A new home for my blog!

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My blog has a new home on my new website!

Note: if you comment from this point forward on this blogger blog, I will likely not see it. All these posts are on my website now, so please comment there. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Here's a quick round up of news on a wet day in Oxfordshire!

First up, thank you to everyone who entered yesterday's blog contest to win a copy of Whisper of Scandal and the beautiful bookmark kindly donated by Mary Gramlich. The winner, chosen as ever by Monty the dog, was Zaziah! Congratulations!

Next book news, and the lovely Renee Olsthoorn has let me know that Confessions of a Duchess has just been published in Dutch and the other Brides of Fortune books are to follow. Thank you, Renee! It's always great to hear about foreign editions because I usually don't know until my copies arrive.

Today it is pouring with rain but at the weekend it was beautiful weather and I had the pleasure of a visit from romantic comedy author and fellow history enthusiast Victoria Connelly. Here is Victoria and her adorable dog Molly at my all time favourite historic house, Ashdown (of course!) No, I wasn't holding the camera at an angle - the house really is built on a slope!

Today is my last blog post for a couple of weeks whilst A Passion for History migrates to my exciting new website. Please come and join me there (http://www.nicolacornick.co.uk/) when I launch the week of 23rd August! There will be the usual mix of history, news, contests and chat and I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. I'd like to thank all my blog visitors very much for making the Passion for History Blog such fun. See you soon!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Regency Country Cottage!

Today I am blogging at the Word Wenches on the Regency country cottage and the fact that the "mean habitations" of the villagers were a far cry from the rustic prettiness of the "gentleman's cottage." Visit the Word Wenches blog here!

Meanwhile I have a giveaway here on the blog! Mary Gramlich "The Reading Reviewer" located at www.marygramlich.com has very kindly donated her Advanced Reading Copy of Whisper of Scandal along with a lovely book mark to celebrate the start next month of my new series. If you would like to enter the contest for this ARC please go to her website and tell me what there is a picture of at the bottom left hand corner of her home page. Clue: It's most appropriate for "The Reading Reviewer"! Email me the answer at ncornick@madasafish.com for the chance to win!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wayward Women!

Thank you very much to all those who volunteered to help me test drive my new website!

Today I am blogging at the UK Historical Authors Blog about women travellers in the late 18th and early 19th century. Yes the photo is taken rather later than that (!) but I thought it summed up the intrepid spirit!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Plea for Help!

Hello! Today I'm asking for help with a spot of website testing. I have a brand new, gorgeous website coming soon and next week we need to test it to make sure there are no problems before launch. What I am looking for is people who enjoy reading historical romance books and who can also:

Spend 1-2 hours on the site, see if all the links work, surf around and report anything confusing, spot any errors or typos and give an overall impression of the site. I'll want people to be honest. I'm (not) thick skinned but I need to know anyway. Did you get bored? Did you get frustrated? Did you get lost? Did you love it? Did you want more? Is anything missing?

If you would like to help, please email me on ncornick@madasafish.com and I will send you all the details. I'm really excited about the site and want to make sure it's ready for launch.

And as a sign of my appreciation I am offering all my testers a small gift to say thank you for your work - an Amazon book token. Because you can never have too many books!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lost in a Forest

There aren't many places in England (as opposed to the UK) where you can still get lost in a wilderness and there are even fewer ancient forests where you can wander for hours without seeing another person. Savernake Forest is one of those few remaining places.

Last weekend we were on another of our "butterflies and history" trips, this time in pursuit of the Purple Emperor, a fabulous gold and purple butterfly that lives in the tree canopy where it feeds on aphid honeydew. Occasionally it will come down to the ground to find sap or in the case of the male, animal droppings, carrion or moist ground to provide salts and minerals. Apparently people will often try and lure the males down from the canopy using everything from banana skins to shrimp paste. I hadn't read this when we set off and so had neither shrimps nor bananas and although we had our own animal with us there were no droppings so perhaps not surprisingly we didn't see a Purple Emperor but we did have a magnificent time wandering in the ancient woodland.

No-one can say how old Savernake Forest is. It pre-dates the Norman Conquest of 1066 and there is a reference to it as "Safernoc" in a Saxon Charter from King Athelstan in 934AD. After 1066 the wardenship of the forest was given to Richard Esturmy, a Norman knight, and Savernake Forest has passed down from father to son or daughter in an unbroken line for 31 generations, never once being bought or sold in a thousand years. Today it is the only Forest in Britain still in private hands.

