Harlequin Historical Author and PHS editor Michelle Styles took a little trip to Gretna earlier this week.
An Impulsive Debutante, my hero and heroine were actually married at a blacksmith's shop during a market day in 1847. However, I had never actually been to the town. I had simply done my research. It was just over the border and I had seen the signs as we drove up the M74 but for some reason had never stopped. And it is one of those places, I did always mean to visit -- having read about it in so many books. In Pride and Prejudice, it is where Lydia Bennett elopes to. Okay, let's face it was THE place to elope to in the Regency period (and indeed afterwards)
On Monday, I finally made it up there. Gretna Green under the leadership of Smith's Hotel who own the Famous Blacksmith's Shop are going to have a Festival of Romance with Romance novels at its heart.The Festival is planned for 1 -2 November 2014 and I have been able to help with the planning. It is going to be aimed squarely at readers (along with aspiring writers) and sounds very exciting.
Gretna Green still does about 5,000 weddings a year. Smith's alone does 1,500 -- everything from very low key affairs with 2 people to much extravagant celebrations.
After the meeting I went on a tour of the Blacksmith's shop. They had just had a wedding moments before. During the ceremony, the anvil is struck and the couple are forged together. The wedding party included a Pomeranian dog dressed in bridal gear -- so I imagine she had something to do with the couple getting together.
Luckily for me, the blacksmith's shop is like I had imagined it (but better as this is where runaway marriages actually happened!) They had several exhibitions -- one of telegrams including one which said --Stop wedding, groom ex-convict, mother collapsed in grief. One of bride gowns through the ages and finally after the blacksmith's one of carriages and bicycles.
I loved the carriages which included the Ambleside to Gretna stagecoach and William IV's state coach which was reused by the judges at Carlisle for many years. There were governess's carts and various other conveyances.
Interestingly for a place which has been so often named checked, Gretna Green has rarely appeared in the movies or tv shows. In Downton, Lady Sybil and Branson were on their way to Gretna when they were intercepted but they didn't actually make it. We had discussion about showing a film/film clips of Gretna from movies. There was one in the 1950s which featured the blacksmith shop and that is about all. Slightly amazing when you consider all the romance and high drama which has gone on in this small town.
The place feels lovely and romantic. If you are thinking about eloping, it remains THE destination. It has been doing elopements ever since 1754!
I am really looking forward to the Festival as they cleary have a knack for romance.