In a recent post, we explored the childhood home of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, as depicted in Ann Dindale’s in The Brontës at Haworth. Now we take a look at some of the architecture and landscapes that inspired Chartlotte Brontë‘s Jane Eyre and Shirley.
The Yorkshire moors were commonly seen in many of the sister’s novels, particularly in the dark tale of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. In a passage from the book, Emily writes: “…the whole hill-back was one billowy, white ocean; the swells and falls not indicating corresponding rises and depressions in the ground: many pits, at least, were filled to a level; and entire ranges of mounds the refuse of the quarries, blotted out from the chart which my yesterday’s walk left pictured in my mind.”
While not featured in one of the Brontë’s novels, the preserved steam railway (above), is located at Haworth where the sisters were raised, and was used in the 1970 film adaptation of E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children.
The home pictured above was thought to be one of the inspirations for Thornfield Hall, found in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. (The region of Derbyshire is generally referenced as the setting of the novel.) “One of the contenders for the original of Thornfield Hall is the romantic-looking North Lees Hall at Hatersage, a castellated manor house owned by the Eyre family,” Dinsdale writes.
Charlotte drew upon other childhood experiences and memories to recreate aspects of Jane Eyre. For example, the Lowood school to which Jane is sent is said to be inspired by the Brontë sister’s own sufferable experiences at Cowan Bridge. Other examples include references to insanity, inspired by local tales of a “mad woman in the attic” near Haworth. “The figure of the mad woman is rife in nineteenth-century fiction, for the Victorians were preoccupied by notions of insanity and realms of excess,” Dinsdale writes.
Charlotte Brontë’s “Shirley is frequently included in the range of novels known as ‘condition of England’ or ‘social problem’ novels…” Dinsdale writes. In Shirley, the author points out that Charlotte depicted “arguments for an improvement in the condition of women.” Themes of industrialization and the condition of women are found throughout the novel, as Shirley falls in love with the character of Robert Moore, who struggles with workers to bring in new machinery to Hollow’s Mill. The Red House (pictured above) serves as the location of Briarmains in the novel.
By Malena Jaime
Photography by Simon Warner, as portrayed in The Brontës at Haworth by Ann Dinsdale.