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Never mind the Kardashians, Newbury's keeping up with the Cravens



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On 24th August 1899 the Newbury Weekly News and General Advertiser published an article entitled “The Craven Romance.” It began: “Circumstances used to be more romantic in historical times than they are in these jog-trot days, and a passionate, disinterested and lasting devotion could be more effectively shown forth…” And continued with the story of William, First Earl of Craven and his lifelong devotion to Elizabeth the Winter Queen, daughter of King James I. International bestselling and award-winning novelist Nicola Cornick’s first timeslip novel, House of Shadows, was inspired by Craven family history, she tells arts editor TRISH LEE

WILLIAM, one of richest men of the 17th century, owned a great deal of Berkshire and built a ‘palace’ for Elizabeth at Hamstead Marshall and a hunting lodge for her at Ashdown near Lambourn. “Although William Craven is someone who has almost disappeared from the historical record, his family name lives on in the various ‘Craven Roads’ in Newbury and local villages, in pub names and horse races, and still inspires the writing of authors like me.

“I have loved the history, legends and folklore of ‘old’ Berkshire ever since I moved here 25 years ago. The landscapes, steeped in history, have so many stories to tell of places and people that inspire.

Nicola in the parterre Ashdown House, picture by Andrew Cornick
Nicola in the parterre Ashdown House, picture by Andrew Cornick

“My first historical mystery concerned the building of Ashdown House and the entwined story of Lord Craven and the Winter Queen. House of Shadows reflects all the bleakness, grandeur and beauty of the Berkshire Downs, and my books draw on the stories of ghosts, highwaymen and criminals who are said to have haunted the lonely byways over the hills.”

Newbury itself has often played a role in the wider history of the county and the country.

In 1483, the Duke of Buckingham and a number of local barons met in secret here to plot the overthrow of King Richard III, an event that features in Nicola’s latest book The Last Daughter, which focuses on the mystery of the Princes in the Tower.

Nicola Cornick House of Shadows
Nicola Cornick House of Shadows

“I love the way that each of our local towns and villages has a place in our national story. When I walk along the roads that are so familiar or the paths I know so well, I reflect on the layers of history beneath my feet and know that I will soon discover the next fascinating piece of research that will inspire a story.”

Nicola Cornick is an international best-selling and award-winning novelist who has written more than 30 historical romances and historical mysteries in a career spanning 20 years.

Her books sell in more than 25 countries, have been translated into many languages and been published in multiple formats, including ebook, audio and manga.

She has also worked as a historical adviser on The Restoration Man (Channel 4), Who Do You Think You Are (BBC1) and Land Lines (BBC Radio 4).

Nicola Cornick The Last Daughter
Nicola Cornick The Last Daughter

An accomplished and popular speaker, in her spare time she is a guide dog puppy walker. She lives just outside Swindon with her husband and dog.

The Last Daughter by Nicola Cornick was published in the summer by HQ, HarperCollins, £8.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook

Ever since her twin sister disappeared 11 years ago, Serena Warren has been running from a ghost, haunted by what she can’t remember about that night.

When Caitlin’s body is discovered, Serena returns to her grandfather’s house, nestled beside the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall in Oxfordshire, determined to uncover the truth.

But in returning to the place of her childhood summers, Serena stands poised at the brink of a startling discovery – one that will tie her family to a centuries-old secret.

Taking readers from the present day to the Wars of the Roses in the 1400s, and with an enthralling mystery at its heart, The Last Daughter is a spellbinding novel about family secrets, perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Victoria Hislop and Kate Morton.

Nicola studied history at the Universities of London and Oxford, and currently undertakes research for the National Trust.

A trustee of Wantage Literary Festival, she is the historian for Ashdown House and the Craven family. House of Shadows, her first timeslip novel, was inspired by Craven family history.

Nicola is currently researching the family and its Berkshire estates for a non-fiction book, and for that she draws on the archives in Reading Records Office and local history, including Hamstead Marshall, Enborne, Speen and other one-time Craven estates in Berkshire, Newbury in the English Civil War, and the strong 18th-century links the Cravens had to racing at Newbury.

Nicola Cornick
Nicola Cornick


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