The Fox and Goose, Fressingfield

IMG_0265Crucial to the setting of ‘The Fressingfield Witch’, is The Fox and Goose Inn which nestles in front of the churchyard. Formerly the guildhall of St Margaret of Antioch, the structure was built around 1509 and has been a public house since 1710. The side facing the churchyard is an attractive mix of brick and timbers and there is an interesting carved corner post with the figure of Saint Margaret on the church side of the building. The post, quite naturally, appears worn and I worked it into the book with one of the characters touching it for luck.

The village of Fressingfield in the book is populated with real inhabitants from the 1891 census, mostly where they do not play a lead role – and even sometimes where they do. The publican in 1891 was  63-year-old Benjamin Powley from Burlingham, Norfolk, coincidentally bearing the same name as one of my nephews. Prior to that, he was victualler at ‘The Feathers’ in North Walsham.

Though serving as a public house, The Fox & Goose regularly hosted inquests. The following, extracted from The Ipswich Journal 8th November 1884, records the inquest following the death of Jonathan Carter, an integral event in ‘The Fressingfield Witch’:

Sudden Death – An inquest was held at the Fox and Goose Inn on Monday morning before C.W. Chaston, Esq upon the body of Jonathan Carter, agricultural labourer, aged 77 years. Harriet Corbyn stated that the deceased, who was her brother, had lived with her and her husband for the last four years; he had had fair health and witness had not heard him complain. He left home about nine a.m. on Saturday to be shaved, which was the last time the witness saw him alive. Several of the family had died of heart disease. Deceased had not for a long time been attended by a medical man. Harriet King, widow, said that as she was walking through the churchyard on Saturday morning, about 10 o’clock, she noticed someone lying on the path, and on going up found it was the deceased. She spoke to him, but receiving no answer she went at once for assistance. John Edwards, baker, said that in consequence of what the last witness said to him on Saturday, he went into the churchyard and found the deceased lying as described. He breathed twice, and almost immediately afterwards expired. Dr Anderson stated that he had made an external examination of the body, and found no marks of violence. Judging from his experience and from the evidence given, he was of the opinion that death was caused by sudden failure of the heart’s action. The jury returned a verdict accordingly. 

Today, The Fox & Goose is a popular, friendly restaurant attracting a range of satisfied customers and even coming to the notice of The Telegraph. It is a far cry from the place of torture assigned to its upper floor in the book – a place where Matthew Hopkins accused Faith Mills of witchcraft and tried to extract a confession using the cruellest methods. Nowadays, the only cruelty is having to choose from so many delicious menu options. Time has moved on, in a good way.

 

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The Fressingfield Witch…

… and it’s here courtesy of Publishnation who have helped me hit my target of publication by the end of October.

The Fressingfield Witch is a work of fiction based on a series of factual events from the 1890’s. It takes place in Suffolk, England. As usual, one or two of the characters come from my own family tree and the crime is solved with a combination of sleuthing and genealogy.  The book blurb is below:

“During the 1645 Suffolk witch trials, hundreds of innocent women were convicted. Death and uncertainty stalked the land. 

Fast forward to 1890 and two mysterious deaths in the village of Fressingfield stir up rumours of witchcraft again. Lawrence Harpham is dispatched from Bury St Edmunds to investigate. But Lawrence is still tormented by the tragic loss of his family in a house fire. Can he overcome his own demons and discover who is behind the flurry of deaths? 

The Fressingfield Witch is a fictional murder mystery based on true events. Two of Suffolk’s darkest cases of witchcraft are weaved together in one compelling story.”

The Fressingfield Witch can be purchased through the Amazon Kindle Store or  Lulu Publishing

Fressingfield Witch cover small snip

 

 

 

English Murder Mysteries

Agatha ChristieChecking through my Goodreads books yesterday, I realised how deeply entrenched my book tastes have become.  Everything I enjoy most is set in England and involves a good old-fashioned murder, preferably not too graphic.  Not surprising really since I was bought up on a diet of Agatha Christie & P G Wodehouse.

