house was a wise decision on Henry’s part as his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was not known as a forgiving or gentle soul. Why would she be? It takes one badass woman to marry and bury two kings – Louis VII of France and Henry II of England.

Princess Elizabeth

Princess Elizabeth, who would later become Queen Elizabeth I,  frequently visited the establishment, which in her time had already become the George Inne. She was known to sneak out of her prison at the Royal Hunting Lodge where she had been placed under house arrest by her sister Mary I in order to have a little fun.

 

The George Inne became The Marlborough Arms some time after the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. It was at this point it became one of the busiest coaching inns in the area. Its proximity to Blenheim and to the scenic Cotswolds made it a hub for travel both for trade and for those who sought to take holidays outside of London. The larger door in the image below leads to the inn yard where coaches pulled in to change horses and / or to pick up or deposit passengers. 

 

 

 

 

Much of the inn is as it was in the 15th century. One interesting aspect is the fireplace on the main floor.

                 

The mantel is covered in graffiti, much of it dated as far back as the 17th century. Some things never change!

 

 

 

 

However, the comfort and views make the public rooms much as they might have been during Elegy and Devlin’s visit.

 

No history of hauntings at The Marlborough Arms. Perhaps the custom was so busy there no chance for murder or mayhem occurred. However, just a short stroll away is the MacDonald Bear Hotel, a 13th century coaching inn (I told you Woodstock was a busy hub for travelers!)

The MacDonald Bear has at least two resident ghosts. You can learn more about them here:

https://www.spookyisles.com/macdonald-bear-hotel-woodstock/

 

 

My next post will be on the third stop on Elegy and Devlin’s journey – The Howard Arms in Ilmington, Warwickshire. Should you wish to go along on their journey you will find Between Duty and the Devil’s Desires at the following links:

https://www.thalia.de/shop/home/artikeldetails/ID153031268.html

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/between-duty-and-the-devil-s-desires

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/between-duty-and-the-devils-desires-louisa-cornell/1140132068;jsessionid=DBEC4D334169240B3FB30BF395CDE115.prodny_store01-atgap03?ean=2940164546465

https://www.scribd.com/book/523104517/Between-Duty-and-the-Devil-s-Desires-A-Legend-to-Love-5

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1584440038

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Between+Duty+and+the+Devil%27s+Desires&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

 

A determined governess, a reluctant bridegroom, and a winter’s journey from London to Cheshire…Reputed to be the most exacting governess in England, Miss Elegy Perkins has cared for Lady Margaret, the spoiled daughter of the Marquess of Braemar, for twelve interminable years. Then she receives a life-changing offer that would bring her a prize of 5000 pounds and the chance at financial freedom. All she must do is find and escort Lady Margaret’s reluctant bridegroom to his wedding. A simple enough task, until she meets the bridegroom in question.Major Lord Devlin St. George has very little control of his life. For the past sixteen months he has done his utmost to avoid contracts, signed when he was a child, to leg-shackle him to the daughter of a wealthy marquess. Evading the efforts of his betrothed’s brothers to drag him to the altar, Devlin has successfully missed three wedding dates so far. The only thing that stands between him and missing a fourth is a pistol-wielding, strait-laced governess. A lady who is far more woman than she dares reveal.

IS IT HAUNTED? WELL OF COURSE IT IS! IT’S ENGLAND!

Generally, in England Halloween is not the celebrated holiday it is here in the United States. Of course, as happens all too frequently, it has crept Across the Pond and become more Americanized, but until recently there was simply no need to celebrate things that go bump in the night on one night of the year. Why? Because frankly when it comes to things that go bump in the night, Halloween is rather redundant in the UK. The entire island is a celebration of all things ghostly, ghoulish, and people who simply refuse to go into the light. One can hardly throw a rock without passing through the ghost of a Grey Lady, a White Lady, a Howling Banshee, or a Spectral Monk. However, even with all of this paranormal mayhem, there are certain rules which pertain to whom or what is more likely to be creeping about Mother England long after they might have gone on to the great tea room or pub in the sky.

Thus, we give you…

TEN RULES FOR HAUNTING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

1. If one is any of Henry VIII’s six wives and one has been born in, died in, grew up in, lived in, slept in, visited, been executed in or near, or even driven or ridden by a building one must haunt said building. Choice of dress color is optional—grey or white is preferred.

