Hidden for a hundred years.
“Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the war.”
In 1917 a sense of duty and a desire for a child lead celebrated artist Esme Howard to share her life and home – 16th-century Myddleton Mote – with Captain Guy Carlyle, an officer whose face and body have been ravaged by war. But Esme knows nothing of the ugliness that lurks within Guy’s tortured mind, as he re-lives the horrors of the trenches. As a child grows within her, Esme fears Guy’s wrath will be turned on them both. A prisoner in her own home, she paints like one possessed, trusting that one day someone will hear her silent cries for help.
A century later, Miranda Norton inherits Myddleton Mote and its art collection from a father she never knew and decides to move on after the end of an unhappy marriage. Inviting her extended family to join her, Miranda sets about restoring the house and turning it into a thriving business. When the moat is drained for repairs, a skeleton emerges. Then someone from Miranda’s past returns to torment her and an appalling act of vandalism reveals the Mote’s dark secrets, hidden for a hundred years.
Praise for HIDDEN
"An ancient moated house, a shell-shocked war hero, a female artist caught between the desire to honour her husband's sacrifice and her own free spirit - the ingredients for a page-turning read. Linda Gillard always delivers."
CLARE FLYNN, author of The Gamekeeper’s Wife and The Pearl of Penang.
“A powerful and atmospheric dual-time story. The way the secrets of the past and the central mystery are resolved had me breathless. So original, quite unexpected, the pages turning faster and faster, the ending wholly satisfying… HIDDEN is story-telling at its very best. I loved every moment.”
ANNE WILLIAMS, Being Anne book blog.
Baddesley Clinton: inspiration for HIDDEN's Myddleton Mote
Linda Gillard pictured at Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire
The setting of HIDDEN, a country house called Myddleton Mote, was based on two National Trust properties: Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire and Ightham Mote in Kent. Both are ancient moated houses and I visited the houses several times and took many photographs as part of my research for the novel.
I was particularly interested in the priest hole at Baddesley Clinton and a similar feature became an important part of the plot. The priest hole where priests hid lay below the floor level of the house and can still be seen today below the floor of the kitchen.
Here is a first-hand account of a raid by Father John Gerard, a Jesuit, taken from the National Trust’s guidebook.
"It was about five o’clock the following morning. I was making my meditation, Father Southwell was beginning Mass and the rest were at prayer, when suddenly I heard a great uproar outside the main door. Then I heard a voice shouting and swearing at a servant who refusing them entrance. But a faithful servant held them back, otherwise we should all have been caught. Father Southwell heard the din. He guessed what it was all about, and slipped off his vestments and stripped the altar bare. While he was doing this, we laid hold of all our personal belongings: nothing was left to betray the presence of a priest. Even our boots and swords were hidden away – they would have roused suspicions if none of the people they belonged to were to be found.
"Our beds presented a problem: as they were still warm and merely covered in the usual way preparatory to being made, some of us went and turned the beds and put them cold side up to delude anyone who put his hand in to feel them.
"Outside the ruffians were bawling and yelling, but the servants held the door fast. They said the mistress of the house, a widow, was not yet up, but coming down at once to answer them. This gave us enough time to stow ourselves in a very cleverly built sort of cave. At last the leopards were let in. They tore madly through the whole house, searched everywhere, pried with candles into the darkest corners. They took four hours over the work but fortunately chanced on nothing…
"When they had gone, and gone a good way, so that there was no danger of their turning back suddenly as they sometimes do, a lady came and called us out of our den, not one but several Daniels. The hiding place was below ground level: the floor was covered with water and I was standing with my feet in it all the time. Father Garnet was there, also Father Southwell and Father Oldcorne, Father Stanney, and myself, two secular priests and two or three laymen."
The Priest Holes of Baddesley Clinton
The priest hole at Baddesley Clinton
(From the National Trust guidebook)
Baddesley Clinton was a safe house for Catholic priests and home of the Jesuit priest Henry Garnet for almost 14 years. It boasts several priest holes built by Nicholas Owen, a lay brother of the Jesuits and a skilled carpenter. One hiding place, just 3’ 9” high, is in the roof space above a closet off a bedroom. Another is in the corner of the kitchen where visitors to the house today can see through to the medieval drain where Father Garnet was hidden. Access to this hiding place was through the garderobe (medieval toilet) shaft in the floor of the Sacristy above. A hiding space beneath the library floor was accessed through the fireplace in the Great Parlour.
Nicholas Owen was a most skilled and prolific builder of priest holes. He was instrumental in creating a network of safe-houses for priests during the early 1590s and for engineering the escape of the Jesuit Father John Gerard from the Tower of London in 1597. Shortly after the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, Owen was arrested at Hindlip Hall and then tortured to death in the Tower of London in 1606. Owen was canonised in 1970 and has become the Patron Saint of Escapologists and Illusionists.
Owen’s skilfully crafted priest holes saved many lives during this period of religious turmoil and persecution.
THE UNACCEPTABLE FACES OF WAR
Historian Ellie Grigsby has researched the soldiers with "broken faces", whose uncomfortable memory she says has been neglected in war commemorations. Her postgraduate research at Goldsmiths, University of London, found that many soldiers who returned, with their faces changed by shell and shrapnel injuries, faced social rejection and isolation. "I came across stories of mirrors being banned from hospital wards, children cowering from their fathers who came home from the front with a new face, and sweethearts who couldn't bear to look at their lovers," she says…
In some cases, where parts of the face were missing or irretrievably mutilated, men wore metal masks. These tin masks were painted and had artificial moustaches and eyebrows to reflect how the soldier once looked, based on photos from before the war.
Ms Grigsby says some disfigured soldiers wore these masks all the time, at home as well as in public, never showing their injuries. "They never showed their family, some children wondered their whole lives what the face looked like, because they never saw it," she says. Some were even buried still wearing a mask. "They lost not just their faces but their identities," says Ms Grigsby.
They had literally become the unacceptable face of war.
BBC News 9th November, 2019
"SUPERFLUOUS WOMEN" AFTER WORLD WAR I
In her memoir, TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, the author, Vera Brittain describes how she was struck by an advertisement placed in The Times during the war: “Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the War.” I used this advertisement in HIDDEN, imagining what might have driven women to make such a sacrifice.
This was not a sad, isolated incident. In her study of women's lives after World War I, SINGLED OUT (Viking 2007), Virginia Nicholson wrote:
"By 1921 the editor of the monthly Matrimonial Times was claiming to bring about twenty weddings a week, 1000 every year. Based in Holborn, this magazine set out to be a 'bona fide medium for introductions', business-like and confidential. Along with its predecessor the Matrimonial Post and Fashionable Marriage Advertiser, these papers published the sparingly worded advertisements of spinsters, widows and bachelors who no longer knew where to turn."