Last weekend North Lees Hall, near Hathersage in Derbyshire, was open to the public. The hall, a late Elizabethan tower house, is thought to be the inspiration for Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brontë visited it several times when she was staying with her friend Ellen Nussey. It resembles the fictional Thornfield in having a battlemented façade, a view from the roof and a similar setting in the landscape. When Charlotte visited it there was an Apostle’s Cabinet which she describes in Jane Eyre. There was actually an Eyre family who lived at North Lees at the time and a legend of a mad woman who died her in a fire. So the connection is pretty secure and of course I had to visit it.
North Lees is a grand house in miniature. It’s very much smaller than Thornfield Hall could have been. You certainly couldn’t conceal a mad woman here. But the atmosphere and the setting were just right.
A local amateur dramatics group, the Hathersage Players, will be performing an adaptation of Jane Eyre this summer and the cast were there in character. So that is how I met Mr Rochester on the roof of North Lees Hall (glimpsed through the open door).
Downstairs I ran into Jane Eyre and I’m looking forward to seeing them both in the outdoor performance to be staged at North Lees Hall in July.
These splendid photos were taken by my husband.