A Day at Kedleston Hall

by Helen Dickson, author of The Housemaid’s Scandalous Secret (Harlequin Historical Castonbury Park series, September 2012)

Editor’s Note: Helen Dickson’s The Housemaid’s Scandalous Secret is book two in the new digitally exclusive Castonbury Park series from Harlequin Historical. We did an overview of the whole series in July, which you can find here if you missed it. If you love the Downton Abbey “Upstairs/Downstairs” historical type of fiction these books are for you! Each Monday one of the authors will be on the Harlequin Blog to talk about an aspect of the series. Due to Labour Day celebrations, this month’s post is a wee bit late (sorry, Helen!)

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When we began writing the Castonbury Park series, choosing the location was a collaborative process and we all had an overall vision of what the house should look like. It had to be very large, to shout power, wealth and taste, and it had to be set in stunning scenery. We eventually chose Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire.

Designed by Robert Adam, it’s a splendid house set in wonderful landscaped parkland. It also has its own lake and a church at the back. Kedleston Hall, with a strong presence of both the Georgian and Regency periods, felt just right for Castonbury Park. It was designed not as a family home but as a showpiece palace for lavish entertainment and a temple of the arts.

Photo Credit: Hans A. Rosbach via Wikipedia

It’s not every day you get the chance to be involved in a project like this so off I went to Kedleston Hall with my note book and a good friend to give me a nudge in case I missed anything important. I did get some odd looks from several visitors as I jotted things down and looked into places I shouldn’t.

Because the house was to feature in all eight books, it was important that we were all singing from the same hymn sheet. I attempted to give an accurate description of the house, both exterior and interior. My aim was to lay the foundation to enable all eight authors to tap into the same information.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my visit was seeing the marble hall and the saloon – the domed rotunda used for dancing. Like the marble hall it is Roman in inspiration, which is a theme that is seen throughout the house.

When we were having lunch in what used to be the kitchen, which still retains the original cooking range and original dressers, glancing up at the gallery,  I could well imagine the housekeeper and the butler standing there, looking down to oversee the work.

I took away with me many enjoyable memories of my day and a sense of wonder at the amazing architecture of this magnificent neo-classical house, which, in my own mind, had already become Castonbury Park.

So how do you think the Montagues might have spent a typical day at Castonbury Park in the 19th century?

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Comments ( 5 )
  1. Sarah Mallory
    September 5, 2012 at 6:57 am
    Reply

    Lovely post, Helen, I am reliving the joys of creating this series all over again!

    If the weather was good I am sure they would be outside enjoying themselves. In such a lovely house it wouldn’t matter if the summer weather was as bad as we’ve had it this year – they could walk in the gallery, dance in the marbled hall, theatricals in the library… of course that’s upstairs. Those poor downstairs servants would have to work work work in between all their scandalous liaisons!

  2. Carole Mortimer
    September 5, 2012 at 7:39 am
    Reply

    I too am reliving the fun of working on this series!

    And yes, I can all too easily picture a summer’s day with the Montague family, as they enjoy a picnic in the beautiful garden, possibly sitting on blankets beneath a huge oak tree – while the butler directs the maids and footmen in the serving of that delicious picnic.

  3. Bronwyn
    September 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm
    Reply

    Fun to read Helen! I am looking forward to the series.

  4. Ann Lethbridge
    September 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm
    Reply

    Thanks so much for taking us on the tour. Such a wonderful house, and a great setting for Regency stories.

  5. Marguerite Kaye
    September 6, 2012 at 4:50 am
    Reply

    Lovely post, I’m still eager to pay a visit myself.

    Being one of seven children, what I always longed for when I was growing up was a nice quiet space to read. No shortage of empty rooms and lovely reading spaces at Castonbury, I picture myself whiling away every day in the library with a book!

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