Regency Historicals are almost always set in what we know as Great Britain. Back in my time period unity had not yet arrived and we had England (with Wales absorbed), Scotland, and Ireland. The internet has made researching locations fantastically easier than it was in the 1970’s when I started writing. Most towns now have websites or businesses that have websites and all of these usually have a “Contact” button. When I was writing Honour’s Choice I set the first half of the book in Lewes in the shire of Sussex in southern England—it has boundaries on the English Channel. Lewes at that time didn’t have a website but their historical society did. I “contacted” them and found a treasure trove of information. One of the curators mailed me a book on the history of Lewes, A walking map, a copy of an 1810 map and several typed sheets of information from the early 1800’s. For instance it had a population of 5200 in 1801 and that grew to 6500 by 1811. I was interested in shops and got not only shops, but addresses. The Palmer family were hatters starting with Grandfather Richard in 1750 and going through his grandson John in the 1820s. Thomas Marten on Fisher Street Corner authored “Quakerism No Delusion” and bartered hats, bedcovers and Dowlais (I think this means iron products made by the ironmonger in Dowlais Wales).

For Honour’s Redemption I needed information on Blewbury (in 1810 in Berkshire) now in Oxfordshire England where the story began and also on Whitby in Yorkshire in England where it ended. I researched both places and found little on Blewbury until I came across the local newspaper’s website. I again clicked on “contact” and subsequently received an email for the editor recommending I contact his wife, Audrey. When I emailed her I learned they had just moved from Whitby to Blewbury so I an information source on both places. She mailed me a book This Venerable Village Blewbury along with several xeroxed pages on St. Michael’s Church in Blewbury—the father of my heroine was the vicar there. The actual vicar at the time of my story was John Keble whose father was the John Keble of the Oxford Movement This was a group of high Anglican clergy who eventually turned to the Catholic Church. Newman University here in Wichita is named for one of their more famous members John Newman.

While Audrey gave me invaluable information on Whitby in Yorkshire – northern most England . Here is part of an email from her

Here's a short description of the weather in Autumn (or Fall) in the Whitby area. Down here the days will be gettting shorter, with the sun setting by 7 at the end of the month. There will almost never be any frost though the temperature could get quite low by early morning. There'll be rain of course, but not usually really heavy. The leaves will be turning colour, though the vivid colours don't usually occur until early November - an early frost can bring the leaves down overnight then. During the day we can often have brilliant blue skies, but the temperature is usually under 20 deg. Celsius. Sometimes there can be slightly foggy days, with low-lying mist. There is a road from here which goes along the edge of the Downs, towards Reading, and I've several times come to the top of Kingstanding Hill and looked down towards the Thames Valley, looking down at a beautiful white cloud totally obscuring the valley while at the top we are in brilliant sunshine.

The weather in the Whitby area is almost always a degree or two colder, and Spring comes a little later and winter a couple of weeks sooner. The main difference is the wind. We lived for a time in Saltburn, which is on the coast somewhat North of Whitby, and the wind there had a biting edge to it which could chill you to the marrow in next to no time. The other peculiarity about that whole coastline is the Haugh, the sea-mist or fret which can cover the whole coastal area for 2 or 3 miles inland from the sea. It can stay for days at a time even when only 5 miles inland there could be clear sunshine.

Actually, we love Whitby and that area. It has an air of independence because it is cut off from any other large cities, and it has the most dramatic Abbey on the hill above the town. These days I personally find its mixture of seaside tat and Kiss-me-Quick hats and fish and chips with the more up-market jet shops and the Abbey very appealing!"

One problem I had with Whitby was that I needed very detailed information on the abbey ruins there for running battle through it. From one web site contact I received all the maps etc I could ever want and gorgeous photos. I just have to buy the gentleman that sent them a “brew” whenever I visit Whitby which I hope to do one day!


Reese Mobley said...

Too cool, Joan! Ask and you shall receive. Talk about getting the inside scoop and to top it off, you made some wonderful friends just by asking for a little bit of information. Do you still correspond with them?

Rox Delaney said...

It's not only fantastic that these wonderful people shared their information with you, but that someone 200 years ago kept such super records and written accounts.

Well done, Joan!

Joan Vincent said...

I did correspond with Audrey regularly for over a year but sadly have let that slip away. Now I am inspired to reach out to her again. You can imagine how thrilled I was to find her in the first place.

Joan Vincent said...

Rox, People have been phenomenally generous. When I was trying to find out where the Royal Agricultural Society met and when in 1810 two gentlemen from that group told me to find a specific book. Unfortunately in the states that title was a book of poetry and not RAS history. When I emailed that they told me the book was too heavy to mail to me and they'd see what they could do. Several days later I got an email from them with several attachments that had all and more of the info I needed. They either scanned or keyed in pages and pages of info, bless them.
The record keeping is there, I believe, because their country is sooo much older than ours.

Penny Rader said...

How lucky to have found such wonderful sources. I hope you're able to share a brew with the gentleman soon.

Melissa Robbins said...

That's awesome they were willing to help you with the locations. I use Google Earth a lot. I can move that little guy to stand where I want my character to stand and see the view.

Nina Sipes said...

A kiss me quick hat? That paints a picture. Wonder what it actually is. I love the interaction we sometimes get from foreigners who work the harvest. They're all delightful in their words and customs. What fun it must have been for you to get the chance to see history in such a way.

Pat Davids said...

I've always wanted to travel the byways and rural roads of England. I'm pretty sure my only trip there will be via a book, but one can hope.

Joan Vincent said...

That's my dream too Pat. The sinking dollar sank our original plans to go but I still hold out hope of making it in the future.