|Belvedere House, Lough Ennell, just south of Mullingar in central Ireland|
I've been happily buzzing along in the writing of my new Jane Austen styled novel which I've set in Ireland in 1802, and I came across an interesting problem. Like all Jane Austen stories, my country family must travel to town for the social season. So I need to move my family from Athlone to Dublin.
This meant I needed to research the roads of Ireland in 1800, which carriage a family of high status might use, and where they might stop in the middle of their 90 mile journey. Fortunately, Ireland has amazing online archives and I was able to download such items as Taylor and Skinner's Maps of the Roads of Ireland - Surveyed in 1777.
I was able to map out exactly which roads they might take, the quality of the roads, the number of turnpikes, which was a charge for maintenance of a section of road where a man literally collected tolls and opened a gate to let you pass, and which distances were reasonable within a day, changing horses every 10-12 miles at the Irish equivalent of a coaching Inn.
I also read a tremendous amount about The Highway Act passed by Irish Parliament in 1614. I was amazed to learn that Ireland had a better system of roads than England during the Georgian era (1714-1830).
As quoted from a young English traveler in the 1780s:
"...for a country so very far behind us as Ireland to have got suddenly so much the start of us in the article of roads is a spectacle that cannot fail to strike the English traveller exceedingly."
So I plotted my characters route from Athlone to Dublin and found a central town for the family to stay the night.
|Map is from the Irish archive of roads in 1714. It's a fun map to play with if you desire.|
One of the houses has a fabulous history of a wicked Earl locking away his wife for thirty years and architectural mayhem due to jealousy over a brother's estate. So I chose Belvedere House, only a 1/2 hour carriage ride south of Mullingar as the family estate to host my characters for the night.
|Ariel view of Belvedere House, Lough Ennell and gardens/woods|
Thankfully, Belvedere House is now a public attraction and has a great website. So I looked at a bunch of pictures and read several different historical accounts of the house.
|I really like these curved wall rooms.|
|Belvedere House Interior of curved wall drawing room.|
|Belvedere House Interior of another room.|
Then I investigated the gardens and found a wonderful story about a ruined abbey folly in the gardens that was built by the wicked Earl to obstruct his view of his older brother's more magnificent estate. I thought this would be a great place for my young heroine to meet her first suitor. Jane Austen has a flair for dramatic entrances, so I thought I'd continue her tradition.
|Ruined Abbey Folly at Belvedere House - called "The Jealous Wall."|
What better place for two young lovers to first meet, than at "The Jealous Wall." Am I hinting at a wee bit of foreshadowing? Maybe...
Using locations to inspire stories - Woohoo!
This Novel Travelist is signing off until next time.