Big Days in Ashthorpe Magna
Welcome to Ashthorpe Magna. When I first started writing the book I needed to use a town name - one with which people were familiar, and yet at the same time uncertain as to its exact location. My daughter, Lucy, suggested we use Ashthorpe, but I recalled it more as the "Magna". Ashthorpe Magna was born in the literary sense, but was it the right place to use?
I then forced myself to visit my excellent local hostelry, the Hollybush, on several evenings to conduct a scientific survey! A total of 20 people were questioned about Ashthorpe Magna and the results were amazing; six recalled driving through the town, six had never heard of it and did not believe it existed and eight had seen signs but could not recall exactly where. Clearly the name was correct for the genre of the book which could be described a "suspension of disbelief"!
"20 people were questioned about Ashthorpe Magna... six recalled driving through the town"
Shortly after I left the navy in the 60's a wonderful dramatisation appeared on TV called Clochmerle. At first it sounded a little dull, a series based purely on the characters and events in a rural French town - Clochmerle (Clochemerle was written in 1934 by Gabriel Chevallier, but was set in 1925). The nation responded, and viewers in their millions turned on to see if the mayor would take precedence over the parish priest by erecting the new "pissoir" in front of the church. Week by week the disagreements between priest and mayor were in our homes, and a multitude of characters from the little town were added.
In 2006, eighty years after it was written, I read the book for the first time and to my astonishment the characters were as lifelike as they were on TV forty years ago, and the situations as realistic today as ever.
Moreover the characters were people I know, or had known, in small towns in Leicestershire, Hampshire and Warwickshire where I have spent most of my life. Added to this each character was as likely to be found in Wickham or Bishops Waltham, Melton Mowbray or Ashby de la Zouch or Alcester where I now live. Indeed it dawned on me in a Damascene manner (look it up!) that the people in each place were actually the same, and that their personalities were carved by their surroundings. Especially in Ashthorpe Magna... WELCOME.
Maurice Abney-Hastings was born in Nottingham, brought up in Leicestershire and spent 15 years in Hampshire, but for the past 20 something years has resided in rural Warwickshire. All the towns in which he has lived are the same sort of size as Ashthorpe Magna, and his writing conveys his deep knowledge and love of English country life.
More about the author
Ian Rose was a new journalist on the Saturday Telegraph. Having achieved a 1st Class degree at Oxford in English Literature he had decided on a career in journalism, and had been allocated to the travel department of the popular broadsheet newspaper.Read the Story