Saturday, July 3, 2010

Salisbury, acting as London

Mompesson House in Salisbury is a beautiful early 18th century house. If it looks familiar, it may be because it appeared in the movie of Sense and Sensibility, playing the part of Mrs. Jennings' London house. It certainly isn't hard to imagine Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, dressed in their Jane Austen garb, staying here. Unlike many of the huge British country houses that are open to the public, Mompesson is a nice manageable size that one can imagine living in without an army of servants.

The feature I liked best is the hall and stairway. The plasterwork on the walls and ceiling is simple and elegant -- plain white with no gilt in sight. The walled garden at the back is delightful. A chalkboard was marked up with the names of the roses in bloom.

The house is located in the Close, the area around Salisbury's famous cathedral. I set part of The Wild Marquis in Salisbury (which happens to be the city where I was born). Juliana Merton, the heroine of the book, takes a nostalgic walk thorough the city. The scene was quite easy for me to write because so many buildings remain that existed in 1819. Shown below (left to right): seventeenth century alms houses; the medieval High Street Gate leading into the Close; the spire of the cathedral, seen across the Close.

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