Thursday, 12 February 2009

IN SEARCH OF SNOW AND GRAVESTONES

If snow won't come to me...Honestly, not a solitary flake in Plymouth this year. Plenty, though, up on the Moor, where I spent today taking photographs of the prison (only later realising this might look a little suspicious).


Built in the early 1800s, Dartmoor Prison is a foreboding sight, its austere granite exterior tempered little by the beauty surrounding it. Home to French prisoners in the Napoleonic war, as well as American POWs, it was rebuilt in the 1850s to house some of the country's most notorious criminals; conditions were regarded as the harshest in England. Those lucky (or foolish) enough to escape, usually perished in the peat bogs or the severe weather. If you made it off the Moor, you were usually recaptured and flogged. One account tells of convicts making skeleton keys out of bones from their food. Another of a man who fled a chain gang amid warder gunfire, apparently aimed so as not to be fatal. The report states: 'The captured convict was severely injured, having received several shots to the head.'


I took the above picture in the churchyard behind the prison. The gravestones are those of convicts who died during the prison's early days. Some have initials and dates, others are just plain.

For my next research trip, I just have to work out how to break into a prison.

6 comments:

Anne Brooke said...

Marvellous! But not as bad or as suspicious-looking as when I was researching up in London for A Dangerous Man and took loads of photos of a piece of parkland I wanted to set a few scenes in, without taking into account the playing children whose photos I was also inadvertently taking (cue accompanying husband dragging me away before we were torn limb from limb by enraged parents ...)

==:O

Axxx

TOM J VOWLER said...

Ha, Anne. You're not allowed to take pictures of children these days; haven't you seen Chris Morris' Brass Eye on the subject?! Also reminds me of a brilliant short story by Joanne Harris, The Spectator, I think.

Anne Brooke said...

Tee hee! I hadn't even seen the children (not being remotely interested in the little beasts) - I was concentrating on the wonderfully faded grass!

:))

Axxx

Annabel said...

I've just found your blog and I'm very jealous! I realise that in England there are a few grants and helps for writers, but here there is anything like that!
You are analysing some things about writing fiction that I often fear to face... So thank you to talk about it that way, I find it very useful!
That's why I've just written a biography (apart from some children stories). But to write it also helped me to think about structures,etc.
So thanks a lot! It's a pleasure to come to your blog.

Annabel

TOM J VOWLER said...

Hi Annabel

Thanks for stopping by. Grants are possible to get here, but very difficult, especially now we are hosting the Olympics!

Annabel said...

Sure Tom! By the way I congratulate you for receiving one. I'll see if I could find something written by you here or near (in Barcelona).

xxx
Annabel

ps. here the Olympics were great! I hope the same for you!