Hello and happy January. Whenever I write about characters travelling from place to place, I often end up doing a good deal of research into the inns which characters might have visited and stayed at and if possible compare the appearance in the eighteenth century with any present-day pictures available if the building is still in existence, in order to give a reasonably accurate description of the place in 1799 in which ‘Easter At Netherfield: Darcy’s Dice With Fate’ is set.
Thus, for example, when, in Chapter 12 of ‘Easter At Netherfield’, Darcy and Elizabeth rode together to Frogmore Mill in Apsley, Hertfordshire, near what is now Hemel Hempstead, I had to find an inn in which they might have taken a meal on their ride back to Netherfield. I chose St Alban’s as a suitable place, which led me to The White Hart.
There are some good photos of the front of the present-day White Hart on various sites, e.g. Tripadvisor and booking.com. The same image seems to be on the Wikipedia entry which includes details about the White Hart.
The history of the building on the inn’s own website, whiteharthotelstalbans.co.uk, says that The White Hart Hotel ‘dates to 1470’. Therefore when I saw the circa 1800 drawing or painting of the White Hart on the site https://www.stalbanshistory.org in a piece about the decline of the inn, I assumed that it had been given a Georgian façade at some point before 1800 which was later removed because in the present day it looks like a timbered Elizabethan or Tudor building.
Indeed this was confirmed by a site ‒ https://www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk/. The site says: ‘The buildings are timber-framed with high pitched tiled roofs and gabled dormers (windows that project vertically from a sloping roof). In the 18th Century the front of the building was plastered and given new windows but in the early 20th Century, the plaster was removed revealing the old timber frame and old windows (replaced with new windows with leaded panes of 17th Century style).’
If present-day photos are compared with the1800 drawing/painting, it is evident that the positions of the dormer windows in the roof clearly correspond in the two images. Both also show the archway for stagecoaches to pass through to the back of the building.
From the stalbanshistory site I was able to describe the approach to the building and some facts about its situation in 1799. Thus, ‘Easter At Netherfield’ relates that Darcy and Elizabeth rode up a steep incline and a white building came into view. They rode through the covered passageway to the stables at the rear.
On the way there, Darcy was able to say to Elizabeth:
“The inn has been in decline in recent years, I understand, due to the popularity of Dunstable for stagecoaches since improvements in the road. And a new road has been built through St Albans avoiding Holywell Hill, therefore coaches no longer pass by the inn. It’s a steep hill up to the White Hart. But your father told me it is still a fine inn, the best in St Albans, and we are only taking a meal there.”
All very helpful.
I would like to have been able to attach an image of the circa 1800 drawing/painting of The White Hart showing it’s false Georgian frontage, but the Hertfordshire County Council, while confirming that the picture is out of copyright, wanted to charge a download fee and a fee per use. Therefore the attached photograph is from the Wikipedia site relating to St Alban’s listed buildings, is said to have been taken in 2003 and to be in the public domain.
‘Easter At Netherfield: Darcy’s Dice With Fate’ is now available on Amazon as an ebook and a paperback and is also available on KindleUnlimited.