My Place: Historic discoveries in Romsey, Hampshire

Today, I welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Nicola Slade to My Place. She's telling us a little about Romsey, a market town in leafy Hampshire – and home to some intriguing exhibits!

Over to Nicola...
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MY PLACE – ROMSEY
I was a shy, bookish child whose happiest days were spent exploring graveyards with my grandmother, accompanied occasionally by one or two of my legion of great-aunts (twelve of them altogether!), so it’s no surprise that when one of my mother’s sisters moved just outside Romsey, a small market town in Hampshire, that I should focus my attention on a relic of the dead!
Although I was brought up in Dorset, Romsey has always been special to me and I spent part of every summer holiday with my cousins. I loved the busy market town, so like hundreds of other towns all over the UK, but Romsey had something that made it extra special to me. 

Romsey (c) Nicola Slade
This strange head of hair was dug up in 1839 and has been dated to within the 9th-12th centuries, but I didn’t know that when I insisted on checking annually that it was still there. The stories my grandmother and the great-aunts told me were intriguing, including the tale of the great-great-great-grandmother, Jane Churchill, who allegedly kept a smugglers’ pub at the then isolated Shell Bay, near Studland – but it’s the hair in the Abbey that fascinated me most then and fascinates me still. Some years ago, we moved to Hampshire and now live about five miles away from Romsey, and I was delighted to find the hair still there. I often drop into the Abbey to take another look.
(c) Nicola Slade
Lying as it does, half-way between Winchester and Southampton, Romsey is steeped in history. The New Forest once reached this far, and the town is still surrounded by pretty countryside. You can’t turn a corner without being aware of the town’s age and when I wrote my first novel, Scuba Dancing, it was natural to me to set it in a town that’s special to me. I gave it a new name though; how else could I rearrange the buildings, have a priory instead of an abbey, tweak the architecture, and have a river running the length of the A27? Locals might object so I rechristened it Ramalley and I’ve now used that as the setting for three of my books.
The House at Ladywell has the river and the priory but adds a well, the ‘Font’, which was borrowed from Mottisfont. This font stands outside the priory and people throw coins in and make a wish; Freya, the book’s heroine, has her wish come true – it’s a romantic novel after all! Because this book tells the story of an ancient house from Roman times to the present, I cheekily adapted Romsey’s own history and readers have recognised many local features.
(c) Nicola Slade
My forthcoming cosy mystery, The Convalescent Corpse, is also set in Ramalley/Romsey. This time it’s March 1918 and the three Fyttleton sisters are, like every other family in the country, struggling to cope with grief and the hardships brought by the war. They also struggle with difficult parents, a houseful of lodgers, not much money and now there’s murder on their doorstep!
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About Nicola Slade:
I live in Hampshire with my husband and with family nearby and visiting often. I'm also an artist and have had paintings exhibited in various places, including the Southampton Art Gallery and at Mottisfont Abbey.
My novels have received praise for their humour and the eccentricity of some of the characters, as well as depth and sensitivity in the writing. 

Find out more at my blog: www.nicolaslade.wordpress.com and my website: www.nicolaslade.com and find me on Twitter @nicolasladeuk
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Thank you for visiting My Place today, Nicola. It's intriguing, the items you find buried, and for us writers, they can provide much intrigue and inspiration. 

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