“It was three stories high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.”1
In Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, the title character, a plain yet quietly passionate governess arrives at Thornfield Hall expecting to educate a young naive mind. It is soon clear, however, that her simple expectations are no match for the arrogance and immorality of her employer, Mr. Rochester. Jane is immediately engulfed in the mysteries and temptations that collide in the vast gloomy manor. Screaming winds plague her windows, strange happenings occur in the middle of the night, and up a dreary staircase, Jane discovers the secret of her employer and object of his passion. A profound secret which ultimately consumes Thornfield Hall.
Norton Conyers House in North Yorkshire is widely thought to be the inspiration for the infamous Thornfield Hall in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Brontë was working as a governess when she visited Norton Conyers and heard the story of a madwomen who was hidden away from society. In 2004, a hidden staircase was discovered in the house, which seemed to have inspired Bronte in her description of the secret madwomen kept by Mr. Rochester in a dark room up a hidden staircase. Although not as large as Thornfield Hall, Norton Conyers bares many similarities such as its grey exterior and secret hideaways.
1Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Third ed. New York: Bantam Dell, 2003. Print.
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