Local author’s love of Swindon’s hidden history inspired latest novel

Swindon’s history has fascinated Nicola Cornick for 20 years – so much so that she’s set her latest novel in Swindon, and the glorious 18th century country house in Lydiard Park. She will be speaking at Lydiard House in Lydiard Park at 7.30pm on Tuesday May 14th, followed by a book signing, as part of the Swindon Spring Festival. Tickets can be purchased here.

Many people assume there was little to Swindon before the railways in the 19th century, but the pre-railway history of “Old Town” is certainly as interesting as the later industrial history, and Swindon history is packed with interesting stories and characters.

One particularly inspirational character was ‘the first Lady Diana Spencer’, an ancestor of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who was also known in her day as ‘Lady Di’. She lived at Lydiard Park in the 18th century and her story has uncanny similarities to that of the later Lady Di – she was unhappily married to Frederick St John and ended up getting divorced after having two sons; unlike the later Lady Di, however, she didn’t die tragically, and lived to become a well known artist. The first Lady Diana’s story is largely unknown in Swindon, despite the fact that the surrounding countryside inspired her art, and the designs she made for Wedgwood pottery are still in use today.

Nicola was also intrigued about the secret tunnels that run under the Old Town – which people have wondered about for years – and the rumours of smuggling, linked to the Wiltshire Moonrakers.

Nicola Cornick has thoroughly enjoyed researching the history behind Swindon’s fascinating stories and colourful characters, and would love to share what she’s learnt.

The Woman in the Lake, published by HQ, is a dual time psychological mystery set in the 18th century and the present, inspired by true events, set in Swindon and at Lydiard Park house.

London 1765: Isabella, Lady Gerard, orders her maid Constance to destroy a beautiful golden gown that was a gift from her husband. Its shimmering elegance has been tainted by his vile actions the night before. Yet the gown exerts a curious hold over Constance and as it starts to obsess and possess her, she begins to see it as a way out of the life of spying and drudgery in which she is trapped.

250 Years Later: When a gown she stole as a child from a historic home is returned to Fenella Brightwell, it starts to possess her in exactly the same way that it did when she was a girl. The fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she cannot tell what is real and what is imaginary. As Fen starts to discover more about the gown and Isabella and Constance’s story, so she begins to see the parallels with her own life, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity and her life itself.

Nicola Cornick is an international bestselling and award-winning novelist who has written over thirty historical romances and historical mysteries in a career spanning twenty years. Her books sell in over twenty five countries, have been translated into many languages and been published in multiple formats including e-book, audio and manga. Nicola is the current chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association UK and a member of the Society of Authors and Historical Writers’ Association.

Nicola studied History at the University of London and at Ruskin College Oxford and worked in academia for a number of years before becoming a full-time author. She volunteers as a guide and researcher for the National Trust at the 17th century Ashdown House and gives talks and seminars on a number of historical topics. She has spoken at the London Book Fair and at literary festivals including Oxford and Sharjah.  She is a former Wiltshire Libraries Writer in Residence and trustee of Wantage Literary Festival. In her spare time she is a guide dog puppy walker. She lives just outside Swindon with her husband and dog.