My first novel, ORIGINS (a science fiction thriller), is set, in part, in the East Midlands – a region of the United Kingdom very close to my heart, and my home since birth. Whilst the characters described in my book are fictional, the locations are real. In this post, I would like to share with you one of those locations: the beautiful 200 acre estate of Elvaston Castle (situated approximately four miles southeast of Derby). The castle, its grounds, and its Grade II listed gardens – all of which I visit often – feature heavily in ORIGINS, and were the original inspiration for several of its key story elements. Below are some images of the estate’s buildings and grounds as they appear in my book, and – to put them in context – a few relevant quotes lifted from its pages.
‘It saddened Kate that the house was still in such a state of disrepair. From a distance, it upheld the illusion of the majestic stately home it had once been. Close-up though, you could see that weathering and neglect was ravaging the building like a malignant cancer.’
‘Decades of paint flaked away from its doors and window frames like layers of dead skin. Their glass panes, its eyes on the world, were fogged over with dust and grime – blinded by so many cataracts. Those on the ground floor were boarded up from the inside: tired eyelids, forever shut. The roof leaked in several places where tiles had slipped or broken and had not been replaced. Inside, the disease raged on unchecked. Large sections of the upper floor ceilings had been brought down by water retention. Mould and rot consumed the house from within.’
‘Kate followed Jas out of the office block and into the walled courtyard. Passing beneath the stone archway in the left hand wall …’
‘… they picked up a narrow pathway sandwiched between the privet maze on the left and the stone churchyard wall on the right. A hundred yards on, the path cut through a tunnel of branches formed by the trees that now flanked it on both sides.’
‘After another thirty yards they entered a narrow rectangular clearing, surrounded by more trees: the Alhambra Garden. At its furthest edge sat the Moorish Temple.’
‘The mountains and hills of Snowdonia and the Pennines became larger, more defined, and then fell away at the edges of the screen as the view zoomed in on the East Midlands. Dark patches grew and broke apart as population centres resolved into cities, towns, and sprawling suburbs. The countryside suddenly became a patchwork of greens, browns, and ambers – stitched together with the deep blue threads of its rivers. He began to recognise some of the area’s landmarks: to the right of the screen, he could clearly make out Sawley Marina, and the Attenborough Nature Reserve; to the left, Pride Park football stadium; and at the centre, growing larger by the second, the grounds of Elvaston Castle. At first, all he could see was a cluster of trees surrounding several grassed areas and a small lake. But then the trees parted, revealing the estate’s individual gardens and the pathways that connected them. As the descent began to slow, the house itself slid into sharp focus – the intricate maze of privet at its front now clearly visible, along with the office block and courtyard to the side. A moment later, Jas found himself staring at the roof of the Moorish Temple – accurately reproduced in all its decaying splendour.’
Note: image shows the Moorish Temple before (at time of writing) and after reroofing and partial restoration.
‘After setting the surveillance kit aside again, together they hauled the heavy generator up the stone ramp to the garden’s second tier.’
‘Ten minutes later, having drilled another hole, this time through the Temple’s bricked up rear doorway, Jas eased the scope through it into folly’s upper room.’