The bridge of the novel’s title is fictitious, but the real-life Basingstoke Canal is the inspiration for The Body at Carnival Bridge. It plays an important role in the book, as it’s the link between Constance Timpson’s food production factories in London and the Tolfree & Timpson biscuit factory in Walden.
Broad Oak Bridge, Odiham
The above photo is of Broad Oak Bridge, built c.1792 and extensively restored in 1980. The bridge is now only a footbridge and provides access across the canal to the towpath and Odiham Common.
The canal has a history that reads like a novel. Many crimes have taken place there, including murder. During its 200-year history, the canal has been involved in countless swindles, with owners committing fraud by selling fake shares in the navigation. The waterway was always a commercial failure and ended up in the hands of the receivers on many occasions.
In 1872, it became clear just how expensive it was to maintain the canal as a transport route when the roof of the Greywell tunnel collapsed, blocking passage to Basingstoke. Later roof falls led to the tunnel becoming impassable. Since then, one of the largest colony of bats in Britain has taken up residence there.
The canal has become a haven for wildlife, and I reference this in my novel. When the owner announces she intends to close the navigation, she gifts a section of it to the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (the forerunner of the Wildlife Trusts we have in the UK today).
In The Body at Carnival Bridge, I describe how each year, decorated boats sailed from King John’s Castle in Odiham to Carnival Bridge at Crookham, where everyone disembarked to follow a procession into town led by the carnival queen.
King John's Castle, Odiham
Iris Woodmore’s hometown of Walden is based on the town of Fleet in Hampshire, where a carnival takes place each year. I’ve taken part in the procession for many years in many different costumes - pirate, swan, and ship's captain, to name a few!
The Iris Woodmore Mysteries are available in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook from Amazon and bookstores.