I am particularly interested in the holdings of St Albans Abbey in the Domesday book due to living near there and also writing a novel based on a fictional version of the town. So here’s a map that I generated using the new Pase Domesday Book online.
It’s quite pretty, but somewhat lacking perhaps? Some basic additional information would make the map come alive and also be a lot more useful. For instance names of the vills and also the shires would help a lot I think. Perhaps some sort of adaptation of a Google map might work?
Here are some photos I took a few weeks ago of St Albans abbey and the gatehouse (built c. 1365). St Albans is the town that I am basing my fictional town of St. Bretts on for Habit for Killing. One thing I found interesting was the mix of building material used for the abbey church. It’s not the large blocks you would expect, but a mix of brick, small stones and larger blocks. I guess because of various rebuilds over the centuries.
I have now finished reading the historical surveys about St Albans and it’s abbey. This has given me plenty of ideas for developing my fictional town. This is the part I really enjoy, but which also makes me sligthly nervous with excitement. Why nervous? Well I think it’s because I worry that the decisions I make now about plot and character will have implications further on. What sort of story do I want to write? Will the characters and plot ideas I come up with now work, are they too ambitious, are they too stereotyped and boring? Should I not worry about this too much at the moment, as I can always change things and rewrite. I guess its OK to say that if it’s a minor issue, but if it’s the whole setting of the book then you’re in trouble.
So far though I am quite happy with the way things are going. I have some good ideas about the motivations of the major factions within my town. As was so often the case in the Middle Ages a lot of the conflict arises from disputes over rights and income. Such will be the case within the town of St Seward’s and its environs. I think the Abbot is going to be an interesting character. He will have ruffled a lot of feathers when he started in his role, criticising his saintly predecessor, but working hard to recover the rights and income lost by the abbey due to mismanagement. He has already had a number of run-ins with local landowners and the burgesses. Some of which have been successful for the abbey, but others have left him with enemies. He is now taking a more subtle approach to get what he wants for the abbey.
On the other side are the townspeople who have suffered under the yoke of the abbey for too long. They are jealous of other burgesses in towns who have their own charters and freedom. The last time they tried to rebel though they were cruelly oppressed. Now the Abbot is offering them reconciliation and some leniency as long as they acknowledge his power over them. So there are two camps amongst the townspeople – those who want to accept this reconciliation, and those who want to stand up for their rights.
Also in the background is the threat of a new heresy in England – Lollardy. There are other factions and subplots as well, but for now I have to work out how the main plot will fit together!
I did about 30 rough html docs and may do some more today while watching the rugby – which should be a walkover for England, but you never know, could be embarrassing!
Getting the first version of the outline done for the Agincourt gamebook was quite exhausting, and I have been yearning to get back to the novel project featuring Roger Draper, demon-hunter. So I have started on the research for this again. I have found some interesting stuff on the borough organization of St Albans, on which my fictional town of St Seward’s will be based. I have also identified other areas that I need to research. This in a way is quite easy research compared to Stupor Mundi as there is a relatively large amount of stuff available in English. Also my setting at the end of the day is fictional. So while I want to get the setting genuine, the actual historical details of what happens is less important, as the story is more a mirror of what really happened or could have happened.
A bit more research about the abbey and the surrounding county should allow me to be in a position to map out the local history and factional/character background for my own fictional location. Should be fun!
I have found a real wealth of source material regarding the medieval history of St Albans and the surrounding areas. It seems that a large amount of local history information is available at a publicly funded website: http://www.british-history.ac.uk. This includes a detailed history for St Albans, and also the surrounding parishes and the overarching hundred in which St Albans lay – the Cashio hundred. Now I just have to read it all!
I am also working on the Agincourt project. I have nearly finished Anne Curry’s book, and have begun listing the key events in the Novel writing software I use. Once I have the bare bones of events that happened, I will start thinking about the what-if options and determine how many extra events I need to include. Hopefully after that, actually writing it shouldn’t take too long.