Welcome to Emma-Jane Austin’s Home!
The heroine of my murder mystery, Emma-Jane Austin, gets to live in her dream house. It is the beautiful Regency building that she has loved since childhood, that she used to call the Big Doll’s House. And you can see why.
It is a perfect example of a Regency style house right in the middle of Nottingham city centre, Grade II listed and standing at Canning Circus since 1820 on the outer perimeter of the very grand Park Estate. This was land that used to be owned by the mega-wealthy Dukes of Newcastle when it was indeed just grassy parkland for the Dukes’ deer. Now called the ‘Beverly Hills of Nottingham’, the area is full of stunning Regency and Neo-Gothic homes in a gated community (although, fortunately for the rest of us, most of the gates are left open so we can explore).
One of the unusual things about the Park Estate is that it still has gas lighting.
Until 2015, a man in a vintage car used to light the lamps each evening, but now it is done automatically by an electronic trigger in each lamp.
But every two weeks or so a man has to come and reset the automatic triggers – not quite as romantic, but great that they are still gas lamps as in their Victorian heyday.
The light they give is whiter and paler than modern neon lights and doesn’t radiate as far, which does mean the Park can look rather Dickensian and creepy at night – though ideal for murder mysteries!
I too loved this house when I was a child, which I could see out of the bus window on the way into town each week.
Even though it was a dirty cream colour then and looked rather run down, it still stood out from the grottier modern buildings around it on a historic street called The Ropewalk. Now the house is a cool pale green with gold relief work on the plaster angels and wreath on the central pediment and is divided into flats. I have given Emma-Jane a room at the top on the left hand side at the back of the building.
Below her room is a large stone-flagged terrace above two garages where she and her flatmates can sit outside in sunny weather.
From her bedroom window she can see across the Park to Nottingham Castle on its sandstone rock.
In my novel the flat covers the top three floors on the right of the building and is owned by Penelope Galthorpe-Brown, who owns several florist shops throughout the Midlands. Another tenant is Jennifer Wright who owns a restaurant in town and is a successful chocolatier.
The flat provides a beautiful and cosy backdrop for the meetings of Emma-Jane’s reading group, especially as this architectural gem contains many of its original features, including a functioning fireplace in the main drawing room. In ‘Murder and Mr Rochester’ they are of course studying Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ together.
In future books they will be delving into the works of Jane Austen, for which this stunning Regency house will be even more appropriate. But of course the novel is not just about women reading classic romantic novels together. The fact that Emma-Jane’s house was also next to a (very small) police station (before it closed in April 2016) is going to become somewhat appropriate as well…