My Home: Charlotte Bingham, romance novelist and TV writer

The romance novelist and TV writer Charlotte Bingham sets the scene for her domestic dramas at her 18th-century rural rectory
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Charlotte Bingham met her husband, Terence Brady, when he appeared in Beyond the Fringe with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook in the Sixties and together they wrote hit TV shows including Upstairs Downstairs. Charlotte is now a bestselling author of romantic fiction and they live in a five-bedroom house in Somerset.

We've been living here now for nearly 25 years. Before we found this place we had just got back from Hollywood, where we'd been staying at the Westwood Marquis Hotel for about 12 weeks, writing and rewriting a pilot for an American TV production.

It was very glamorous, we shared the lift with Dustin Hoffman and Lord Olivier, who lived in the next suite to us, and had cocktails on the balcony every night. But LA wasn't for us, and we were desperate to get back to England.

When we finally did get back we wanted to buy the first country house that we could get our hands on. We didn't have to look for long. My sister-in-law found this place for us. She said we'd love it, and we did. As soon as we walked through the door we knew it was for us. It is a former rectory, built in 1703.

It has been a great place to live, we've brought up our two children here, and have reared and bred more than 10 event horses. We have three rescue dogs, a cat and a pond full of ducks.

When we moved here my husband was worried about being so deeply entrenched in the countryside. "It's more than six hours away from London," he had shrieked at the time. But that was before decent motorways and fast trains. Now you can be in town in under a couple of hours.

We don't go away very often, though. We never take holidays: I may have the odd day off. But like a lot of people I have spoken to - writers, painters and hairdressers included - if you take more than two weeks off you can often forget what it is that you do.

I've always felt it was an adventure living here. When we moved to the area it was very very rural. Now it has changed a lot, and there are a lot of other writers living in the area, Cameron Mackintosh has a house down the road, and Fay Weldon, coincidentally one of the original writers on Upstairs Downstairs, is a neighbour. Lord Rees Mogg lives close by and so does the biographer Victoria Glendinning.

My study is above the kitchen at the far end of the house overlooking the garden. I write six days a week: I like to be at my desk by 9am every morning and will write till around 1.30. Then I may go back to do some reading, researching or re-writing till around 4.30.

My husband paints in his studio most days and plays the piano every evening. He has his own music room next to the drawing room with a Roland piano.

We also converted one of the outbuildings into a gallery for him to house all his paintings. It has sanded wooden floors and white walls with his colourful paintings around. He has an electric Yamaha piano there, and we have a theatre bar in one corner, complete with a one-armed bandit from the 1920s. I bought it for him to keep him out of the pubs, and so far it seems to have worked.

I love this house, it feels a bit Jane Austeny to me. I like the fact that it's not at all grand and very easy to keep. You can be here on your own, and you don't feel isolated or scared.

My decorating style is fairly informal - I like a house to be somewhere children and dogs can feel comfortable, and where everything doesn't have to be perfect.

It is nice to be able to sit down in any room and be able to hear someone else. I hate houses that look like they could be a hotel. This is very much an artist's house; modern paintings sit among older paintings and everything mixes in well.

We have gathered quite a large art collection. We started off buying from friends when we were poor, and they were even poorer than us. Now practically every wall is taken up with paintings. Our most recent acquisition has been a Kurt Jackson landscape.

One of my favourite rooms to relax in is the TV room next to the kitchen. We have a large plasma TV set into the wall. We tend to watch a film most nights after dinner. I'm a real fan of comedies, and one of my favourite series was Seinfeld. I was devastated when it ended, but I have since become quite attached to The West Wing.

We have five bedrooms upstairs and two bathrooms. Although they're called bedrooms, we tend to use them for other purposes: my office, dressing rooms for myself and my husband, a laundry room and a room for the ironing and mending.

Downstairs in the drawing room, we have two Jotul wood-burning stoves, which are great as they dry out the whole house. We have an Aga in the kitchen, but we tend to turn it off in the summer. It can be really warm and cosy when everything is on winter.

Next to the drawing room we have our dining room, which is also a library. I love collecting things, I am a bit of a hoarder, but I find my husband tends to encourage it. He is also very devoted in archiving and commemorating my work. He has had a little Halcyon box made of every book I have ever written. He also had plates made with the names of all our television programmes on them.

We tend to entertain in batches. We stop work and then we look around and say, "Well, who's going to play?" But everyone loves to come here for a party.

In Distant Fields, by Charlotte Bingham, is published by Bantam Press, priced £16.99