Is Gatley House a real place? Kinda...
Updated: Jul 18, 2019
Everything in Jewel Island and The Eyes Of Mara revolves around the crumbling old house called Gatley House.
Is it a true place?
Well. Sort of!
It’s based on a true place. Not in a town called Gatley though. Actually, the town was nearby Heald Green, which is right under the flight path for Manchester airport in the north west of England.
I vividly remember visiting an old decrepit building one night. A house with a story about a murder, room with a missing floor, a hook in the ceiling and a gravestone in the garden.
A group of us clambered over the gate, just as Esta does in the book. And after largely quaking with fear, one girl went in by herself. Armed with nothing more than a box of matches.
Soon afterwards a few of the boys shuffled inside as well. Me amongst them.
Wallpaper peeling off off the walls, steps creaking in the gloom.
Then someone opened the door on the first floor room and... well that’s where the idea came for the start of Jewel Island.
Suffice to say, the lot of us legged it out of that house as fast as we could and someone claimed to have tripped over a gravestone in the garden.
I’ve never returned. The memory faded into personal mythology. For a long time I couldn't find any records of it, nor where in Heald Green it is located.
After asking around to figure out if I just made up the whole thing, old school friends assured me I was not.
And recently I found the girl who entered the place by herself . The girl who unwittingly inspired the beginnings of Jewel Island! She confirmed the existence of the building and all the other details I had remembered.
But... there is no such place as Gatley House. The real location has been bulldozed many years ago. But it is based on some truth. Or at least the vivid memories of a bunch of terrified school kids on an evening sometime in the mid 80’s.