The Houses That Inspired the Inheritance
December 11th, 2008
I think there’s a house at the heart of every family – whether it’s small or grand, a holiday home or a stately pile. I’ve met families whose houses dominate their lives, while to others, the family home is the ultimate sanctuary, however ordinary it might seem.
The houses in Faversham, where I live, have visible layers of history – you can almost hear the footsteps of those who lived here before. From Medieval times to the Georgian era, this was a prosperous market town and port, and there are lots of houses with Tudor, Medieval or Jacobean backs and smart Georgian fronts, added on by newly wealthy merchants. From the Industrial Revolution onwards, however, the wealth moved into the cities and up North, and Faversham missed out on the Victorian and Edwardian building spree around Britain.
Houses were added onto, rather than replaced, an outstanding example of which is Provender, which started as a hall house built for the Black Prince’s chief archer in 1342 and was then added to approximately every hundred years for seven centuries. Currently being restored by Princess Olga Romanoff, whose family home it has been for four generations, it is, along with other local houses, the inspiration for Lorenden, the family home in The Inheritance.
My own house has its layers too. Built in 1781, it was renovated in 1840 and 1920, when the widowed Kate Neame and her unmarried 19 year old daughter, Dorothy, changed two bedrooms into a double drawing room, needing more reception rooms and fewer bedrooms. Just after the 1914-18 War, they had obviously lost their men, like millions of other women, and clearly never expected to marry or re-marry. But maybe one of them did, because fifteen years later, the division was put up again between the two rooms, when the Finn family took the house and needed the bedrooms. I would love to hear more about what happened to Kate and Dorothy – if you know, email me.
VISIT THE HOUSES
If you love historic houses and want to see the houses Lorenden was based on, then visit Faversham on one of its Open House weekends in July (see www.faversham.org). We often have our own house open that weekend, so come and say hello. There are also some great walks round the countryside, with some good pubs to visit – you can find details on the website.
Princess Olga Romanoff also offers tours of Provender and its ongoing renovations for groups of 15 people or more at £10.00 a head. Write to Princess Olga Romanoff, Provender, Provender Lane, Norton, Nr Faversham, Kent ME13 OST.