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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick. http://www.faysampson.co.uk

Fay Sampson Discovers Frankenstein and Family Roots in Great Fulford

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ February 27, 2016

For my husband’s birthday we attended a promenade performance of Frankenstein by the Four of Swords theatre company. This took place in the historic manor house of Great Fulford.

Getting there was an adventure in itself. On a dark country lane we picked out the white sign that read FRANKENSTEIN – GREAT FULFORD.  From here, a long pot-holed track led us down through a farmyard to the unlit parking lot, which was still not in sight of the house. Time to get out the torch we’d been advised to bring to avoid the puddles. I was glad I had been here before in the daylight. Only when we rounded the corner did we see the magnificent floodlit façade.

 

Passing under the entrance archway we found ourselves in the courtyard where the only welcoming light was the open doorway opposite. A servant in black tailcoat and white jabot ushered us in with a flourish. We were suddenly in a magnificent hall with carved panelling. A log fire blazed in the huge fireplace.

 

As the audience gathered musicians started to play. Then the older Alphonse Frankenstein was among us, greeting us and urging us to celebrate the return of his son Victor, who had been seriously ill. His welcome was interrupted by news that the youngest child, Willie, was missing. 

Victor led us to another room. Here he reconstructed for us the experiments which led to his animation of the human-like Creature. All this with chilling sound and light effects as the Creature rose from its bed. Victor panicked and tried to kill him.

 

We followed the banished Creature to a woodman’s hut in his vain search for love and acceptance. We watched him turn to hatred of humankind. 

After the Creature killed Victor’s bride, we were taken upstairs to a bare room cloaked in mist, where we shared Victor’s final pursuit of the Creature through icy mountains to his death. As the Creature stooped over his body, we felt his thwarted love for his creator.

This was, in essence, faithful to Mary Shelley’s novel, which shows compassion towards the rejected Creature. Later depictions debased it to crude horror. 

This venue has particular significance for me. Some years ago, Kishanda Fulford invited me to Great Fulford to follow up a document I had found in the course of local history. In the great hall she threw open an oak chest, packed with documents going back to Tudor times. She gave me permission to help myself and make transcriptions.

In the course of conversation she discovered that I have many ancestors in nearby Moretonhampstead. “Oh, they’ll be Parliamentarians, then,’ she replied. The Fulfords were staunchly Royalist in the Civil War of the 1640s, but the Parliamentarians of Moretonhampstead sacked the house after Francis Fulford was imprisoned. The two of us realised that my ancestors might have been involved in looting this magnificent house where we were standing. I’m proud that most of my Devon ancestors came from Parliamentarian communities, though not of this incident. 

It was this experience which led me to write A Malignant House, second in the Suzie Fewings series of crime thrillers. It is set in a house not unlike Great Fulford, though occupied by a fictitious family. “Malignant” can mean dangerously sinister, but is also the name given by Parliamentarians to Royalists.  Suzie’s genealogical investigation leads her to just such a document chest and to the uncovering of darker activities. In the Civil War Great Fulford was indeed a Malignant house.

 

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

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