LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION!
from fact to fiction
Wherewithal Quay - John Bruce
A bit of a cliché, I know, but I'll explain the relevance of the title. In BLOOD ON THE TIDE I wanted to describe an interesting building on the quay at Nottery Quay. I remembered that my friend, John Bruce had built one on his exquisite little railway layout, Wherewithal Quay. In just 21" x 18" he has created a delightful slice of Cornwall. As I understand it the prototypes for the wonderful 4mm scale buildings have been drawn from various sites across the county. But they have been put together so skilfully that they create a slice of Cornwall, perfectly. I was rather taken with the hexagonal harbourmaster's office and asked where that had come from.
Harbour master's office, Charlestown, Cornwall
Apparently, it's based on the eight-sided building on the quay at Charlestown in Cornwall. This is thought to have been constructed at the end of the 18th century at the same time as the harbour which was developed by local landowner, Charles Rashleigh, to ship china clay from his nearby mines and was designed by engineer John Smeaton. This brings us neatly full circle, as Smeaton built an ill-fated harbour at Winchelsea Beach, which is where my hero, Detective Inspector Sonny Russell has his railway carriage home.
Here is an extract from BLOOD ON THE TIDE, describing the building. If you enjoy it and would like to read more, the book is available in paperback or Kindle from Amazon.
On the quayside, near where the car was stopped, stood a curious, hexagonal stone building. This small structure was the harbourmaster’s office. With windows on five sides it commanded views, not only of the waterside, and out towards the harbour entrance but nearly the whole of the quay. ‘If we make a dash for it while it’s still raining, we should be able to get in without being noticed.’
‘Good idea, Sir.’ The two men left the shelter of the car and, keeping close to the timber walls of the warehouses, made their way to the quayside. They waited briefly as the downpour eased. Then, as it stepped up a gear, Russel nodded, rain flipping off the brim of his trilby, and they ran across the narrow gap towards the office. Luck was with them as he turned the handle. The door was unlocked and it opened easily. They bustled inside and stood panting. The whole exercise had taken only a matter of seconds so it was unlikely that they had been seen.
The interior was barely ten feet across and contained very little, just a couple of stools and a small table with a map of the harbour and a book of tide tables lying on the surface. On the one wall without a window was an old faded photograph of the quay, with a number of sailing boats tied up alongside and next to it, a pair of binoculars, hanging by a leather strap from a hook.
‘Ah, good,’ the DI said, lifting them down and placing them on the small table. The two men perched on the stools, water dripping off their sodden clothes. After a while, steam starting to rise in the confined space.
The rain was easing, reducing to a mist, with an occasional quick, heavy squall blowing in off the sea and battering the glass. The thunder had reduced to a distant rumble, as the storm moved along the coast. The two men sat for perhaps half an hour, saying little, intent on keeping watch.
‘You look for the boat, constable, and I’ll keep an eye out back.’ The pair sat, watching intently. The windows were still smeared with condensation but were clear enough to see anything going on outside. Russell thought he caught a movement in the shadows between two buildings. Weeks spoke, almost in a whisper. ‘There it is!’ His boss risked a quick glance seaward and could see the dark shape of a vessel heading towards them. He swivelled his head back again, just in time to see the shadow grow into the form of a large man, bent over, making his way across the front of the warehouses. As the engine note grew louder, the man left the shelter of the buildings and, crouching low, jogged in the direction of the edge of the quay.