(I have no idea where this village is, nor what it is called. I’m using it as a prompt for, and vague representation of, the village which is in my mind and which forms the central stage for the characters in my putative novel – Mannersby doesn’t exist – at least as far as I know).
The village of Mannersby lies hidden away in a dip between three medium sized hills. Not mountains, they’re not high enough for that, but they’ll certainly test your muscles if you want to climb to the top and look down on the (seemingly) sleepy cluster of houses, church, garage, bakery, farrier and butchers.
There is only one road into the village, and the same road to take you back out. The village doesn’t lead to anywhere, is not on the way to anywhere. It’s a dead end, but a very pretty one.
The buildings were constructed fairly close together, at least in the main. Many of them are a couple of centuries old, a few rather more modern, the newest houses tending to be on the edge of the village proper.
The village itself has a large central oval space around which are grouped the Rose and Crown, the bakery, butchers, a shop (the kind known as a corner shop in the larger towns – one which sold just about anything that could be wanted), and Jack the farrier’s cottage with his workshop attached. To one end of the oval is the Church with its attached Sunday School, this playing the role of village hall whenever required. At the other end of the oval is the school and playing field where the village children can expand their energy both in and out of school hours, whilst all around the village there are fields and patches of woodland reaching up the flanks of the hills which protect it from the elements.
Interspersed between the shops are small cottages, some with gardens behind, some without. All of them kept looking tidy and cared for. Four lanes lead out of the village centre, along three of which are found other cottages and some slightly larger houses before the lanes eventually peter out altogether. All of these properties have gardens, large and small. Most of which are, at least in some part, given over to vegetable plots. There are smaller lanes weaving behind and beside all the cottages, so it is possible to walk around the rear of the dwellings and look at the neatly kept gardens. This has led to a yearly event where the men of the houses, having spent most of their leisure time in their gardens growing their leeks, onions, carrots and marrows, take the best or largest of their produce and show them at the yearly village fête. It all sounds so peaceful and congenial, but behind the scenes there is much sabotage, cheating and, occasionally, the odd bit of vandalism where a possible prize winning onion or marrow has been dug up before its prime and chopped to little bits. There really is nothing gentle about English village life. It might all look innocent and pretty, the people might all look healthy and happy, they might sound jocular and friendly, but, underneath the surface there are many secrets.
The fourth lane leads to the Mannersby residence, Chelcote Hall. It is a large house, set slightly above the village and overlooking the Church. It has been in the Mannersby family for only five years, ever since Hugo had broken the news to his parents that he was to marry. Chelcote Hall was particularly well placed for Hugo being just six miles away from the main Mannersby residence but far enough away to be completely separate. He and Evelyn had moved in immediately after their honeymoon, together with a full complement of staff – the house being a wedding present from Hugo’s parents and the staff being a wedding present from Evelyn’s doting grandfather.
Behind the village runs a river and alongside the river, at one end of the village, is a strip of land which is currently up for sale. This piece of land, and the use it may be put to, is currently a major concern for various parties in the village. What eventually happens with it will, inevitably, change the way the village works and whilst some may welcome change, others definitely don’t.
It is within this village that my characters will play their roles, in which their secrets will be revealed, and in which their various jealousies and rivalries will shape their futures.