Haunted Gallery – Hampton Court Palace. Katherine Howard is said to have escaped her guards and run down this gallery to catch Henry VIII in the chapel and beg for his mercy. Her ghost is said to repeat this last path over and over again.

 

 

Amberley Castle. A servant girl named Emily was supposedly impregnated by a bishop and tossed aside. She, therefore, tossed herself off one of the towers to her death. She is sometimes seen roaming the halls. More often seen repeating her leap from the tower.

2. If one is a servant in a particular house and one dies of either lingering disease or preferably some sort of gruesome death over unrequited love, being unjustly accused of theft, or the master (or his son) has got you in a delicate condition one must haunt said house—hanging oneself over and over again is good. Throwing oneself off a tower only to disappear is better. If it is accompanied by a great deal of weeping and moaning it is better still.

 

 

3. If one is a highwayman or other notorious outlaw and one has died at the hands of either the hangman or the militia in a desperate chase and shootout one is condemned to haunt either the place of execution or, even better, one is condemned to ride up and down the stretch of road one frequented or upon which one finally met one’s end. One’s horse is apparently condemned as well. Shouting “Stand and Deliver!” is optional.

Dartford Heath – Said to be haunted by Dick Turpin and other highwaymen who can be heard riding through the mist of an evening.

 

4. If one met one’s end in a pub or tavern, especially in some sort of tavern brawl or affair of honor, one must stop by said pub periodically. Not for a pint, but to scare the bejeesus out of the current patrons. If one is a tavern maid who was murdered in said establishment, committed suicide in said establishment, got lost on the way home from said establishment, or went walking out with the wrong patron from said establishment then one is condemned to hang around and give the place character as well. One is not allowed to drink whilst haunting, which seems a bit unfair, but those are the rules.

The Ostrich in Colnbrook Photograph taken 1905 © Crown Copyright.EH ref: OP14241
Over 900 years as a coaching inn and pub. Some 60 or more murders are attributed to a 17th century innkeeper and his wife. Is there any way The Ostrich isn’t haunted?

 

5. If one fought (and died, of course) on any of the numerous battlefields in the UK there is always the chance one might be condemned to haunt said battlefield. Loss of limb, or especially loss of one’s head is a certain bet one will be required to hang around said battlefield for eternity looking for one’s missing parts. Sending one’s horse to gallop about unseen in the mist is a possible out. Rattling one’s saber, firing cannons, and shouting “Charge!” are a safe bet.

 

The Battlefield at Culloden is said to be haunted by soldiers who died in battle there in 1746. It is said one can hear the sounds of pipes and drums and shouted battle cries at sunset.

 

 

6. If one was a monk or nun and died in the area of a monastery or abbey, the more gruesome one’s death the more likely one must haunt said monastery or abbey. Murdered by a king or at a king’s behest is guaranteed employment as a ghost for eternity. Especially if one’s death was particularly bloody and took place in said monastery or abbey. However, it is possible, if one was a monk or nun one is simply choosing to haunt said monastery or abbey. Apparently, monks and nuns have a great deal of trouble moving on.

Whitby Abbey – site of a spectral monk and inspiration for one of the locations in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

 

7. If one is the lady of the house, especially a castle or a stately home—the older the better, and one meets an unfortunate end, one might be required to haunt said castle or house. Murdered by a wicked husband, becoming ill after suffering a jilting or loss in love, being stood up at the altar and falling into a fatal decline, committing suicide by leaping from the tower, parapet or a particularly high window—any and all of these will do. Grey or white are the dress colors preferred, although red will do in a pinch. Oh, and if one had a dog of which one was particularly fond, said dog might be condemned to walk the parapets with one. On rare occasion said ghost dog might be heard howling in despair on the anniversary of his mistress’s death.

Samlesbury Hall – Haunted by the White Lady, Dorothy Southworth, whose Catholic family killed her Protestant lover the night they were to meet and elope. She is said to haunt the hall in search of her lover.

