History of Montacute
   
 
I have known Montacute House since I was a child as my grandparents lived in the village. I used to love imagining that
I lived here and I still do.

The house was started in 1588, the year the country faced the Spanish Armada, not by Lord Edward Mortain as in my story but by Sir Edward Phelips.  He had made his fortune as a lawyer and became an MP, then Speaker in the House of Commons and Master of the Rolls.  He prosecuted Guy Fawkes and was on good terms with the King. It was described as the greatest house in Somerset at the time and had a 180 foot long gallery, still the longest in the country.

Montacute village got its name from the conical hill that rises up behind the house, 'steep hill' is Mons acutus in Latin. There appears to have been some sort of settlement here since the Iron Age and the village itself is very ancient. There is evidence of Roman road-building nearby.  

The Mons acutus was later named Saint Michael’s Hill, as it is in the book. I used to get very muddy sliding down it as a child and was fascinated by the strange tower at the top and the legends of secret tunnels inside the hill that led to the house, the ruined Abbey and the summit. All I write about the crucifix being found on top of the hill and the Norman invader, Count Robert Mortain, who built his castle there and stopped locals visiting their holy place, is documented. I have used Mortain’s name in the book.  

Montacute was a prosperous village, being on the main road from London to the West. There were glovers, bell-founders, pewterers, pot founders and braziers, saddle-girth weavers (they wove the strips of fabric that went under the horse's belly to keep the saddle on), linen weavers, flax dressers, leather traders, coopers, cobblers and cordwainers (shoe-makers). The village and the House are beautiful places to visit. The House is now owned by the National Trust, the Abbey gatehouse and dovecote in the story are visible from the path near the church, and you can climb the hill and see for yourself if you can feel the spirits around you.