|The 'real-life' inspiration for|
The House of One Hundred Clocks!
Mixing modern sensibilities with the classic feel of the works of Philippa Pearce and Helen Cresswell in particular, Ann-Marie's tales immediately draw you into their closed-off worlds. Her first novel, in fact was was walled-off with only a few scenes stepping out of the intense gardens and hothouses; in 'One Hundred Clocks', the oppressive atmosphere of a house haunted by the past and the terrible secrets of its owner, Mr Westcott, helps to create an enthralling story that grips to its very end.
Ann-Marie is clearly an author who loves to take a germ of an idea and twist it almost endlessly, layering mystery upon mystery, to present the reader with what at first seems completely baffling but which eventually unravels towards satisfying revelations.
In 'One Hundred Clocks', the 'outside' world of Cambridge in 1905 is quietly but deliberately observed: along with the ever bustling tick-tock of students, the streets begin to chime the hour for women's rights too.
Although there is sadly no 'Clock-House' quite like Mr Westcott's to visit in Cambridge today (once you've read the novel, you would desperately want to see what it looked like inside!), Ann-Marie has taken inspiration from the narrow streets and glorious buildings of the city. I hope that this walking guide will hopefully introduce you to some of the secrets of the city and enrich your reading experience of the novel.
Please note that the tour includes busy roads. Cars, buses and bikes (!) get very close to pavements in Cambridge, so do take extra care.
All the best books begin with a map and this is no exception. The lovely picture-plan of Cambridge drawn by Saara Katariina Soderlund shows the city centre in 1905. All of the places on the map - even if slightly fictionalised, like Mr Fox's establishment - are easily found in the city today.
|Map illustration © Saara Katariina Soderlund; used by permission of Usborne Books|
|Peterhouse College (from Trumpington Street)|
Silver Street Bridge
|Silver Street Bridge plus punts|
Walk back the way you came, up to Trumpington Street again, and continue left. You might see the magnificent spires of King's College ahead of you...but don't rush ahead just yet! On your right, just as you enter King's Parade, there is a peculiar and rather special clock to see - not in Ann-Marie's book, but Helena's father would have loved it: this is...
The Cambridge Chronophage
|King's College (with the Chapel behind the gate)|
Continue past the College with the Chapel on your left and head past Senate House and Gonville and Caius College straight on into Trinity Street. Walk a little way further and you will see Rose Crescent on your right.
Walk through the Crescent to the other end.
|The Clock at Market Square|
Cross to the other side of the Market from Rose Crescent, towards the Town Hall clock, and turn left into Petty Cury.
At the end of Petty Cury, turn right and follow the road round past the taxi bay and the main gate of Christ's College. If you walk up this road for about five to ten minutes you will soon see...
The University Arms Hotel, Regent Street
|The University Arms Hotel|
|The Hotel, from Parker's Piece|
The hotel has always been at the cutting-edge: it was one of the very first hotels to have electricity and lavatories on every floor. In 1904, just before 'The House of 100 Clocks' takes place, the owner of the hotel turned the stable block into a garage: times were changing then and the motorcar was becoming the more fashionable way to get around rather than the horse and carriage. (You can see drawings of early motorcars on the map from 'One Hundred Clocks'.) I wonder how Katherine made her way to Cambridge: by horse or by car?
If you continue a little way on, past the Hotel, you will see a large grassy park open out on the left, just behind the Pizza Hut on the corner! This is...
On the far side of Parker's Piece, where there are now a series of bus-bays, you will notice a long terrace of tall town houses. This is where Harriet, Florence and Ralph pay a visit to Marchington and Sons, Mr Westcott's lawyers, and indeed there is a law firm here today - Barr Ellisons - the name of which echoes very faintly the sound of the company in 'One Hundred Clocks'.
I won't include any spoilers in this tour, but if you continue up the road where you found Ellisons, away from the town, past the Fire Station and onto Mill Road, you will soon come to...
..which is a building that holds special importance to a few of the characters at the end of 'The House of One Hundred Clocks'.
This site ends our tour of some of the main locations in Ann-Marie's wonderful novel, but I would very much recommend that you go back into town now and just a little further along from Rose Crescent, in Trinity Street, you will find Heffers bookshop - my favourite bookshop of all! - and perhaps pick up one of the following exciting books, which you are sure to love if you enjoyed Ann-Marie's novel. Happy reading!
Moondial (Helen Cresswell): Mysterious goings-on, centering around a peculiar kind of clock in the gardens of a stately home.
Clockwork (Philip Pullman): Good stories work like oiled clockwork, says Pullman: find out what happens when a story-mechanism is set off in this Faustian tale of clocks and devils!
Tom's Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce): the classic time-slip story where a clock strikes thirteen and Tom opens the back door into another world...
The House with a Clock in the Walls (John Bellairs): the creepy - but fun! - adventure story of a cursed house and a demonic time-piece that causes problems for the hero, Lewis Barnavelt.
And not forgetting, of course...
The Garden of Lost Secrets (Ann-Marie Howell) - more mysteries in this, Ann-Marie's first novel, inspired by the real-life unearthing of a kitchen diary at Ickworth House.
Huge thanks to Fritha Linqvist, Usborne Books and Ann-Marie Howell herself in the preparation of this blog.