Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Writer's Inspiration: Lees and Edges

Today has been fantastic as we immersed ourselves fully into Charlotte Brontë's environment, looking for clues to the inspirations that caused her to create and write her well-loved novel, Jane Eyre.

Through many questions, inquiries, maps, online sources and texts, we finally found the two hidden gems we were searching for: North Lees Hall (the inspiration for Thornfield Hall, Rochester's residence) and Stanage Edge, the rocks on which Jane despairingly threw herself after fleeing Mr. Rochester and losing herself in the moors. You can see them from North Lees Hall. 

Charlotte Brontë visited the Eyre's family (a popular name in Derbyshire) who lived in this house, and obviously drew her story from its walls. It just occurred to me that 'Thornfield Hall' was named after 'North Lees Hall'. How, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

The word 'lees' means field. They were both called halls. But, what just occurred to me was the fact that 'Thorn' is a reshuffling of the word 'north'!  Clever girl. (I suppose I could put myself in that category in this case.) 

We were told by the housekeeper who took us through the place (can't ordinarily do it, but it just so happened the guests were changing hands this morning, so we could: another God moment!), that on a dismal foggy day, it truly looks mysterious and forlorn. I'm sure Charlotte, during one visit or another, saw it in that light.

We were shown the tiny room at the top of the stairs, the inspiration for the first Mrs. Rochester, an insane character, sequestered to be kept safe from herself and from harming others. Now it is a storage room, and its walls have been plastered.

When I noticed this open window, I was immediately reminded of the scarlet scarf she would fly from the open window of her tower room.

In the great room, or reception area in those days, Charlotte would have noticed the plaster relief in the ceiling, which Jane describes as she tours Thornfield Hall.

The garden wasn't much here, but the view towards the fields was simply pastoral!

Here are some other views of this historic hall, over two hundred years old. Although they have been remodeling it as a rental property, they have maintained many of the original features:

The bedroom, evidently, is much the same as it would have been during Charlotte's time.

Looking through these windows brings me back to another era!

Original door. . .

And floors. . .

And stairs. . .

And one more of the gorgeous grounds. . .

We actually visited Stanage Edge first, in a wide hilly area the British call a dale. The wind swept through the valley as in the moors. There were sheep on the hillside, bleating as we went by. I could almost hear Mr. Rochester calling out through the miles, "Jaaaaane. . .Jaaaaaane" as he beckoned her back to his side.

We left our vehicle in the car park, and walked up the lonely path to rocks. It seemed a long way off, but, I was surprised at how easy the trek was!

Here we are looking down at the car park. . .

The rocky path we encountered . . .

The massive flat rocks (boulders?) at the top . . .

Olivia and me standing on the rock. . . I'm afraid of heights, so it was a challenge! My legs were shaking, and made it impossible for me to stand up straight:

Olivia felt more secure. . .

The view down below. North Lees Hall is close to the center of the photo:

Here is Stanage Edge from North Lees:

So, as you can see, it's been a delightful journey into a writer's world! Tomorrow we head off to London from York via rail, so there won't be much to blog about, but, you never know.

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