During the writing of A Fair Prospect, and even during the editing process when changes were made, I had a lot of fun deciding on the names for any original characters, whether they had a significant role or just a passing mention. As he has such a presence in the story, I thought I would share how I came to name Mr Nicholas Harington.
It was on a visit to Bath over 30 years ago that I came across the name Harington for the first time – on the sign of a 17th century hotel. I have never yet been inside this establishment, so I have no idea what it is like as a place to eat, drink or stay, but something about the name – ‘Haringtons’, as it was known then rather than the more predictable Haringtons Hotel that it is now – struck me and remained with me, and many years later when I was outlining A Fair Prospect, it came to mind as a good surname for a character.
I had long decided that, wherever the characters chose to take me as I wrote the story, it would end in Bath, so when it came to writing some chapters for Desperate Measures, I spent a couple of days in December 2009 walking the city, thinking about various scenes that could take place, and seeking inspiration. It was during one of these solitary walks that I realised the Harington name was more established than I had imagined and also had a tenuous link to Jane Austen.
Haringtons, situated in Queen Street, is now a boutique hotel.
This is a narrow cobbled street that runs down to join Trim Street, not far from Queen Square. Jane Austen and her mother and sister spent their last few months as residents of Bath in lodgings in Trim Street (in 1806) before being removed to Southampton by her brother, Francis. At the time, it was a very poor location, but perhaps not quite as bad as when described in the Bath Guide of 1800 as being full of noxious workshops, beggars, thieves and prostitutes! As the Austens were in rather precarious financial straits following the death of Mr Austen the year before, it is perhaps not surprising that their attempts to find affordable lodgings eventually brought them to such a place.
Nowadays, it is a quiet and pleasant backwater, a cut-through to various other streets, the former homes and lodgings now housing cafes, bars and small, eclectic shops of exclusive often hand-made goods.
Around the corner from the hotel, just up from Trim Street, I found another mention of the name: Harington Place.
The club itself was not founded until 1874; there has, however, been a Harington link to the site for many centuries before that, for although the building now in place dates from the 18th Century there is record of a building with stables there as far back as the 14th Century.
Captain John (later Sir John) Harington (1627-1700), whose grandfather was a Godson of Queen Elizabeth I and who lived nearby in Kelston, is thought to have stabled his horses on the site of the Club at the time of the English Civil War.
According to the website for the Harington Club, it states that:
“Together with his Bath trained band of volunteers, Captain Harington fought with distinction in the skirmishes at Monkton Farleigh, Claverton and Charlcombe on 5 July 1643 on the north east slopes of Lansdown. The outcome of the battle of Lansdown was inconclusive as both sides withdrew with heavy casualties. Oliver Cromwell claimed a complete victory but a few weeks later the Parliamentarians abandoned Bath leaving it to the Royalists. Two years later Cromwell’s new model army regained Bath, and Captain Sir John Harington gained a seat on the local council.
After the Civil War the history of the Haringtons remains obscure, and the manor at Kelston was sold. A descendent of Sir John Harington, Dr Henry Harington (1728-1816) lived at the club premises and was Mayor of bath in 1793.
As well as in this country, direct descendants live in Zimbabwe, New Zealand the USA and often pay a visit to the club when in Bath.”
Fascinating though this back-story might be, it didn’t fit with my plans for the Harington family, who are of Irish descent and made their fortune over the centuries from the shipping trade, but it was lovely to discover that a name that had ‘spoken’ to me so many years before could be so closely identified with the city of Bath.
And why ‘Nicholas’? It just popped into my head, and I liked how it sounded with ‘Harington’! Had I chosen to look it up on Google, I may well have altered it, for it seems there was a (Sir) Nicholas Harington who lived in the 14th Century!
More next week on the Seavingtons and my take on possible sources for the Bennet daughters’ first names!