I've moved bookishwhimsy.com to tumblr! This blog is now an archive of my past posts.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Touring Jane Eyre Country

1973 adaptation with Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston
If you've followed my blog for a bit of time, then you know I'm kind of a big, ridiculous, adoring fan of Jane Eyre.  And my trip to England last month wasn't about London sightseeing (though I did do some of that!), but meeting up with a small group of like-minded fans; people who I've talked "Jane Eyre" shop with for years, and seeing the places that we've been reading about and seeing in films for years.  And I can't tell you how much fun it was! Although this trip was definitely too short (there are so many Jane Eyre-related places to see!) it was a great overview trip, and if any other Jane Eyre fans out there wanted to make a similar pilgrimage, absolutely go for it!  It's fantastic to see these places!

To begin, us group of fans have a favorite adaptation.  It's from 1973 and starred Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston. In many ways, this trip was about celebrating this adaptation.  It is the 40th anniversary of the miniseries this year.  And the first part of our trip was having lunch with the actor to play Mr. Rochester in this version, Michael Jayston, who I met a few years ago (and that was amazing and kind of incredible).  Our lunch contained "a few" Jane Eyre related questions and comments and really just lovely conversation with an incredibly kind and talented actor.  I think it fantastic we started off this trip talking to (an actor who played) Mr. Rochester!

Um, people actually live here! There's a gorgeous library with a TV IN IT.
The next day, which was also Midsummer Day (the day Jane gets engaged to Mr. Rochester in the novel!), we headed to Renishaw Hall - about 2 1/2 hours drive from London.  Renishaw was Thornfield Hall in the 1973 adaptation.  Driving in England, especially if you are not familiar with the streets, can be pretty confusing.  The road signs are small and somewhat oddly placed.  So after stopping at our Sheffield hotel to drop off our luggage, we took a long Sheffield Detour (we got lost) before finally arriving at the Hall, literally minutes after the tour of the Hall had begun.  Luckily they are so nice there and let us in right away so we could learn the history of the estate.  It is doubtful any of the 1973 adaptation was filmed inside Renishaw Hall, so it was really the outside of the house and grounds that was the major draw for me.  We walked around snapping pictures and recreating a few scenes from the book - I am glad to think that the Hall was closing in an hour so no one (?) was around to see our silliness!  But we were so excited to be there we couldn't help ourselves.  Or chalk it up to midsummer madness.  And it was so lovely to walk around the gardens - it's beautifully cultivated with so many scenic views.  And cows at the bottom of it for some reason.  If one is going there by public transport, you might have a bit of a walk up to the Hall or chance an infrequent bus, but there is a Super Tram close by that takes you directly to Sheffield and that was really convenient.

The next day was devoted to Haddon Hall - film Thornfield in 3 adaptations of Jane Eyre - 1996, 2006,
I lurked in the hedges waiting for Jane or Rochester to come out.  No luck.
and 2011.  Not only the outside, but the inside as well, so I was very excited to explore this place!  And this time we only took public transport - a bus took us from Sheffield to the nearest town of Bakewell and from there another bus took us right to the gates of the Hall.  But since the distance from Bakewell to Haddon Hall was only a mile and a half we decided to walk it and imagine Jane walking home to Thornfield and coming upon it's view.  But Haddon Hall is set quite a ways back from the road, so there really wasn't a clear view until you're nearly upon it.  But what a view!  So imposing and beautiful! (a little like Blanche Ingram in that way I guess)  And walking into the main court was just like seeing the films unfold before me.  As one of our group pointed out, Haddon Hall is rather too grand to be the Thornfield of the book, but the numerous associations I have with it to Thornfield because of the films, meant many times I saw scenes from the novel in different parts of the grounds.  The long gallery where Jane teaches Adele, or the chapel where you know what happens, running in from the rain through the courtyard, seeing the main room, the stairwell, the bridges and the gardens - a flood of scenes washed over me!  That day the Hall had a Tudor wedding event going on where reenactment actors dressed period and went about preparing for the wedding.  It was really fun to watch them in character and it was a very well done event (though a little jarring for my 19th century mindset) so I have to recommend visits to the Hall as a fun outing if you are in the area.  And Bakewell is known for the Bakewell Pudding - which was such a delicious pastry!  Perfect for my sweet tooth!  They don't overuse sugar in England like they do in the States...

         
And me! 2013
2011 adaptation, Michael Fassbender

The final stop of the Jane Eyre tour was the home of the author - Haworth.  I had been once before, but that was only a day trip and now I had two days in Haworth to do so much more.  It's incredible to walk the steeply cobbled street to the Parsonage where the Brontë's lived and created such iconic works of fiction.  The Parsonage museum has done an amazing job of preserving the house and their legacy, and seeing the Brontë's clothes, locks of hair even, and tiny hand-written books was so emotional for me.  I wish I could express how much it means for a fan like me to be there but there are no words.  Our group did joke about pooling our resources and moving there to start a B&B/shop because although the place is isolated, the stark beauty, history and the shadow of the Brontës made Haworth intensely appealing.