One of Savernake's claims to fame is that it was here, at the fabulously named Wolf Hall, that Henry VIII courted Jane Seymour (although they apparently met at Littlecote House nearby). Wolf Hall, referred to as Ulfela, in the Domesday Book of 1086 was the ancestral home of the Wardens of the Forest, first the Esturmys and then the Seymours, who came to it via the female line. Local tradition states that Jane and Henry married in the ancient barn at Wolf Hall although it is more likely that a wedding feast was held there in celebration. The barn survived into the 20th century and when it burned down in the 1920s it apparently still had the hooks on which the wedding decorations and tapestries had hung. The Seymours had left Wolf Hall to live in Tottenham Lodge by 1575 (for a while it was given over to servant accommodation) and in 1665 it was partially demolished to help rebuild Tottenham Park after fire damage. The picture above left is a postcard of Wolf Hall from the early 20th century and the one on the right is the 16th century barn. The name Wolf Hall could have several derivations: either from "Wulfan -heall" (Wulfa's hall or palace) or "wulfan-healh" (a corner of land frequented by wolves). Wolves were common in the Savernake Forest until the 14th century, a fact which is all too easy to imagine as you walk along the leafy paths deep within green darkness.

By the 18th century the forest had come into the ownership of the Bruce family through marriage with the Seymours and a "new" Tottenham House was built in 1742 to a design by Lord Burlington. The family rose in prominence and Thomas Brudenell-Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury, was Governor to the Prince of Wales (later George IV) and Prince Frederick. The Earl employed Lancelot 'Capability' Brown to plant huge beech avenues in Savernake Forest including the Grand Avenue which runs through the heart of the Forest and at 3.9 miles (dead straight) stands in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest avenue in Britain. Capability Brown's intention was that the forest should be made part of the parkland of Tottenham House. The scattered coppices, meadows, scrub, and heath should be united, into "one great whole." Ancient ponds and wooded glades for animal grazing were all turned into landscape features and other drives and avenues cut through the forest. In 1820 Tottenham House was redesigned again, this time as a grand Palladian mansion, building a much larger structure around the older Burlington house and covering the old bricks with blocks of Bath stone. In 1870 two large symmetrical wings were also added completing the extraordinarily grand house that still stands today.

Facing Tottenham House, on a hilltop at the end of another long avenue, is the Ailesbury Column, erected in the 1770s to commemorate the restoration "to perfect health from a long and afflicting disorder" of his majesty King George III. I blogged about this recently on the UK Regency Authors' Blog in a post about the celebrations on the recovery of George III. This was where we stopped to have our picnic in the sunshine. The view down from the hilltop towards Tottenham House was stunning.

On our walk back through the forest (using GPS to find our way back to the car!) we passed a number of the huge, ancient oak trees for which Savernake is also famous. The oldest of these pollarded trees is the Big Belly Oak which has a girth of 11 metres and is 1000–1100 years old. Of a similar age is the Duke's Vaunt Oak, and other veteran trees we saw included the King Oak, the Queen Oak and the Pointing Oak. Savernake apparently has the largest collection of veteran trees in Europe and it is an amazing feeling to be walking amongst trees that would have been standing when King Henry VIII came here to hunt over this same ground.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Off to the Regency Races!

Here is a picture of Manchester racecourse during the nineteenth century. Today I'm blogging over at the Word Wenches about the Georgian and Regency experience of the races and race-going. As this is a blog about gambling there is an ARC of my new book Whisper of Scandal to be won! Please come and join me!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The case of the rival 17th century swimming pools!

Yes, I'm blogging about swimming again, which for someone who is afraid of water seems a bit odd. It must be all the hot and sunny weather we're having. But something caught my eye when I was reading the newspaper over the weekend and sent me off researching the gardens of Oxford and Cambridge colleges, a mysterious and secret world that is fascinating to explore.

And so to Emmanuel College Cambridge which claims that it has (probably!) the oldest swimming bath in the country that is still in use. This glorious little pool was in use as early as 1690 or possibly even earlier. A changing hut in the classical style was built about 1745 and the present thatched hut dates from the mid-19th century. By 1745 a 'plunge' was regarded as good for headache, and 'against the vapours and impotence'. In living memory the water in the pool was dark green with algae, so dark that a Fellow who liked to swim the whole length along the bottom complained that he lost his way. A line was painted to help him and known as Jones's Line. That sort of water quality doesn't sound very tempting and it's good to hear that these days the water is purified and re-circulated.

Emmanuel College's pool has a rival, however. In the paper this weekend was an article about the refurbishment of the pool at Christ's College. Archives there suggested that their Fellows' Bathing Pool was dug from the alluvial soil in a corner of the college garden in the mid-17th century. It was known to be in use by 1688, pipping Emmanuel by two years. The design of Christ College's bathing pool is classical with a perimeter decorated by busts of Christ's scholars including the astronomer Ralph Cudworth, poet John Milton, mathematician Nicholas Saunderson and polymath Joseph Mede.

Until its renovation earlier this year, Christ's pool was fed by Hobson's Conduit, a 400-year-old water course originally built to bring clean water into a disease ridden town. Over the past twenty years the pool had slipped into decline with various alternative uses being suggested including turning it into an ornamental duck pond. However it is now restored to its original beauty.
I like the idea of the rival colleges feverishly digging away in the mid 17th century to see who would be first with the bathing pool. Or possibly of Emmanuel College Fellows peering over the wall at Christ's College, envying them their new swimming pool, and wanting one of their own. No doubt the issue of which college, Emmanuel or Christ's, has the most ancient waters will continue to provoke debate!