I travel. Sometimes I travel by boat, plane, or automobile. Sometimes I travel by book. This past week I traveled with the hero and heroine of my work in process as they came south on the Great North Road in 1839 until they reached the place where it meets the road to Cambridge at Alconbury. The Great North Road, the route from London to Edinburgh dates, at least as far as York, to those great road builders, the Romans. It is still there—under and around the A1. In the Regency and Victorian eras, it was the primary route to the northern counties and to Edinburgh. For that reason it features in books as diverse as The Pickwick Papers, The War of the Worlds, and Sir Walter Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian—not to mention more Regency romances than I dare name. How many eloping couples have been pursued up the road? How many heroines have rushed to rescue kidnapped heroes, or vice versa? In the book I’m writing the hero has gone north to retrieve the heroine who followed her brother north and got herself into… Well, check out my post, Enter the Hero.
I have not traveled the road in real life, alas, but I would like to. Travel guides to historic inns, country churches, great houses, and cathedrals abound. Tristram’s Coaching Days and Coaching Ways (1888) isn’t much use today, bit it certainly fires my imagination, filled as it is with the joys and burdens of Victorian travel. Alconbury itself was described as a large but strung out village three set three hundred yards from the great road. It seemed a good place to put a fictional inn to pause their journey. Tristram describes it as being the place where the two roads to York meet at the Wheatsheaf Inn. It doesn’t appear much had happened there since the fourteenth century. I gave it a catastrophic carriage accident involving an earl’s heir. That should liven things up.