Thursday, 30 January 2014

Lady Katherine Ferrers - The Wicked Lady of Markyate

Lady Katherine Ferrers


Lady Katherine Ferrers

“The Wicked Lady of Markyate”

There have been many reports of horses found in the fields surrounding the Markyate area in mornings, looking as though they had been ridden hard, tired and covered with foam. These horses were thought to have been ridden all night by the ghost of Lady Katherine Ferrers who has now become known as ‘The Wicked Lady’.
One winters night in December 1970 the manager of the Wicked Lady Pub, Douglas Payne, was out walking his dog on Nomansland Common when he heard the sound of a horse galloping fast towards him. The terrifying reaction of his dog told him that he was not imaging anything. Mr Payne looked but could see nothing at all. The galloping horse passed so close he felt as though he could have reached out and touched it.
For several generations Markyate Cell had been the home of the Ferrers family. Around 1635 only Sir Knighton and his elderly father, Sir George Ferrers, remained. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Sir Knighton married the beautiful heiress Lady Katherine Walters of Hertingford, but he died within the year and not seeing his child that Lady Katherine was carrying. Sir George Ferrers died a few months later they were both buried at Flamstead. Lady Katherine gave birth to a daughter whom she also named Katherine at Markyate Cell. Soon after, lady Katherine returned to her family’s home in Hertingford with the young baby. A rich young widow during the time the country was in the grip of Civil War was not to remain a widow for long, especially as many of the King’s supporters were hard driven to survive and desperate for money.  She was persuaded to marry a strong Royalist supporter Sir Simon Fanshawe of Ware Park. Soon Sir Simon Fanshawe was on the run from Cromwell’s men when Parliamentary forces overran Ware Park.
Markyate Cell
Lady Bethell at Hamerton in Huntingdonshire gave Lady Katherine and her small daughter refuge. The young Katherine was to remain with her mother there until she reached the age of twelve, which was the legal age for a girl to marry then. Sir Simon Fanshawe wanted to gain control of the young Katherine’s large estate and enlisted the help of a willing priest, John Laycock, to marry her to his sixteen year old son, Thomas Fanshawe – Katherine’s own stepbrother. The marriage was doomed from the start as young Thomas returned to the family estate in Ireland and Katherine remained with her mother and Lady Bethell until they both died. Aged eighteen the young Lady Katherine, alone and neglected by her husbands family, decided to return to live by herself back at her father’s home, Markyate Cell. It was here that she met the farmer Ralph Chaplin, also from Markyate, whose land overlooked the busy thoroughfare of Watling Street.
It was not unusual for young men from good families to be highwaymen as a means of earning another income. Ralph Chaplin, a dashing young fellow, farmer by day and notorious highwayman at night, must have made a great impression on the lonely, yet adventurous Katherine. Soon, Katherine was enjoying the thrills of being a highwaywoman.
Katherine hid her highwaywoman’s disguise in a secret room in Markyate Cell. Built into the kitchen chimney was a concealed staircase leading up to the secret room, and there was a secret passageway that led from her bedroom to the stables. By day Lady Katherine was the beautiful, young lady of the manor, but as night fell she wore her highway disguise and become the merciless highwaywoman who would stop at nothing, not even murder, to get her demands. She was said to hide in the trees and jump down upon her unexpected victims.
It’s not known how long or often Lady Katherine and Ralph Chaplin preyed on travellers around Markyate, but while out robbing a baggage wagon on Finchley Common, North London, Ralph Chaplin was shot dead. Overcome with grief and anger, Katherine terrorised the people of Markyate. She burnt down homes while the occupants slept, murdered the constable of Caddington on his own doorstep as he answered a summons, and farm animals were found slaughtered. The people and travellers in Markyate feared for their lives. No one would have thought that a beautiful rich young woman could do all this. lockwoodthewickedlady
On the way to the Inn at Guster Wood near Wheathampstead, the driver of a wagon full of supplies picked up two men in need of a lift. They climbed into the wagon and sat amongst the bales and baggage. Dusk was falling as they were passing through Nomansland Common where Lady Katherine lay waiting ready for ambush amongst the trees. She suddenly appeared and shot dead the driver without warning. Katherine still unaware of the passengers among the supplies and was fatally wounded when one of them shot her. Katherine fled ridding as fast as possible back to her home but died by the entrance to her secret door.
