Author - Essie Fox

PUBLISHED: 11:13 16 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:22 20 February 2013

Author - Essie Fox

Author - Essie Fox

Author Essie Fox tells how her debut novel was inspired by her Leominster childhood

Although never tempted to act on the stage Ive always loved the theatre the drama and tension, the sounds and smells, the contrast of darkness and sparkling light, and the sense of suspended disbelief in which any story might chance to come true. Perhaps thats why the theatre inspired my novel, The Somnambulist which has scenes based in a music hall. But that love for the glamour of the stage really began with my grandmother, Octavia who I knew as Granny Thomas who lived the whole of her adult life in what had once been a coaching inn, in Broad Street, in Leominster.


The Lion Inn was opened in1843. A grand party was held in its ballroom which also had a stage, with a pair of tall pillars to stand either side. But, sadly, by 1851, the business had gone into bankruptcy, having opened up at just the wrong time, at the dawn of the railway era. It went on to become an ironmongers store, and then the ballroom was used as a showroom, filled with elaborate cast iron goods, such as fire surrounds, bed frames and umbrella stands. That business was called Alexander & Duncan. My great grandfather was one of four partners, before eventually buying the property outright, after which Alexander & Duncan was known for quite a different trade selling agricultural machinery and feedstuff to many of the farms around; the very same business my grandfather owned when I used to visit as a child.


I thought the Lion Inn a magical place. It had an arch that led from the street, with stables and yards and paddocks behind a warren of buildings where I loved to


play before clambering up some spiral stone steps to find myself in the big square hall where my grandmother kept a grandfather clock. I was intrigued with its heavy tock. I used to imagine standing on tip toes, to grab at the big brass pendulum, to make time stop, or even go back because when my grandmother took my hand and led me through dark corridors, then on through a pair of double doors to enter what had once been the ballroom, how I wished I could see it again in its heyday instead of its crumbling disrepair, with sacks of grain piled up at the walls and rats in the shadows and enormous cobwebs that hung from the plasterwork like ghosts. When my grandmother stood at my side in that room she told me some witch had cast a spell, that the stage was only sleeping then, that the ballroom might echo with music once more, and women in gorgeous long silk gowns would dance with handsome gentlemen.


And now, in a way, that dream has come true. Though no longer owned by my family, the Lion ballroom has been restored and is open for public and private events. And if only my grandmother was here today, to see it as it was meant to be.


ESSIE FOX


Essie Fox was brought up in Leominster where most of her family still live today. Her debut novel, The Somnambulist, a Victorian gothic mystery, is published by Orion Books at 12.99play before clambering up some spiral stone steps to find myself in the big square hall where my grandmother kept a grandfather clock. I was intrigued with its heavy tock. I used to imagine standing on tip toes, to grab at the big brass pendulum, to make time stop, or even go back because when my grandmother took my hand and led me through dark corridors, then on through a pair of double doors to enter what had once been the ballroom, how I wished I could see it again in its heyday instead of its crumbling disrepair, with sacks of grain piled up at the walls and rats in the shadows and enormous cobwebs that hung from the plasterwork like ghosts. When my grandmother stood at my side in that room she told me some witch had cast a spell, that the stage was only sleeping then, that the ballroom might echo with music once more, and women in gorgeous long silk gowns would dance with handsome gentlemen.


And now, in a way, that dream has come true. Though no longer owned by my family, the Lion ballroom has been restored and is open for public and private events. And if only my grandmother was here today, to see it as it was meant to be.


ESSIE FOX


Essie Fox was brought up in Leominster where most of her family still live today. Her debut novel, The Somnambulist, a Victorian gothic mystery, is published by Orion Books at 12.99

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