Mary Elizabeth Braddon at Ingatestone Hall, Essex
by
Jennifer Carnell

In later years Braddon described the hectic writing of Lady Audley's Secret: 'It was written from hand to mouth, as a serial wherever I happened to be when the time of publication drew near: in Essex, in Brighton, in Rouen, in Paris, at Windsor, and in London'. It was her visits to Essex, and time spent staying at an apartment in Ingatestone Hall, which partly inspired the setting for Audley Court and its lime tree walk. 'It seemed to me one summer evening, walking with the master of the house, that this lime-walk suggested something uncanny in the history of domestic crime.'

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'At the end of this avenue there was an old arch and a clock-tower, with a stupid, bewildering clock, which had only one hand; and which jumped from one hour to the next, and was therefore always in extremes. Through this arch you walked straight into the gardens of Audley Court.' (Chapter I)

'to the right there were the kitchen gardens, the fish pond, and an orchard bordered by a dry moat, and a broken ruin of a wall' (Chapter I)

'Within this moat there was, as I have said, the fish-pond - a sheet of water that extended the whole length of the garden, and bordering which there was an avenue called the lime-tree walk; an avenue so shaded from the sun and sky, so screened from observation that it seemed a chosen place for secret meetings or for stolen interviews'. (Chapter I)

The Lime Tree Walk.

Page updated to add new pictures. Many thanks to the owner of Ingatestone Hall for taking me round on 13 March 2013 (the day A Very British Murder with Lucy Worsley was filmed for BBC Four).

'The Scene of "Lady Audley's Secret"'
A sketch by Herbert Jennings, based on the original picture by Edward Duncan.

Braddon said, 'Many years afterwards, when the house had passed into other hands, my valued friend Mr. Edward Duncan, the well-known water-colour painter sat for some hours on a rainy evening under the arched gate, in order to gratify me with a sketch of Audley Court.' Edward Duncan (1803-1882) was a well known marine artist, and his picture shows Ingatestone by moonlight.

The Literary Lives of Mary Elizabeth Braddon by Jennifer Carnell (Biography)

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