MT McGuire Books

This Explains a Lot

I have been looking up settings for the K’Barthan Trilogy and the High Temple is loosely based on a real place. This one (Lancing College Chapel).

Lancing College Chapel

So there I am, looking for photos to send the designer about one of my ideas for the cover of Book 4 and – you know that auto complete thing in Google – well I got a bit spanner fingered typing in Lancing Chapel and managed to choose the google option ‘Lancing College Chapel, Harry Potter’ rather than the one I wanted to type. Uh, I thought as it started to load. So I left it. Intrigued.

And then I got this.

Gibbs House, Lancing College, Lancing, Sussex.

Which is a bit creepy.

Because that, people, used to be my house, or at least half of it. Don’t get excited, it’s not the mansion it looks. It’s miles and miles of corridor and a couple of enormous rooms (you know, bed in one post code, wardrobe in another) and a couple of tiny ones (just big enough to fit a chest of drawers and a bed, on each floor. You have the spare room; the dormer window up top (horrible room, we thought it was haunted – so we kindly put our guests there phnark). Below, my parent’s room (over the arch – a big vaulted room with a false ceiling, at night Mum and Dad would hear the rats scurrying over the ceiling tiles, which were polystyrene and which, my Mum felt, might not hold the weight). Next moving right; my brother’s room (mine isn’t shown, it was at the back) and then the bathroom and loo (the wind used to whistle in and blow through the overflow of the bath so if you didn’t want cold water very fast in winter, you had to wet a flannel and hang it over to stop the draught).

Moving right again, you hit the stairwell. Next floor down, left to right again, you’ve the drawing room and the downstairs bathroom. Then stairwell again. The rooms below are dormitories, yes, we shared our house with boys and we had a fire bell in our hall, which had a cloth cap over it to keep the noise down in fire practises.

The other side of the stairwell, not shown, ware the kitchen and the dining room. The floor above wasn’t ours, the top floor was but the school water header tank was in the attic next door so unless you liked the sound of running water there wasn’t much you could do up there except use it as a junk room.

You can even see the TV ariel with its wonderful reception of French TV and not much else. Pingu anybody? The nearest transmitter was blocked by that big red building on the left (the science block).

So that’s a three bedroom house, about 90% of which is corridor. Infested on a semi permanent basis by cockroaches although our cat did used to keep the mice at bay. Nonetheless, for the first 16 years of my life, in term time, I called it home.

And why, in the name of heaven, is it on a Harry Potter site?

Well, it turns out the school was the first choice for the film location of Hogwarts. Which explains a lot about me, I suspect. I’m not a bit surprised, because when I read Harry Potter, I transposed most of the events to Lancing in my head. Although when I lived there, as a pre-Potter baby, I was more interested in attempting the world land speed record on roller skates along the concrete cloisters round the quads. Sadly, I failed to find a picture of the steps I used to ride my bicycle down.

The school was offered a lot of money to be the film Hogwarts and declined. The headmaster at the time said that it was a place of education and not for Hollywood. He is a charming and mild mannered man, I wonder what on earth they must have said to him to get such an uncharacteristically pompous rebuttal.

Part of me is terribly sad that I can’t tell people that I grew up in Hogworts, although I do understand and I pretty much did, anyway. But It’s a school, and I guess if you think about it, that’s 10 year’s worth of distraction to the students. Corpus Christie College Oxford – where they eventually filmed – has longer holidays and older occupants. I expect there are no darts in the ceiling of their great hall… or lumps of mashed potato stuck to the rafters, or dead balloons, or the corners of pieces of toast just visible over the side of the beams – how the hell you lob a bit of toast up 60 odd feet so it lands on top of beam I don’t know but they did and they were there. Then again, they may not be now. I doubt anyone’s thrown an orange through one of the paintings during a food fight either. Indeed, I doubt they do that any more. Young people seem to be terribly well behaved these days. And imagine the effect of 10 years of Potter on the School’s league table results. They’d have been through the floor. Sorry I couldn’t revise, sir, I was watching the quidditch.

Ahh… happy days.

Hmm… I can sort of see why he said no.

It’s still a shame though.

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