Her appearance and her black horse found roaming in the grounds identified her as the highwayman of Markyate. Lady Katherine’s body was taken secretly at night to the Church of St. Mary’s in Ware but was not laid to rest in the Fanshawe’s family vault. The door to her secret hide away was bricked up for more than a hundred years, when in 1840 part of the house was destroyed by fire, which was thought to have been caused by the ghost of Katherine. None of the local workmen would work there, so men were called in from London. They opened the entrance and broke down the oak door (later they found a hidden spring which would have easily opened the door). They were disappointed not to find anything but dust and cobwebs. They hoped to find the ill-gotten treasure that was reported to have been hidden in the grounds. There has been no report of the treasure being found, but there is a little rhyme that children in that part of Hertfordshire still sing today.
‘Near the cell there is a Well
Near the well there is a Tree
And under the Tree the Treasure be’
Markyate wasn’t free of Katherine for long, her ghost has been seen riding like the wind through Watling street and galloping as far as Kimpton, then swinging in the trees at the grounds of Markyate Cell. Mr Ady who lived there in 1894 repeatedly saw Lady Katherine’s ghost on the stairs and wished her good night. Once, seeing her with her arms stretched out in the doorway, he called to his wife who was outside “now we’ve caught her!” and they rushed upon her from both sides, but caught nothing. When the Markyate bypass was being made in 1957 a workman found himself warming his hands with a young man with long dark hair, slim in build, and wearing a dark knee length cloak with ornate clasps and long leather boots. The young man promptly disappeared. In 1912 a night watchman gave the same description again when the council were extending the sewer from the High Street to Hicks Road.
Separating the fact from fiction…
Did she dislike her young bridegroom? Did he ignore her wishes and waste her wealth? Did his bored young wife fall in love with a highwayman who introduced her to a thrilling life of crime? This is the stuff of legend and fiction which has grown more elaborate in the retelling. There are no authentic documents to confirm or deny the film fantasies. Many of the stories being published seem to be based very much on what appeared in the original film, which, in turn, relied on a novel (The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall).
What we DO have to examine are the deeds and legal paraphernalia about land transactions – the Fanshawes certainly sold off Katherine’s inheritance. Her manor at Flamstead, for instance, came on the market in 1654 and Markyate Cell and the farms around were disposed of in 1655.By 1660 the Fanshawes were unexpectedly back in favour. Cromwell had died, and before long the monarchy was restored to power. King Charles II was welcomed back to London in May 1680 and the following year Thomas Fanshawe was created a Knight of the Bath by a grateful monarch. He deserved that reward…not only had the Fanshawe family fought and suffered for the King but Thomas himself, having been involved in a Royalist conspiracy, had been sent to the Tower of London in September 1659. But by the time Thomas received his knighthood his 26-year-old wife was dead. Was she shot in June 1660 while riding as a highwayman on Nomansland at Wheathamstead, as legend says, or did she die while with her husband in London celebrating the King’s return?
Katherine was buried at St Mary’s, Ware, on June 13, 1660, described in the parish register as “Mistress Catherine Fanshawe” (her name is spelled in various ways). There had been no children –some stories suggest she died in childbirth. Much has been made of the fact that her funeral took place in the evening, as if a disgraceful secret were being covered up. But apparently such timing was not unusual in those days.
Had she died while trying to ride back to her secret staircase at Markyate? Well, we know that her husband (described by the diarist Samuel Pepys as “a witty but rascally fellow, without a penny in his purse”) had sold Markyate Cell five years previously, in 1655, so there is a significant dating flaw in the tale of that fatal adventure. And no-one is even sure that the couple had ever lived at the Cell – it had been let out to various tenants whose names are recorded in local documents.That’s all a huge disappointment to the people of Markyate, who quite enjoy the possibility that the ghost of “Lady Katherine” can still be seen galloping across the park.It can be a creepy place. It stands on the site of a Benedictine Priory, converted at great expense into a grand house in 1540 and rebuilt in 1908 after a fire.
10122_1994846_IMG_00_0000Sir Thomas Beecham, the conductor, lived there in 1916. And there IS a secret chamber. It was discovered by workmen in the 19th century behind a false wall abutting a chimney stack. News about this undoubtedly added fuel to the legends.When the filmThe Wicked Lady was made the then-owner of the Cell, Ernest Sursham, refused to allow filming in the grounds. He did not want to encourage sightseers. And the Cell today remains very much a private home. Dunstablians might be fascinated to know that that an archway near the house, added in the early 20th century, was designed to be similar to the ancient Anchor Archway, still preserved in High Street North.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Interview with Karen Aminadra by Stephanie Moore Hopkins from Layered Pages

