Archive for June, 2016

The City of Gloucester

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Gloucester in 1392 is the setting for Memento Mori, the third novel in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries.  This ancient city was founded in AD 97, a half century after the first Roman military fortress under Emperor Nerva as Colonia Glevum Nervensis.  Fragments of the Roman wall survive.

Medieval Gloucester had outgrown the Roman city, particularly to the west, and was an important centre for processing wool at the time of my story.  The church of the Abbey of Saint Peter survived after the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII and is now the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity in Gloucester.

In this story, the Lady Apollonia visits the abbey church and the tomb of King Edward II.  This royal tomb had already attracted numbers of pilgrims in the 14th century large enough to fund significant improvements in the church.  Portions of the abbey wall survive as does Saint Mary’s Gate into the abbey grounds.  Modern visitors will also find ruins of some abbey buildings, such as the hospital used in my story.

Other medieval buildings which survive that are mentioned in Memento Mori are the church of Saint Mary de Crypt and the ruins of Saint Oswald’s Priory now administered by English Heritage.  The Chapel of Saint Kyneburgh and the nearby Saint Kyneburgh’s Well are described in my story but do not survive.  However, the tall, modern tower pictured below marks the location of Saint Kyneburgh’s Well, and modern buildings on Southgate Street appear on the right. 2012-04-001-1

Exeter in Devon

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

The seat of the diocese in Devon is the city of Exeter, and it is the setting for Plague of a Green Man, the second novel in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries.  Exeter began as Isca in the province of Dumnoniorum in Roman Britain and was home to the Second Augustan Legion from 55 to 75 AD.  The present medieval wall defines the city centre and largely survives in the same place as the 1st century Roman wall did.  Occasionally, Roman bricks may still be seen, embedded in the medieval wall.  Part of the Roman Baths were excavated in front of Exeter Cathedral in the 1970’s but then were covered over for long term protection.

The medieval city is dominated by its 14th century decorated Gothic cathedral which was nearly completed at the time of my novel in 1380.  Only the top register of carvings on the west front was added after 1380.  Other buildings from the period remain, some still in use today, some in ruins.  The Guild Hall has served as the civic centre of the city since the second half of the twelfth century.  Some parts of Saint Nicholas Priory remain but not the church.  One building exists from Saint Catherine’s Priory in the Polsloe area.  Stepcote Hill declares its medieval origins.  Part of Exeter’s medieval bridge over the River Exe survives beyond the West Gate but no longer crosses the river.  Many of these buildings are referred to in my story.  Tragically, other ancient buildings were destroyed by Nazi bombing during the Second World War.

Exeter Cathedral, viewed from the northeast:2011-02-180-1

The Village of Aust

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016


The home of my heroine, Lady Apollonia, is the village of Aust in the west country of England near the estuary of the River Severn.  Aust provides the setting for the first book in the series, Effigy of the Cloven Hoof, as well as the seventh, Usurper’s Curse.

Aust is the Latin prefix meaning south.  From Roman times until the 20th century, a ferry crossed from Aust to Wales.  Aust ferry was the southernmost point that Roman Legions crossed the Severn on their way to encampments such as Carleon in Wales.  Aust ferry operated in Lady Apollonia’s time and plays an important role in her stories.

The village church is the most important medieval building surviving in Aust.  John Wycliffe, famous Oxford scholar of the fourteenth century, was Prebend of the Aust Church in those years when Apollonia and her second husband, Edward, would have been raising their five sons.  I have worked this historical character into the plot of the first book.

A sign welcoming visitors to Aust:2014-01-402-1

Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

My Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries are set in England in the late 14th and very early 15th centuries.  At present, the first five novels are available in paperback and in e-book form.  The links on the right take you to webpages where they may be obtained.  The sixth novel will be out later this year.  A seventh novel is planned.  The listing of the series follows:

  1. Effigy of the Cloven Hoof is set in and around the village of Aust in 1400 but contains flashbacks from earlier in Lady Apollonia’s life.
  2. Plague of a Green Man is set in the city of Exeter, Devon, in 1380.
  3. Memento Mori is set in the city of Gloucester in 1392.
  4. Templar’s Prophecy is set in the town of Cirencester, Gloucestershire, in 1395.
  5. Joseph of Arimathea’s Prophecy is set in the town of Glastonbury, Somerset, in 1397.
  6. King Richard’s Sword will be set in Worcester in 1399-1400.
  7. Usurper’s Curse will be set in Aust, as in the first novel, shortly after 1400.


Lady Apollonia’s West Country


The Commandery

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

King Richard’s Sword, the sixth book in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, is set in Worcester, England, in the years, 1399-1400.

The Commandery is the current name for a set of buildings in Worcester which survive from the medieval period.  It was located just outside the Sidbury Gate which plays a role in my story.  Its foundation is uncertain but may go back as far as the eleventh century.  In any case in the thirteenth century, it became known as the Hospital of St. Wulfstan, named for a local Worcester saint which also plays a role in my story.  The function of the hospital was changing somewhat by the time of my story.  Some residents were granted shelter and sustenance for life in return for their property.  It ceased to function as a hospital when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the sixteenth century.

The medieval master of the hospital was known as the commander, perhaps because an early master had a crusader background.  The residence of the commander later became known as the name of the Commandery.


Medieval Worcester

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

King Richard’s Sword, the sixth book in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, is set in Worcester, England, in the years, 1399-1400.

The town of Worcester features important remnants from the medieval period.  Its cathedral, which before the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII, was a powerful priory church is extraordinary.  I have used the priory cathedral in my story and refer to some of its surviving buildings.  The cathedral church itself is much as it was in 1399 and alive today as the home of a worshipping community as well as the seat of the Anglican bishop of Worcester.  The cathedral’s crypt houses a small museum where I learned that archaeologists have on display certain remains of a medieval pilgrim whom I chose to weave into my story.

Some of Worcester’s other buildings from the medieval period and some sections of its medieval wall still exist.  The Water Gate of the wall and many of the streets in the city centre are where they were 600 years ago.  Some of the ancient buildings were residences in the medieval period but one of the most interesting collections of old buildings is the Commandery, located just outside the wall where the Sidbury Gate had been.  Now, it is a museum, but in the fourteenth century, it was an important hospital named for St. Wulfstan, one of Worcester’s local saints.

Worcester Cathedral from across the River Severn

Worcester Cathedral from across the River Severn

King Richard’s Sword

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

Later this year, I will be publishing the sixth novel in the Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, King Richard’s Sword, which is set in Worcester, England, in the years, 1399-1400.

Lady Apollonia of Aust is living temporarily with her eldest son, Sir Hugh, Sheriff of Worcestershire, and his wife, Lady Gwendolyn.  The sheriff is confronted by two murders in Worcester, both related to the nearby Abbey of Saint Martinminster and a secret usury scheme organised by one of its aristocratic canons.  Lady Apollonia and her daughter-in-law not only find ways to interpret the feminine clues the sheriff has found but also use their female insights to suggest a likely suspect.

This story is told through many of the characters that have appeared in earlier books of the series:  the Lady’s maid, Nan; Gareth, her stablemaster; her chaplain, Friar Francis; and her almoner, Father William.  It also includes English subjects’ reactions to the extraordinary events of a failed King Richard II and his usurper cousin, Henry IV.

Watch my blog for further information as well as dates when the paperback and e-book versions will be available.