On our second day in Haworth, I headed to the Parsonage again because I had made an appointment online with their Research Library to view some of their archives.  Namely anything to do with the 1973 adaptation (because I maintain a website for the miniseries here).  And for the Parsonage to even offer this opportunity to regular people is wonderful of them, and the whole experience was smoothly run.  The box of materials was already out for me to peruse and I could make photocopies of whatever I wished for a small charge per page.  I wish I had more things to research, it was so nice to be in their library.  And I got to walk through the kitchen exhibit!  I am just so in love with the Parsonage!

This is probably what Heaven looks like. Just with angels.
After the library visit, a group of us went for a ramble on the moors, a place near and dear to the Brontës.  We took the walk to the Brontë waterfall - a place the Brontë siblings would often visit, and thankfully a walk that was not too daunting for a resolute sedentary like me.  The walk is pretty clearly signposted, but a map is recommended - you don't want to get lost!  And fortunately we had an experienced navigator in our group to keep us on track.  There are sheep roaming the moors, absolutely breathtaking views (it's so foreign for a Californian to see how very green it is in England), and very interesting ruins and rocky pathways.  And stiles for those who know the significance of that from Jane Eyre!  It was a lovely day (for Haworth) sunny, but with cloud cover and a bracing wind to keep one from overheating.  And this was a great way to end our tour - walking the paths the Brontës' might have walked, and getting a fresh perspective on the scenes from Jane Eyre where she wandered the moors (we did lay on the moors for the experience!)  But this whole trip was about getting a fresh perspective on the novel and experiencing what we have been experiencing in our imagination for so many years.  A truly wondrous vacation for this book lover and a great experience to share with other fans of the book.  I mean, I have no one at home here to whom I can quote the book and make references that they would understand!  I just felt so comfortable with these wonderful people, in these wonderful places that the whole trip was such a joy.

To round off my tour, in London I visited the National Portrait Gallery to see the original 'Pillar' portrait of the Brontë sisters painted by their brother Branwell.  And boy did I gaze at that picture a long time!  Then I went to the British Library where I believe they have an original fair copy manuscript of Jane Eyre written in Charlotte's hand, but it was not on display in their Literary Treasures room.  Oh well.  I think I had a wealth of luck for this trip already (especially when it came to the weather!) that I didn't mind that so much.

Special thanks to my friends from all over the world who went on this trip with me - Birgit, Eva, Kristine, and Ligia.  Thank you for making this trip amazing! (And here's to doing it all over again in 2017!)

And one last picture from Sheffield.  They have a couple streets with the name of Eyre, and I was surprised to see the phrase in this sign - "Streets Ahead".  I thought that was just a catch-phrase from Community!


*all photos were taken by me or a friend, except for the two from adaptations of Jane Eyre

Tune in next week for my review of Jane Eyre the novel (it won't be my usual style of reviews) and for a Jane Eyre inspired book - Eyre House by Cait Greer.

Share this post: Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email This Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr
Scroll Up

13 comments:

  1. Glad you had such a great time..all the sights look amazing..and glad you went to the portrait gallery! I really wish I had known it was there..totally would have loved to have seen it..apparently you have to request to see the Jane Eyre manuscript in advance..which I didn't know until that documentary! Did you see the beatles songs there..thought that was cool!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes have to thank you for reminding me of the Portrait Gallery! And darn, I didn't know you had to request to see the JE manuscript - I don't know why they couldn't put it in the room with the other works - just take out Jane Austen's desk! LOL I did see the Beatles songs, and that was pretty amazing!

      Delete
  2. These look AMAZING! Glad you had an awesome time! I think I might have to read/watch Jane Eyre now because you've made me extremely curious with this post! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes do read it! Then watch it, because it's always better to read the book first. :) And I hope you find it as inspiring as I do!

      Delete
  3. Oooooh, I like this soooo much! I want to do this too someday! What a nice blogpost! Love it! I'm thinking about rereading Jane Eyre. Too long ago... ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think a reread of Jane Eyre is in order for me too! I haven't read it properly from cover to cover in awhile. And I hope you will do this trip someday! Maybe you could join us in 2017! :) Or at least the Brussels branch of it if we visit!

      Delete
  4. Hi, Charlene, we're so glad you enjoyed your visit to the Parsonage so much! Please do come back again and use the library! I've Tweeted a link to your page to our Twitter followers (we're @BronteParsonage), and am about to post on Facebook ('Bronte Parsonage Museum'). Thank you. We do appreciate lovely feedback like this so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, thank you for reading and commenting on the post! I was so surprised and happy to read your lovely comment. It's so nice that you are so involved and available to fans! I'm definitely visiting again when I have a chance!

      Delete
  5. this is really amazing. I love how beautiful and green everything is. I would love to go here. I would love to visit all the places that inspire or take place in the books I read. Just wonderful!

    Angie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, it's so green! Coming back home, the colors are so dull and muted to me! I hope you will take a trip to visit the places you love in books! Do you have any particular books that have places you would like to visit?

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Charlene,

    Your enthusiasm and 'nuttiness' (recreating scenes from the book/film, lying down on the moors) is infectious ! So pleased you had a fun time and apologies for our English weather and that it was not a bit more sunny while you were here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Stephen! Now that I'm back, I wish I did a bit more recreating - I have a few more ideas! :) Oh the weather was perfect really - a 'sky of steel' fits with Jane Eyre! :) Thank you for commenting!

      Delete