Sunday, 26 July 2015


Well, not quite.
This aristocratic profile belongs to Sir James Graham of Norton Conyers House, a slightly crumbling manor house with medieval origins, near Ripon in North Yorkshire and a possible inspiration for Thornfield Hall in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.
Still striding, not tottering, Mr N and his sister approach the house for an "At Home" with Lord and Lady Graham.

The house had been due to re-open to visitors this year after a long battle with deathwatch beetle. There was also excitement over the discovery of a secret staircase to an attic room, further evidence of the Jane Eyre link and an added attraction for visitors.

Charlotte Bronte described Thornfield Hall, Mr Rochester's house, as,
"three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable, a gentleman's house, not a nobleman's seat." Not unlike the house we were visiting.
She was told the story of the Norton Conyers' "madwoman" who had been kept locked in an attic 60 years earlier, a tale also well-known to Sir James who grew up in the house. While it was thought that this story might have been the inspiration for Rochester's tragic wife Bertha, Charlotte's Thornfield had a secret staircase to Bertha's prison while none was known to exist at Norton Conyers until... 2004 restoration work led to the lifting of floorboards in the attic and the discovery of dusty stairs down from the attic to a hidden doorway on the first floor landing. This entrance had been concealed in Victorian panelling which was installed between the years 1862 to 1882 when the house, along with the knowledge of the existence of the staircase, was lost to the Graham family through debt.

The house has medieval origins, C16 extensions, Dutch gables, C17 and C18 alterations and, possibly, Viking foundations - altogether a quaint hotch-potch.
In a room full to bursting with antiques we met the charming incumbents, Sir James and Lady Halina Graham, who introduced us to their history and their home. Sadly, the discovery of another deathwatch beetle infestation means that the house cannot open as often this year as had been planned, but please do watch this space.
We were then let loose in the house and photography was allowed!
"That is very similar to ours, dear."
This room has Chinese silk on its walls.
We wondered if Charlotte had ever sat at this desk?
The Connoisseur.
Interesting family objects.
An antique mahogany plate bucket - very useful.
Georgian wallpaper uncovered.
My favourite painting was of Sir Richard Graham, 1st Baronet, 1636 - 1711, as a small boy wearing a dress. The letter below was written to his father when he was 7, in 1643. I was surprised to find he had written to "Dear Daddy"! 

The house was full of beautiful, traditional flower arrangements, all very Constance Spry. The flowers were freshly gathered from Norton Conyers' pretty walled gardens. It is free to wander or to purchase plants on several days each week.

Tea in the orangerie.
Norton Conyers seemed to me to be a house full of warmth, affection and romance, albeit with a few crumbling corners, flaking surfaces and fading gloss - like the rest of us. 
I dreamed that night of Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre.
"Come to me - come to me entirely now", said he; and added in his deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine, "Make my happiness - I will make yours."
From Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.





  1. What a lovely house and home full of delight - the flowers especially. I hope I can get there soon. Although I did visit once before - decades ago.
    I wonder how many buildings were the inspiration for Mr Rochester's Thornfield :

    Thank you for the visit.

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  3. Hello Nilly - I couldn't help but notice that your quote......
    "Come to me - come to me entirely now", said he; and added in his deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine, "Make my happiness - I will make yours"....... was actually written beneath the image of a Passion Flower - was that a clue by any chance?
    You have to commend the owners for their generosity in sharing their garden so freely, and even allowing photography indoors too - but the death watch beetle infestation would give me nightmares.

  4. I hope they'll be able to get rid of the deathwatch beetle and open up to the public soon as it looks as though the house could do with some work. Oh that every seven-year-old had writing like that!

  5. Thank you .... thank you very much Nilly, you do not know what
    I enjoyed this post !! Jane Eyre and I love that old house.
    And I think to find rooms and secret doors is the best .....
    Love Susy x

  6. I love my history lessons with you! What a wonderful house, but such a shame that the Deathwatch Beetle is munching on it. We bought a wooden framed mirror for our sitting room last year. I was close to the mirror one evening and could hear a faint clicking noise coming from it. When we took it off the wall and turned it over we found a large hole made by the DW beetle ... the clicking noise was the sound they make when trying to attract a mate. The mirror was quickly removed from the house!

  7. I was drawn into this post. Loved it. Absolutely fascinating and, of course, Very Romantic. Great shots. Like John, I'm impressed with the 7-year old's writing 350-odd years ago. Will definitely put this on the 'must visit' list.

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