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Where is Thorpe?

Photo credit: Conisbrough Castle Keep by Mike Smith

A few years ago, I got into an online discussion with a reader about where I set the Kate Fletcher books.  I call the town ‘Thorpe’ and the reader guessed it might be Armthorpe, just outside Doncaster.  It wasn’t a bad guess as the geography fits, as does some of the history, but it wasn’t right.  I grew up in Conisbrough, famous for its Norman castle (and being the birthplace of Tony Christie, whose brother taught me history in secondary school).  It’s also a place with a strong literary connection due to Sir Walter Scott. Parts of his novel Ivanhoe centre around the character Athelstane of Coningsburgh, supposedly due to Scott’s interest in the castle.  Some sources claim he actually wrote much of Ivanhoe in an inn close to the town.

Some of the characters from the novel have been immortalised in the names of streets and institutions.  There’s an Ivanhoe Working Men’s Club, a Rowena School and my mum used to live on Athelstane Road. Scott’s Coningsburgh wasn’t based on any historical fact and he assumed the castle was from a much earlier date than the twelfth century but his ideas live on in the town.

I chose to do something similar – I took the town I knew and superimposed a fictional version on top.  I don’t mention the castle because Thorpe isn’t Conisbrough but I do mention the pit because coal mines were a feature of many local towns and villages.  Crosslands Estate is based on the council estate where I grew up but the street names and some of the geography have been changed.  I mention the brickworks and the quarry but I’ve changed the names of shops and pubs.  It’s a balancing act but, I feel, a necessary one.  I didn’t want the responsibility of being constricted by the facts of the place and I didn’t want to run the risk of getting something wrong. 

Some events in the books take place in Doncaster and Sheffield and I feel differently about how I portray these.  Part of me feels that both can handle me getting a street name wrong or adding a dual carriageway where none exists but I couldn’t inflict the same sort of butchery on my home town.

So there it is: Thorpe is Conisbrough; but it isn’t.


The first two books in the DI Kate Fletcher series are now available on Amazon Kindle.



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