Interview with Karen Aminadra

Karen Aminadra is an English author who was born in London, and grew up in Hertfordshire, England. As a teacher, she worked in academies, schools, and universities in Ecuador, Russia, and Spain as well as the U.K. She returned to England in 2005 where she met the man who was to become her husband. They settled in Northamptonshire where Karen embarked on a writing career to fulfil a life-long ambition. She is now the author of five novels, Charlotte – Pride & Prejudice Continues, Rosings – Pride & Prejudice Continues book 2, Relative Deceit, The Uncanny Life of Polly, and It’s a Man’s World. In 2012 she received a B.R.A.G Medallion ™ for her debut novel Charlotte – Pride & Prejudice Continues and in 2013 she was once again honoured with a B.R.A.G Medallion ™ for Rosings – Pride & Prejudice Continues book 2. More information can be found on her two blogs and  
Stephanie: Hello, Karen! It is always a pleasure to chat with you and congrats on winning the B.R.A.G Medallion. First off I would like to say that your stories are fantastic and I have enjoyed them very much. They are not only engaging but your character development is brilliant. Please tell your audience about your book, Rosings.
Karen: Hi Stephanie.  Thank you so much for interviewing me and thank you for the compliment—for me the characters are the most important part of any story. If they cannot engage me and I cannot love them, how can I expect my reader to?
Rosings began when a few readers asked me to write a little something about Anne and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  I was happy to oblige and Rosings was born.  The story is about poor Anne the downtrodden daughter of the inimitable Lady Catherine De Bourgh.  We know from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that Anne, in her mother’s opinion, is sickly and of a delicate constitution, and that Lady Catherine had intended Mr. Darcy to marry her.  Well, we all know how that turned out. I turned my imagination to wondering what Anne’s life would be like once the prospect of marrying Mr. Darcy was no longer an option.  The De Bourgh family had to continue so Lady Catherine hatches a plan to marry off her daughter.
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000447_00008]
Stephanie: I absolutely love your portrayal of Catherine De Bourgh. How long did it take you to write your story?
Karen: Catherine De Bourgh is a favourite of mine too.  She comes from a different time, her sensibilities are different to her daughter’s. I guess it is like trying to get your Nan to understand today’s society. It is almost alien to her generation and Lady Catherine doesn’t like change at all! The book took me about three to four months to write out the first draft, of course, after that there are weeks of editing etc.  However, once I have a story planned out, I really like to crack on with it and get it written.
Stephanie: I don’t blame you. Getting your story down is the most important. Editing can come later. Is there a scene you wrote that had you bursting out laughing? 
Karen: The scene with Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins in the drawing room was funny.  He’s such a great, fun, and bumbling character to write.  I may well have to slip him into one of my other books just for the fun of it.
Stephanie: Who is your favorite character and least favorite character? If you have any. 
Karen: My least favourite would have to be Monty, without a doubt.  He doesn’t address Anne correctly, he takes liberties, and you just want to slap him in the end. If there was ever a character that you want to fail in his endeavors, it’s him. My favourite is probably Mr. Watkins senior.  He’s a really nice chap, the kind of friend you’d want to keep close.
Stephanie: He sounds like and interesting character. Who designed your book cover? 
Karen: I had an idea of what I wanted for the cover but I passed the mechanics of it over to Moon Rose Covers.
Stephanie: Where there any scenes that you found a challenge to write?
