Kydd’s Home Town
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One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing the Kydd series has to be going on location research! (I know how lucky I am to be able to earn my living this way…)
This has taken the Stockwins all over the world – America, Canada, Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean, Europe. But, of course, quite a lot of location research is in the UK – and for Guildford, Kydd’s home town, I already knew the locale well, having lived there for a number of years before we moved to Devon. In fact I wrote the first three books in the Kydd series there.
Guildford has a long and proud history. It was founded by Saxon settlers shortly after Roman authority had been removed from Britain. The site was chosen because the Harrow Way crosses the River Wey at this point, via a ford. This gave rise to the second half of Guildford’s name; the first half, I’ve been told, probably came from the golden coloured sand at the bank of the river.
In some research locations that we visit it’s quite hard to peel away the layers of modernity but much of Kydd’s Guildford remains to this day; great inspiration for a novelist – and a treat for anyone interested in history.
You just have to walk up the cobbled High Street and you come to Holy Trinity Church and churchyard, which dates to medieval times, although the present structure was completed in classical style in 1763, thirty years before Tom Kydd was spirited away by the Press Gang. The graveyard was a useful source of Georgian names for me: a weathered and tilting marker with the name Tewsley carved into it gave me inspiration for ‘a lined, middle-aged lieutenant,’ aboard Duke William.
A magnificent black-faced clock, trimmed in gilt, projects out from the façade of the Guildhall, high above street level. The building was refronted in 1683 and contains a sixteenth-century courtroom and a seventeenth-century council chamber. It was near here that I placed the Kydd wig shop.
Just down the hill from the Guildhall is the Angel Posting House. The inn was a popular place of lodging for naval officers en route by coach from London to Portsmouth. Lord Nelson is said to have spent his last night in England in the Angel, writing a final letter to Emma Hamilton, before embarking aboard HMS Victory for Trafalgar and immortality. The Angel has a special connection for me for it was there that I first learned I was to be a published author! Kathy and I were having a drink in the bar when we got THE call from our agent Carole Blake… Cheers, Carole!
There are many other historical attractions in Guildford, including the ruins of a medieval castle. For centuries its stone walls and tower have kept a silent vigil not far from the River Wey. Kydd would have played there as a boy and Cecilia and Renzi inspected the Keep together.
Guildford has featured in a number of the Kydd books and will certainly do so in the future!
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