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Raymond Biswanger Slide Collection

The Brontës: 1838
Dewsbury Moor and Southowram, West Yorkshire

Charlotte Brontë had been teaching at Roe Head when Margaret Wooler moved the school to Heald's House near Dewsbury in early 1838. Charlotte's “hypochondria” when she was there manifested itself in a state of acute depression and physical illness, and made her recall the house as a “poisoned” place, where she must have been no better company than a “stalking ghost.”

Margaret Wooler asked Charlotte to take over the school in April and May 1838 when she had to leave to care for her seriously ill father. Consequently, Charlotte spent a fortnight and two days there “quite alone,” and Lucy Snowe's episode near the end of Villette may be based upon her experiences then.

By mid-May, Charlotte's “health and spirits had utterly failed,” and she returned to Haworth. She resumed her position as governess at the school from July or August 1838 till the end of December that same year, but decided to cease her work there after Margaret handed management over to her sister Eliza at the end of 1838. Eliza failed to find enough pupils, and eventually relinquished the school in early 1841.

Heald's House, 128 Heald's Road, Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire [1 May 1985]

Walterclough Hall at Southowram, near Law Hill, Halifax, was originally built by the Hemingway family, who possessed the hall from 1379 to 1654. The similarity between Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and the story of the Walker family and the orphan Jack Sharp is often remarked upon.

John Walker was the squire of Walterclough Hall in the mid-1700s, and he and his wife Ruth (nee Nodder) had four children. Jack Sharp, an orphan, had been adopted as a boy by John Walker, who was his uncle. As he grew up, Sharp apparently developed an overbearing and unscrupulous character and gradually possessed himself of the main interests in his uncle's business.

Upon John Walker's death in 1771, the eldest son Richard Walker claimed his rights as heir and Sharp reluctantly left the Hall. Promising revenge, Sharp built Law Hill a mile away and enticed the easy-going younger son, John, into gambling and ruin. Sharp apparently also managed to systematically degrade a young cousin of his right to inherit the Hall (in a similar manner to the way Heathcliff degraded Hareton Earnshaw), before becoming bankrupt himself and fleeing to London, where he disappeared.

Ruins of Walterclough Hall, Southowram, near Law Hill, West Yorkshire [15 April 1983]

Front and rear views of Walterclough Hall, Southowram, near Law Hill, West Yorkshire [28 April 1985]

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