Left: Hathersage. Source: Wood, facing p. 140. Right: Recent view of the village, © Andrew Hill (see note at the end).
Butler Wood tells us that Charlotte Brontë spent three weeks at Hathersage in the summer of 1845, staying with her close friend from her days at Roe Head school, Ellen Nussey. Ellen's brother had become the vicar of Hathersage only the year before. Wood believes that "there can be no doubt that Charlotte had this district in mind when she described the village of Morton and the surrounding moorlands," and goes into some detail about the connections that he finds:
The village is ... beautifully situated in the Derwent Valley, and is surrounded by moorland very similar to that in the Haworth district. The visitor should see the church, the burial-place of the Eyre family, whose name suggested the title of the novel.... Close by is the Vicarage, mentioned in the fol- lowing passage: "In crossing a field I saw the church spire before me; I hastened towards it. Near the church, and in the middle of a garden, stood a well-built though small house, which I had no doubt was the Parsonage." The house has, however, been enlarged since Charlotte Brontë's time.
The home of the Rivers family, Moor House, has been identified in a building called Moor Seats, situated three-quarters of a mile from the village, and lies not far from the edge of the moor.
In the romantic description of Jane Eyre's flight from Thornfield Hall she leaves the coach on the road leading across the open moors at Whitcross. This would be on the high-road from Sheffield which Charlotte and Miss Nussey traversed on their visit to Hathersage in 1845.
"Mr. Oliver's grand Hall in Morton Vale" is easily recognized in Brookfield Manor, an ancient mansion situated in a fine park about a mile to the north of the village. [324-25]
More recent critics have agreed with Wood. Juliet Barker, for example, considers the visit to Hathersage to have been "a major influence on shaping Jane Eyre" (451), not only because of its impressive scenery but also because Ellen's brother had previously proposed to her, much as St John Rivers proposes to Jane, and with the same result. Ellen's brother too had thought of becoming a missionary — again, like Rivers. Such circumstances would naturally have been in her mind during the visit.
Image acquisition and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. Adrian Hill's photograph comes from here on the Geograph website and is available Creative Commons Licence. So you may use both images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you credit the source, and make the appropriate link.
Barker, Juliet. The Brontës. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1994.
Wood, Butler. "A Brontë Itinerary." In Charlotte Brontë, 1816-1916; a centenary memorial, prepared by the Brontë society, with a foreword by Mrs. Humphry Ward and 3 maps and 28 illustrations. Ed. Wood. New York: Dutton, 1918. 313-25. Internet Archive. Contributed by University of California Libraries. Web. 4 December 2017.
Created 3 December 2017