The house in this story is Hardcastle House and it is the home of the England family who are mill owners in Yorkshire. The house itself is rather interesting because it is situated in an isolated part of Yorkshire and it is very near the cotton mill that is owned by the family in the story. This story is set in 1904, a time when there was still bad working conditions for factory workers along with child labour .
Even though the book has `Mrs England' as it`s title, the main character is a young woman named Ruby May. Ruby is a Norland trained nanny who leaves her job in London when her employers move abroad. She needs another job quickly and she is sent to Hardcastle House through the Norland agency. While there she will be expected to look after four young children and she soon finds herself very busy. The story is told through Ruby.
Ruby soon finds out that Mr and Mrs England seem to have strange ideas on running a home and a young family. Mr England seems to be very much in control of everything including things that the lady of the house would normally attend to. Ruby find herself having to deal more and more with Mr England than with his distant and not very friendly wife. However, it turns out that there is more to Mrs England than meets the eye, so maybe this is why the book has been named after her.
It was Ruby`s job to look after four children, Rebecca ( who liked to be known as Decca), Saul, Millie and baby Charley. She found them to be normal children and did not experience any problems with looking after them. She shared the Nursery with them and they all got on well.
After she had settled in to her new job, Ruby soon notices that something feels very wrong in the household. When she first started there, she was told that only the boy, Saul, would be getting an education and the girls were taught to read and write by their father. But one day , out of the blue, they were told that Decca was being sent away to school. This came as a surprise to all of them.
There was more mystery to come after Decca had gone to school because Ruby wrote to her regularly but had not received any replies. Ruby was also waiting for some letters from her sister.
Ruby has a secret
About halfway through the book , we get the idea that it is not just the England family that are acting strange, but it seems that Ruby has a secret of her own. It seems that this secret is something to do with her family who she left behind in Birmingham.
On this page.....
..... in no particular order;
MRS ENGLAND -Stacey Halls
WHERE WE BELONG - Anstey Harris
My opinion of creepy house stories
Where we Belong.
This is the story of what happened when a widow named Cate and her nineteen year old son, Leo, suddenly found themselves without a home. They had been living in a flat in London, but when Cate lost her job, they had to look for somewhere else to live. It was lucky for them that they had somewhere else to go because it turned out that Leo had inherited his grandfathers old home which also housed a museum. Cate was not keen to move there because her late husband , Richard, only ever said bad things about the place. As there was no other choice Cate decided to give it a try.
This is not just a story about a creepy old house because the story is mostly about the people involved . The author tells us about how Richard struggled with depression before taking his own life and how Cate coped with looking after Leo who has Down`s Syndrome.
The museum that was part of Leo`s inheritance was known as `Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World' and it housed an exhibition of actual animals from around the world. These animals were obviously dead and they had been mounted , not stuffed, in one of the rooms. Many of the animals were now extinct and visitors would always be shocked when they first visited the exhibition.
When Cate and Leo first arrived, one of the first things they learned was that the museum was not doing well and they could be losing it soon. Cate and Leo did not want this to happen because , after a bad start, they did want to make it their home and Cate wanted to preserve Leo`s inheritance for his future . So they decided to make the museum better known to the outside world. This also lead to more problems for them along with the fact that the building had been rather neglected over the years.
Along with Cate, Richard and Leo, there are a few other characters who feature in the story.
Araminta who has been working at the museum for many years and knew Richard when he was a child. She is a bit of a mystery because it is stated that she can live in some of the rooms above the museum for the rest of her life because of her connection with the family. Cate is unsure how old Araminta actually is, and this is not helped when Cate find a photo from the 1960s where Araminta looks only slightly younger than she does now. Araminta is rather hostile towards Cate to begin with , but the pair do eventually start to work well together but Araminta has her secrets which give her character an air of mystery.
Simon , at the start of the story Simon has gone abroad because of his job. In the past Simon and Cate had been together for a short time before Cate dumped him for his friend Richard. There were no hard feelings between them and Simon stayed friends with the couple. When Richard became really ill, Simon was there to support Cate. After Richard had died and Simon had moved abroad , Cate stayed in touch with him through text messaging as she does throughout the start of the story. The author lets us believe that there is something more between Cate and Simon but this theory is put to the test when Cate meets Patch.
Patch is the local artist who, like Cate and Leo, is new to the area. Cate first meets him when he is at the museum doing some artwork . He tells her that he runs a local art group where Leo would be welcome. Leo jumps at the chance to join the group and this is where he meets Sophie and Martin
My opinion of creepy house stories
I have always enjoyed reading books where a creepy old house is at the centre of the story. I love the idea of strange goings on in a large house in the middle of nowhere. These stories make me imagine what it would be like to live in one of these houses.
As a child, I had a friend who lived in a flat in a road that was mostly filled with blocks of flats and houses that were newly built in the 1960s. At the end of her road there was a really big old house that was once a family mansion but had since been converted into offices. I used to love to walk past this building and imagine what went on inside it years ago. My friend and I would make up ghost stories about it. My friend and her family have since moved to a different area, but after doing some research online, I found out that the big house is still there and still being used as offices.