 

8. Moors in England are required, I do believe it is by law, to have at least one creature (known origins optional) to haunt said moor and frighten anyone unfortunate enough to venture out onto said moor, especially in the evening or at night. A moor might be haunted by a hound of unusual size and ferocity, a pack of hunting dogs lost by a careless master, a fiery horse (rider optional) lost in the bogs of the moor, Celtish or Roman warriors trapped in the bogs over the centuries, a howling creature of unknown origins or anyone ever lost or body-dumped on the moors by a savvy, but cold-hearted killer.

Dartmoor – The Moor – Home to Baskerville Hounds, witches burned or hanged or drowned and even a few Roman soldiers who never made it home.

 

Tower of London – White Chapel – The bodies of the Two Princes murdered by their Uncle Richard to obtain the crown were reportedly found here. The Princes are said to haunt the Tower, especially the chapel.

9. Should one be a member of the royal family on one’s death, one is very nearly required to haunt various royal residences. This is especially true if one has suffered a horrible death or one has suffered the loss by terrible or premature death of one’s child or spouse. Should one be a royal murdered by yet another royal for reasons of royal coup or simply a family feud got out of hand, one is far more likely to be compelled to haunt. Crowns, and sometimes even heads, are optional. Oh, and if one is numbered amongst those bad kings or queens, one is simply doomed to haunt, just saying. Apparently dead royals are nearly as bad as monks and nuns about moving on.

 

 

10. Dying at Number 50 Berkeley Square apparently guarantees one a spot on the haunting roster. Whether one’s death was horrible, frightening, or merely sad one has no choice but to linger around for eternity and wait one’s turn to disturb the peace of the house. There are so many spirits at this address there must be a ghostly social secretary to keep everyone in order. However, one is guaranteed a deal of privacy as hauntings are only allowed on the fourth floor and, apparently, the police, in typical British fashion have posted a sign in the house forbidding anyone to climb to the fourth floor.

“You say the rooms are haunted? Well, don’t go into those rooms!”

Number 50 is considered the most haunted house in London, but according to those who work at antiquarian booksellers Maggs Bros. Ltd., housed at this address for many years, nothing untoward has ever happened. Then again, they never venture onto the fourth floor. Ever. Would you?

Check out theparanormalguide.com for more information and great research on No. 50 Berkeley Square and other haunted places in Britain.

There you have it, a few rules for haunting in the UK. Even with the rules, those of us who love England might not find it too terrible a task to spend eternity there. Some of us would spend our years left with the living haunting England, if funds and time would allow! Stay tuned for a few in depth looks at some haunted spots in our favorite place on earth!

A Regency Road Trip Story with a Side of Romance Legend (and a Twist)

I love a good road trip movie. From It Happened One Night to Romancing the Stone a witty battle between two people forced to travel together under the most impossible of conditions is a comfort watch for me. Everything that can go wrong usually does, and when it ends up crashing those people directly into love? Even better!

When I decided to write a road trip romance novel set in the Regency I discovered there was a great deal more research involved than I ever would have believed. A coach trip off the main roads from London to Cheshire in November of 1815? Yikes! I had to find out how far a heavy travel coach might go in a single day. (Thirty to forty miles.) I had to research which coaching inns might be available along the way. (Quite a few.) I also researched what the weather was like in November of 1815. (Cold, damp, and snowy.)

Between Duty and the Devil’s Desires ended up being one of my favorite books to write. One of the perks of researching for this story was my discovery of a series of little known coaching inns, still in operation as pubs today, with some fascinating histories. Histories which I thought I’d share in a series of blog posts. Especially appropriate for late September and early October as most of these histories involve ghost stories associated with each inn!

Excerpt from: Between Duty and the Devil’s Desires

The lady had a pistol.

Devlin had to admit it gave him pause. He’d had women throw vases at him—with and without flowers. Women often threw themselves at him. They’d thrown hairbrushes, slippers, jewelry, glasses of wine, a bottle of brandy, and even a singularly unattractive porcelain shepherdess. In all his thirty years, not a single woman of his acquaintance had ever pointed a pistol at him. He’d found it… arousing. Until she pulled the hammer back.

“Shall we, my lord?” She waved the pistol, a weapon she gave every sign she was accustomed to wielding, in the direction of the stable door and then brought it back to bear on him.

“One wonders what sort of people you keep company with, madam, that you needs must carry a pistol,” he said.

