Castles and Cowsheds is a factual story set in 19th century Southwark, in the days of the Irish famine and cholera. Nearly every pub is a brothel, apart from The George Inn, which stages cock-fighting parties. Bear-baiting can be found on street corners, along with betting by costermongers. The characters range from aristocrats to starving immigrants.
Father Thomas Doyle tours the world to raise money in order to build St George’s Cathedral, south of the stinking silent river – the Thames. He was brave enough to ride on a death cart with 300 cholera-stricken cadavers.
Meanwhile, a baby is born to a naked woman on the bare, worm-eaten floorboards of the broken-down hotel where the Kelly family live. Its mother, Maria, has already given birth to three children: Daniel, Felix and Rosa. As the children grow up, Rosa pretends to be Alice in Wonderland, falling down a rabbit hole. Felix Kelly becomes a call boy at the South London Palace of Varieties in Elephant and Castle. Still only ten years old, the talented lad also works as a Song and Dance boy from 7pm to midnight in the London parks.
A dirty old Frenchman known locally as ‘le Vicomte de Southwark’ owns a house near The George Inn, where a little boy known as ‘Goldilocks’ joins him later. Like Byron, le Vicomte is “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. The Ohara family has money and their own villa on Bandyleg Walk. The father is a widower; a wharfinger. The two families intermarry.
Set in the days of Disraeli, Gladstone and the Crimean War, Castles and Cowsheds will appeal to fans of Victorian history and family sagas.