This intransigent reading habit was one of several reasons I joined a book club.  I thought it would be good to expose myself to other genres.  In the last six months I have read A history of Lonliness, The Cellist of Sarajevo, Rebecca, The Life of a Banana, Tuesdays with Morrie and The Boy that Never was.  And a depressing bunch of books they are, let me tell you.  Rebecca is the shining star amongst them (although I enjoyed The Cellist of Sarajevo).  But if there’s one thing I have learned from the book club experience, it’s that I like what I like.  It may not be highbrow literature, it’s not Booker prize winning stuff, but the books I love have a beginning, a middle and an end – and above all else, they have a plot!

So it’s English murder mysteries all the way for me, particularly anything with a family history or genealogical twist.  My top six of all time, in no particular order, are:

Agatha Christie – Crooked House

Robert Goddard – Past Caring

Val McDermid – The Wire in the Blood

Susan Hill – The Various Haunts of Men

James Ruddick – Death at the Priory

Dan Waddell – The Blood Detective

I’m sure there are many deserving English murder mysteries that should be on the list.  There are several up and coming genealogy writers (Nathan Dylan Goodwin springs to mind) and some debut authors (Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train) who have captured my attention.  Who are the best all time English murder mystery writers?  Your suggestions would be appreciated.

Vote For Murder – Available Now

Front cover snipIn the Spring of 1911, suffragist Louisa Russell finds an old diary in a box of artefacts, while attending a census evasion night at the Old Museum in Ipswich. The diary recounts the last days of Mary Emily Cage, executed for the murder of her husband six decades earlier.

When Louisa’s next door neighbour, Charles Drummond, dies under suspicious circumstances, the parallels between the two deaths become impossible to ignore.  But can two deaths sixty years apart be linked?  And can Louisa find the poisoner before an innocent woman is convicted?

Vote for murder is based on a real poisoning by Suffolk murderess, Mary Cage.  Set in Ipswich in 1911, the novel brings together suffragism in the early 1900’s and a grisly, Victorian murder. Vote for Murder will appeal to readers of historical fiction, genealogical mysteries and Suffolk based crime books.

Available in the Amazon Kindle store now http://tinyurl.com/pbpzehr and will follow in paperback shortly.

Hacked Off

EAngAncMy other WordPress site has just been hacked; attacked by malicious software & closed down without warning yesterday, just like that. My web site host sent a blunt and somewhat complicated email last night; then relieved me of my monthly renewal fee this morning.

I’m still smarting at the injustice of it. I use an Antivirus; I am ultra- selective when uploading files & I run regular scans so it doesn’t seem fair that some backdoor virus has sneaked its way into the guts of my website. I backed it up, of course – but apparently I am not allowed to use the backups in case the site gets re-infected.

Did I mention it’s a genealogy site? A large genealogy site – I would tell you how large only I no longer have access to the statistics. I can still look longingly at it using the Wayback machine but it’s not the same.

I haven’t uploaded any new data for about 2 years. The site was large enough then but after 2 years of constant research & some fortunate removal of brick walls, I now have 43,892 individuals on my working tree. Take away those who may be living (bad manners to publish the living online) and those with whom I have a historical but not genetic interest, and there are still probably around 40,000 individual relatives. (Does that make me a record breaker in family history terms?)

It took me forever to upload half as many records two years ago and website hosting isn’t free, so I wonder whether it is worth all the time and frustration to put it back together again? And is there any point in a world where websites are destroyed just because somebody can?

I am a writer as well as a genealogist and am currently editing my first book for adults. It is a murder mystery set in the heart of Suffolk, beginning in the 1850’s and concluding during the 1900’s when the suffragettes were active in East Anglia. It is not only based on a true story, but features some of my relatives on www.eastanglianancestors.co.uk – or who would be featured if the site still existed. I would have enjoyed bringing the two ideas together.

So I’m licking my wounds and wondering whether to go through the painful process of reviving my dead website – or let it rest in peace. I am undecided; feedback would help. If you have relatives in Norfolk or Suffolk; if the names Bird, Fairweather, Corben, Dennis or Kersey have any meaning to you, drop me a line. My fragile ego needs stroking before I decide to grit my teeth and get on with it, or consign the website to history.

Update:  It has taken a few days to get over myself, but I have stopped sulking long enough to re-instate the website & although it has taken the best part of 4 days, it was nowhere near as difficult as I first thought.  The original website is back.  I will try to update the last 2 years worth of research in the near future.