In my mind I imagine the road to Blandford in 1825 to be similar to the bridleway photograph near Woodyates shown below.
The novel mentions that the Mercury coach line changed out its horses at Woodyates. This is absolutely correct. I researched all the coach companies of the day and made sure of their destinations and schedules. Historical accuracy is critical to me. If a certain coach only travelled on Wednesdays and Saturdays, then Ananias had to travel on those days otherwise he wasn’t going anywhere.
When he checks into The Crown Hotel, he tries to rationalize the “lavish” impulse. Understandable. The Crown has been an institution in Blandford since the 10th century, and claims to be the oldest hotel in Dorset. The inn is said to have several ghosts, including an 18th century highwayman who was shot dead while trying to rob the place. Ananias did not run into him that evening, but settles into sleep comfortably with thoughts of Sarah Noyes.
An arrest and trial occurs in Blandford, therefore the court at the Town Hall and Corn Exchange figures prominently in this chapter. The 1734 building is a cocktail of architectural styles: Palladian, Renaissance and vernacular Baroque.
The Corn Exchange design was signed “Bastard, Architect”.
I can relate to this nomenclature because unfortunately I was labeled similarly on numerous occasions during my forty year career - however, this was the work of the architect brothers John and William Bastard who practiced in Blandford for much of the 18th century.
In Blandford, Ananias gets into a spot of trouble and is locked up with other prisoners awaiting trial. I referenced them in the novel but changed some of the names for the sake of clarity, and some of the crimes for the sake of interest. For those of you who are history buffs, here is the original court record!
It’s a bit difficult to make out, so for further clarity, here is a transcript from The Salisbury and Winchester Journal, January 17th, 1825:
"The General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Dorset were opened on Tuesday the 11th instant, at the Town Hall, Blandford. H.C. Sturt, of Moore Critchell, Esq. took the oaths to qualify as a Magistrate.
The following prisoners were sentenced as under:
Hard Labour.- Rd. Larcombe, for stealing a copper boiler from T. Legg, of Poorstock; and Amy Hart, for a felony; two years each. - Wm. Abbott, for stealing some hoop iron at Bridport, 12 months, and to be privately whipt. - John Harris, for stealing a turkey from the Rev. T. Snow; and Thos. Langdown, for stealing an oak tree belonging to W. Pitt. Esq. six months each, - John White, for stealing a jacket, two months. W. Frampton, for stealing a rabbit trap; J. Barter, for stealing tools, value 6d.; Joseph Fry, for an assault; and Ann Lampard, charged with felony; 1 month each.
John Taylor, for permitting a prisoner to escape, was fined £25; John Elkins, for assault, was fined £5, Annanias Case (aged 15) for stealing a silk neck-kerchief, and Thos. Amey (aged 13), for stealing a piece of elm, were ordered to be privately whipt."
If you think some of these crimes to be a little strange or questionable, so did I. Only by writing the story, was I able to come to terms with what some of these misdemeanors really represent: a system of inviolable class structure.