Although Bishops Well is a fictional village situated near the fictional town of Sexton’s Canning, it is typical of many such villages scattered across the beautiful county of Wiltshire. It hasn’t entirely moved with the times and remains steeped in its proud history with medieval and Tudor buildings dominating its cobbled alleys. Its wider setting is even older than the village itself, featuring such pre-historic gems as a Neolithic stone circle, an Early Celt settlement and Bronze Age burial grounds. These and many other ancient mounds and chalk hill carvings scattered amongst its rolling fields and grazing paddocks are the very landmarks of Wiltshire.
Bishops Well and Sexton’s Canning are an amalgam of real places where I have lived, worked or passed through when exploring my locality. The reader will find references to Bishops Well’s Market Square with a stone cross in its centre. Its prototype can be found in the town of Malmesbury. It was built in the late 15th century using rubble from the partially destroyed Malmesbury Abbey. I spent over a decade teaching in a village school near Malmsbury and frequently travelled past the Market Cross on my way to sporting events.
Sexton’s Canning has been modelled on the historical town of Devizes. The County’s Police HQ is situated there. I once lived in its close proximity. Behind the Police HQ is Quakers Walk, a green-belt footpath that leads to a hill adorned by one of Wiltshire’s several White Horses. Beyond Quakers Walk is a wood which gave inspiration to Sexton’s Wood and Bishops Swamp.
The main street of Bishops Well, full of graded buildings, some thatched, some with the distinct criss-cross of Tudor framing, is a fusion of the old towns of Market Lavington and Potterne, and the villages of Sandy Lane and Lacock near Bowood.
The Stables Tearooms in Lacock gave inspiration to Bishops’ own Old Stables Café. It is a perfect place to meet up with friends for cream tea and a natter. Notably, it is dog-friendly. With their opulent grounds and stately homes the Weston and Forget-Me-Not estates featured in The Shires Mysteries owe their style and design to Bowood House.
Geographically, Bishops Well lies somewhere near Trowbridge, with Bath ten miles to the north-west and Salisbury to the south, some thirty miles away over Salisbury Plain. On a nice day, when I walk my dog in the fields I can see the Westbury White Horse in the distance. Unlike the White Horse of Bishops Well, it is the real article and the oldest hill carving of its kind in Wiltshire.
Priest’s Hole, Maggie and Sam’s home, is based on my house which is part of a historical church enclave and borders an old cemetery with some of the tombstones so ancient and weather-worn that one can no longer read their inscriptions.
The places in The Shires Mysteries replicate the rich landscape and landmarks of Wiltshire, however all of my characters are entirely fictional and any similarity to persons living or dead is, as they say, purely coincidental.
If you’d like to visit Bishops Well, the fictional village featuring in the first book in the series, Death Comes to Bishops Well, follow any of the links below: