Tuesday May 27th 1817 was a beautiful summer morning.
From Penns Mill Lane, the roofs of the small village of Erdington were just visible a mile or so away across the fields.
Erdington was a sleepy, nondescript place: an isolated hamlet in the heart of England standing at a crossroads that was over a thousand years old. The only industry was Penns Mill, a small wire-rolling mill that belonged to Joseph Webster; other than that, Erdington was lost in a green patchwork sea of farms, hedges and low rolling hills.
William Lavell had not had much sleep when he emerged from his cottage on Penns Mill Lane that morning. He’d been dancing at the pub the night before. There hadn’t been many women there – certainly not his wife – but as he stood at his door staring at the mill a quarter of a mile away, and persuading himself to trudge along to it, at least he had the happy reminder that he’d taken a turn round the floor with Mary Ashford.
He knew the girl well. She’d been a barmaid at The Swan in the centre of Erdington for a while, in the same pub where her father used to drink. Thomas Ashford was good for nothing: a failure and a drunk - considerably different to his brother who had a farm at Langley Heath four miles away. Mary had soon decided to put her lot in with her uncle, and went to market for him selling eggs and vegetables on Curzon Street in Birmingham. She’d been there yesterday, she’d told William. Walked all the way there and back. She’d covered eighteen miles in a day, and then danced all night.
It was half past six now, and the sun was well up. A heavy dew had fallen, and the moisture still clung to the hedges and the deep grass verges. The sun showed every drop of moisture. William stepped out into a sloping wheel-rutted lane overhung with trees on each side.
Almost immediately William saw a man coming quickly along the slight bend in the lane. He could see that the man was agitated; and when the hurrying stranger drew level with him it wasn’t to pass the time of day, but to tell Lavell anxiously that there was a pile of belongings, and a woman’s shoes stained with blood, at the side of the water-filled pit just a few yards away -and that ‘someone was in the pit’.
A world-famous Dorset author lived here, and a visit here with me is part of one of the pledges......
I wonder if there is a person out there who doesn't identify with this photo. Supposedly one of the most stressful events in life, probably because for a few weeks we tear up one pattern and try to make another; and for a few months (or two-and-a-half years, in my last move) we feel we're at the mercy of a chain of people we've never met. This is my house today,and its my 27th move. I never planned…
I have an account at Instagram. Take a look at elizabeth_cookeauthor to see what's occupying me at the moment.
It's too beautiful a day today - bright sunshine and clear skies - not to share one of my inspirational places. I'm here today to clear my head after the excitement of the launch yesterday! It's Burton Bradstock looking gorgeous, as befits the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. I often walk here, and swim here in summer, and the novel I'm currently working on was prompted by this beach.
I'm so thrilled to be part of the Unbound process, and today - launch day - marks a completely new process in my writing career. Crowd funding is like a big group of friends all over the world getting together. All with the same idea, the same enthusiasm: to hold a book in their hands that they've almost willed into being. Very exciting.
WHO KILLED MARY ASHFORD has been on my mind for some time…
These people are helping to fund Who Killed Mary Ashford?.