She gave him an inspective perusal, from his bare feet and legs, to his misbuttoned buckskins, over his open waistcoat and cutaway, to the neck of his shirt, agape and sans neckcloth. Her blue-green eyes, sharp and hard as polished jade, missed not a thing. And said a great deal.

“Point taken,” he said and tapped two fingers to his brow in salute.

 

This scene takes place at The Spaniard’s Inn, just outside of London. This particular establishment has already been featured on Number One London in a previous post. You can check it out here:

http://numberonelondon.net/2021/04/historic-pub-crawl-the-spaniards-inn/

 

Excerpt from: Between Duty and the Devil’s Desires

“My chamber has no windows, Miss Perkins,” he started.

“Not at all surprising, considering what happened at the Spaniard’s Inn this morning,” she replied.

“You knew?”

“I suspected. I did move your boots to the door.”

“You are a hard-hearted woman.”

“I am woman who trusts her instincts and her intellect. After all, on 12th November last year, you plied Lord Ethan Vines with enough beer, claret, and port to flood London again and left him insensible against your chamber door whilst you escaped out the window not to be seen again until the Duchess of Devonshire’s Christmas Ball at Chatsworth. Thereby missing your wedding on 18th November. Here we are, Lord Hadley. Do try and get some sleep. We have an early start tomorrow.” She’d managed to finish her entire recitation as smoothly as if she were lecturing Lady Margaret on proper ball etiquette. No mean feat when a man who exuded strength and barely contained carnal vitality at every step he took, seared her with every glance he turned on her.

“Good God, woman, does the Home Office know about you? How do you know…” He fell silent and ignored the chamber door George had unlocked and opened for him. “Miss Perkins,” he said as if for the first time. “Miss Elegy Perkins.”

Oh dear.

“You are Lady Margaret’s own governess.” His eyes widened, alight with humor and admiration. “You are Perfect Perkins, the most notorious governess in England.”

“Hardly notorious, my lord.” She’d never intended to give him her name, let alone have him recognize her by her reputation. She slipped her arm from his.

“To any man even attempting to speak with Lady Margaret you are notorious, Miss Perkins. You pushed Reggie Vandiver-Smythe into the Serpentine for attempting to kiss her hand.”

“It wasn’t her hand he was attempting to kiss. And once you and she are lawfully wed, you will be responsible for keeping rakes like Reggie Vandiver-Smythe away from her.”

“You are the reason she has not thrown me over for some other man more than willing to marry her. This is all your fault.”

 

This scene takes place at The George and Dragon in the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

 

 

 

 

The current building dates back to 1720, but an inn has been situated on the site since the 14th century. The building, the location, and nearly the entire village are so lovely and historic that nearly all of it is owned by the National Trust. Nearby, one of the area’s most fascinating attractions is the West Wycombe Caves, better known as the Hellfire Caves due to their association with the notorious Hellfire Club led by Sir Francis Dashwood. It is said the labyrinth of caves led to passageways under West Wycombe Park, the home of the club’s infamous leader.

Here is a great gallery of photos of the caves.

https://www.hellfirecaves.co.uk/gallery

This gentlemen’s club gained infamy throughout the British Isles during the 18th and early 19th centuries for its practices of debauchery, orgies, generous imbibing of drugs and alcohol, and according to some stories the practice of pagan rituals and witchcraft-including human sacrifice, although that aspect of their activities was never actually proven.

Members of the club were known to visit The George and Dragon during their visits to Sir Francis Dashwood’s home for the Hellfire Club festivities.

West Wycombe Park

For further reading on the club and its activities might I suggest:

The Hell-Fire Clubs: A History of Anti-Morality by Geoffrey Ashe

The Hell-Fire Friars by Gerald Suster

The Hell-Fire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies by Evelyn Lord

Of course, like any good historical inn, The George and Dragon has a couple of creatures about that go bump in the night. One is said to be the ghost of a patron who was robbed and murdered at The George. He makes himself known by his heavy footsteps going up and down the main staircase. One hears his approach from behind, but when one turns not a soul is there. Or is there?

The most famous spectre associated with the George and Dragon is that of Sukie, a servant at the inn during the 18th century. Sukie, an incredibly attractive young woman, had higher ambitions than an entire life of servitude at a country inn. She was said to be quite keen to use her beauty as a means to find a better life. Her ultimate goal? A life as a rich man’s mistress or wife. As a result she spurned the attentions of the local boys and set her sights on the wealthy patrons who stopped at the inn on their way to and from London.

