Into the quietly decaying backwater of Cullerne Wharf steps architect Arthur Westray, with a brief to restore the ancient Cullerne Minster and its precariously lofty tower. Westray is a young man and Cullerne is an old town. Thwarted ambition abounds here, above all the disputed inheritance of the Blandamers, with their nebuly coat of arms ...
John Meade Falkner was born in 1858, the son of a Wiltshire curate, and was brought up in the West Country. His childhood was marked by poverty and tragedy, but he went to Marlborough College and then Hertford College, Oxford. After graduating, he became tutor to the children of Sir Andrew Noble, a partner in a Tyneside arms firm. In time Falkner joined the firm, Armstrong Whitworth, and eventually became a director of the company. On behalf of the firm he travelled widely in Europe and South America.
As well as books on Oxfordshire and Berkshire, Falkner found time to write three classic tales: The Lost Stradivarius, Moonfleet and The Nebuly Coat. The manuscript of a half-written fourth novel was apparently lost on a train.
In 1915, during the First World War, he became chairman of Armstrongs, which was by then one of the largest armaments producers in the world. After the war, in 1921, Falkner stepped down as chairman. In 1925 he became Honorary Reader in Palaeography at the University of Durham and Honorary Librarian at Durham Cathedral, and in 1926 he retired from the board of Armstrongs.
John Meade Falkner died in Durham in 1932 and his ashes were buried in Burford.