All the books are based around the Furness area in South Cumbria. The hidden gem where the action takes place is Furness Abbey the Cistercian monastery which was first established in 1127 by monks from Tulketh near Preston, who were Savigniac monks. The abbey became an influential, powerful and very rich reaching as far as the Isle of Mann, all over Cumbria and Lancashire. It was the second richest abbey in the country and being so, the first large abbey to be targeted by Henry VIII in the dissolution.
John Stell, the monk in the stories is based around a real historical character. He was an abbey scribe and was responsible for the creation of the Coucher Book, a daily record of the abbey's business. He has always fascinated me because he managed to insert his self portrait into an illuminated letter, it made me wonder if he was a bit of a special character... and then of course he became one of the main characters in my book. I enjoyed putting flesh on his bones and he became real to me. He is even more important since the discovery of the abbot's skeleton, and I have mused whether he might have known him.
The recent discovery of the fully articulated skeleton was unique, but to find him with a ring and a crosier was even more fascinating. The artefacts will serve to save the abbey, they were only found because of emergency conservation work to prevent the walls falling down. They will provide a focus for renewed interest in the abbey and hopefully will encourage more visitors. The treasures will eventually return to be on permanent display. This has come at just the right time and gives the abbey a new lease of life.
Check out this link to Channel 4 News to read more about the discovery.
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