Karen: There were a couple of scenes where Lady Catherine is angry, and in my mind, she became someone whom I know and has always behaved in such a way.  As a writer, your life and experiences often come out in your work and I was surprised to see Lady Catherine take on this person’s personality, but it fit so well.  Those scenes were difficult to write but I felt so good after they were down on paper.
Stephanie: I agree. Those scenes are difficult to write. What do you love most about writing?
Karen: Hmm… I love spending entire days, weeks, and months in my own imagination.  It’s such an escape.  I write first thing in the morning, while it’s dark outside and the rest of the world is sleeping.  I find that I get the most done at that time of the day and I love that aspect of my work.  I also love the freedom it brings.  If I am unwell, then I don’t have to work.  I have no nagging boss and I never have to deal with rush hour traffic.
Stephanie: Your love for writing sounds just like mine. J Where in your home is your favorite place to write? Do you have a favorite coffee or tea by your side when writing?
Karen: I actually don’t have a desk.  I used to write in the living room but that gave everyone an excuse to interrupt me.  Now I sit on my bed with the laptop on a tray over my legs – glamorous, eh? I like working in my bedroom actually. It’s a sanctuary.  No one, apart from my husband, is allowed in.  It’s private.  As for what I drink, I sometimes have a juice of some sort, but I don’t drink coffee – it gives me palpitations. However, I am a huge tea fan.  I’m English, of course I have tea by my side when I write. I drink a decaffeinated blend of tea, either PG Tips or Tetley, and I drink it with soya milk (most Brits have white tea.)
Stephanie: My bedroom is where I write often. Sometimes in the living room. But only when I’m the alone. Sometimes early in the morning, I will get up and write while in bed. Some of my best ideas are in the morning. I’m not a coffee drinker all that much. I do love tea however. So funny how similar we are, Karen. I use soy for my tea as well.  What is up next for you?
Karen: That is strange how similar we are. I’m glad I’m not alone ;-)  So, what’s next for me? Since receiving a B.R.A.G Medallion for Rosings, I wrote and published a spin off from my novel Relative Deceit called It’s a Man’s World. Right now I’m taking a few days off to collect my thoughts before I dive into another project. I know my readers are desperate for book three in my Pride and Prejudice Continues series, so doubtless that will be on my ‘to do’ list. I also have a few other ideas in mind. I have been planning a children’s series for a while now and I’d like to get working on that too.
Stephanie: Can’t wait to hear more about your children’s series! Is there a message you would like to tell your readers?
Karen: I would like to say thank you for coming on this fantastic journey with me.  It’s been so much fun and it’s made even better by the support and loyalty of my readers. I love the emails I receive from you all and I especially love your thoughts on the characters’ lives in my books. From time to time, I’ve even been asked to write something particular and that’s how Rosings was born. So, I cannot do it without you – thank you all, again.
Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book? 
Karen: Rosings is available in ebook version from Amazon, Kobo, and Xinxii. It’s also available to order in paperback from all major stockists.
Stephanie: Thank you, Karen! Please come back to Layered Pages and chat with me again soon! 
Paperback – Amazon –
Twitter – @kaminadra Facebook –
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Karen Aminadra, who is the author of, Rosings, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Rosingsmerits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Interview with Karen Aminadra by Maria Desouza from For the Love of Fiction.

Interview with Karen Aminadra 

by Maria Desouza from For the Love of Fiction.