According to the story, one night a quite rich and handsome young gentlemen stopped at the inn and quickly became enamored of Sukie. They began to see each other at the tavern on the first floor of the inn on a regular basis. Sukie was certain she had found her way out of a life of poverty and servitude. Unfortunately her spurned local beaus joined forces to play a trick on the young maid in order to get revenge on her for turning her nose up at their advances.

It is said they bribed another servant to tell Sukie her rich suitor wanted her to meet him, dressed in a gown for a wedding no less, at the entrance of the West Wycombe Caves from which they would elope. Of course when she arrived there was no handsome suitor waiting, only three local lads drunk as lords and mocking her. There are two versions of the story at this point. In one, they chase Sukie into the caves, smash her lantern, and leave her to stumble about in terror. When she falls in the dark and hits her head, the would-be beaus sober up quickly and carry her back to the village, but it is too late. She dies of her injuries in her bed at the inn. In another version there is an argument at the mouth of the cave that turns violent and Sukie is struck on the head. One of the boys goes for the doctor whilst the other two carry her back to the inn where she dies in her bed dressed in her wedding gown not long after the doctor arrives.

Entrance to the coaching inn of The George and Dragon
Interior courtyard of The George and Dragon Inn
Bedchamber in The George and Dragon

Unexplained incidents began to happen in Sukie’s old room soon after her death. Two other maids were so terrified by these incidents they demanded to move rooms. Soon visitors to the inn reported the presence of a young woman in a white dress wandering the corridors all hours of the night in search of her handsome suitor.

There is no mention of Sukie in Between Duty and the Devil’s Desires. I suspect the ghostly maid felt Miss Perkins more than had her hands full with Major Lord Devlin St. George !

My next post will be on the second stop on Devlin and Elegy’s journey – The White House, also known as The Marlborough Arms on the road between Bladon and Woodstock in Oxfordshire. Should you wish to go along on their journey you will find Between Duty and the Devil’s Desires at the following links:

https://www.thalia.de/shop/home/artikeldetails/ID153031268.html

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/between-duty-and-the-devil-s-desires

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/between-duty-and-the-devils-desires-louisa-cornell/1140132068;jsessionid=DBEC4D334169240B3FB30BF395CDE115.prodny_store01-atgap03?ean=2940164546465

https://www.scribd.com/book/523104517/Between-Duty-and-the-Devil-s-Desires-A-Legend-to-Love-5

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1584440038

https://www.amazon.com/Between-Duty-Devils-Desires-Legend-ebook/dp/B07GXG2F9W/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Between+Duty+and+the+Devil%27s+Desires&qid=1631028636&sr=8-1

A determined governess, a reluctant bridegroom, and a winter’s journey from London to Cheshire…Reputed to be the most exacting governess in England, Miss Elegy Perkins has cared for Lady Margaret, the spoiled daughter of the Marquess of Braemar, for twelve interminable years. Then she receives a life-changing offer that would bring her a prize of 5000 pounds and the chance at financial freedom. All she must do is find and escort Lady Margaret’s reluctant bridegroom to his wedding. A simple enough task, until she meets the bridegroom in question.Major Lord Devlin St. George has very little control of his life. For the past sixteen months he has done his utmost to avoid contracts, signed when he was a child, to leg-shackle him to the daughter of a wealthy marquess. Evading the efforts of his betrothed’s brothers to drag him to the altar, Devlin has successfully missed three wedding dates so far. The only thing that stands between him and missing a fourth is a pistol-wielding, strait-laced governess. A lady who is far more woman than she dares reveal.

 

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT . . . . 24 HOURS IN THE PAST?

24 Hours in the Past is a BBC One living history TV series first broadcast in 2015. Six quasi-celebrities were immersed in a recreation of impoverished life in Victorian Britain. Each of the four episodes represented 24 hours living and working in four different occupations – dust yard (filmed at the Black Country Living Museum), coaching inn (the New Inn at Stowe), potteries (the Gladstone Pottery Museum) and the work house (Workhouse Museum in Southwell).  You can watch the first episode at the link below – all four episodes are available on YouTube.