COLUMN: Romance novel was inspired by Peaks

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In my last column I mentioned that Haddon Hall is often used as a film set and has been used in various productions of the book Jane Eyre.

It was about this time on October 16 1847, that this now famous book was first published, under the pen name ‘Currer Bell’.

The story of the ambitious and independent Jane falling in love with the Byronic Mr Rochester of Thornfield Hall is one of literature’s best loved romance stories. And it is widely accepted that it was inspired by a visit to our area.

Charlotte Bronte knew the Peak District well, as in 1845 she stayed there when she visited a friend Ellen Nussey, at the rectory in Hathersage. Ellen’s brother Henry was the vicar there.

She arrived at The George Hotel coaching inn and during her visit the history and buildings of the area started her creative thoughts flowing.

Eyre is a common name in these parts and when Charlotte was here she visited North Lees Hall, on the outskirts of Hathersage, which was owned by the Eyre family at that time.

No doubt she also frequented the beautiful old Hathersage Church too, where many Eyre gravestones populate the churchyard.

Thornfield Hall – Mr Rochester’s home in the story – is very likely to have been based on North Lees Hall. ‘Thorn’ is an anagram of North and ‘lees’ means pastures or fields.

Jane’s description of Rochester’s place in the novel fits North Lees too: “Three stories high, of proportions not vast, though considerable – a gentleman’s residence, not a nobleman’s seat – battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look.”

When making this epic tale into film and television adaptations, many nearby locations have been used. The 2011 film version used North Lees Hall, as well as Chatsworth House, Darley Dale, Froggatt, Stanage Edge, Hathersage Moor and White Edge Lodge. This version used Haddon Hall as Thornfield Hall.

In Charlotte’s story, Rochester’s house is burned down by his secret wife hidden in the attic. To portray Thornfield Hall after the fire, Haddon had a ‘stunt double’ in the film – the ruins of Wingfield Manor.

So maybe you can decide for yourself where you can most picture Jane and Rochester succumbing to Cupid’s darts – Haddon or North Lees? Both are certainly settings made for romance.