Karen Aminadra is an English author, who can usually be found with her head in the clouds, muttering inanely to herself.  She mostly resides in her writing cave, and is occasionally allowed to come out to eat.  Her love of reading, writing short stories and her childhood imaginary world led quite naturally to writing novels.  Encouraged to read by her bookworm father and grandmother and by winning a writing competition in just her first year of secondary school, she was spurred on, and she has been writing stories ever since.  Her love of mystery and plot twists that she put into that first story continues today.  She has travelled to and lived in many countries, not just in her imagination, and has gained an insight into people’s characters that shines through in her work.  Today, with her feet firmly back in England, she travels the world, the universe and in time through her imagination and her novels.

FTLOF:  Have you always wanted to be a writer or was there a particular incident that sparked your inspiration?  

KA:    I don’t know if I’ve always wanted to have a career as a writer, but I’ve always written little stories.  I won a fiction competition at school when I was eleven and I loved writing that story.  Once I got my own computer it seemed to fill with ideas and half-hearted attempts at novels.  So, I guess you could say that it was always in me to be a writer.

FTLOF:   Is it harder for you to write a male or female character?

KA:    That’s an interesting question.  I usually write with a female protagonist, but I am working on a novel with a male one.  I’ve had to think differently for that. 
In my novel crime novel Relative Deceit, the antagonist is male and I liked that.  I was able to keep him calm and clear-headed without needing to add emotions which are always popping up with female characters.  As to whether one is easier than the other, I don’t know.  However, they’re equally fun to write.

FTLOF:  If you could see the world through the eyes of one of your characters, which one would it be and why?

KA:    Haha- that’s easy!  It’d be Polly from my chick-lit novel The Uncanny Life of Polly.  When she returns home from a world book tour, she discovers that her book is becoming real.  How many of us wouldn’t want that to happen?

FTLOF:  Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?

KA:    Yes, and I hate it.  I really hate not doing anything.  I’m not the kind of person who can be inactive for long.  Usually, to combat it, I talk things through with my husband.  I read him my latest work in progress and we thrash ideas out for it.  Even if he comes up with the silliest ideas, it means my head starts to work and think on the book again.  It doesn’t take long for the spark of inspiration to ignite after that.

FTLOF:  Best advice for anyone starting out writing?

KA:    Just do it!  Don’t think about it too much.  Don’t worry about correcting errors – that’s for the 2nd draft.  Get the story down, even if it’s disjointed.  And remember, a little bit of writing is better than no writing.  In the end, all those little bits will come together and form a whole.

FTLOF:  How do you know when your work is a short story or a novel in the making? What triggers that decision?

KA:    I usually only write short stories when I’m in the editing stage and I’m itching to write something while waiting for the corrections to come back.  I always challenge myself and try to writing a story in 1000 words only.  It’s quite fun.  Some of the ones I’ve written I’d like to make into full length novels.

FTLOF:  If you could bring one of your characters to life,   what one would you choose and why?

KA:    I would choose Lettie Jenkins from the novel that’s at the publishers now.  The working title is It’s a Man’s World.  She’s a female policewoman in 1923, the year that women were allowed into the police force in the UK.  I think she would be a fascinating woman.  She’s the product of the emancipation and is on the cusp of a new era for women.  (Update: It's a Man's World was released on 13th January 2014.)

FTLOF:  What scenes are the hardest for you to write?

KA:    Death scenes.  Not murders, but when a character or their relative dies.  In Relative Deceit I wrote a death scene which had me in tears for ages.  I still can’t read it without crying.  I couldn’t write for a few days after that either.

FTLOF:  Do your fans have any impact on your writing?

KA:    Yes they do.  I’ve had emails asking for me to write about this character or that character in my Pride & Prejudice Continues series.  I like that.  It’s always really lovely to get such feedback.

FTLOF:  If you had a chance to go on a date with one of your characters, what one would it be?

KA:    Haha – certainly not Nicco from The Uncanny Life of Polly.  You’ll have to read it to know what I mean ;-)  I think, I would choose Erik Hallquist, the tutor, from Relative Deceit.  I have a thing for Scandinavians ;-)