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Charlotte Brontë and the National Trust

Kristin Sarli - Thursday September 22, 2016 9:15

In this bicentenary year of Charlotte Brontë’s birth, we celebrate the author’s life and work, and her unexpected connection to The National Trust.

Charlotte Bronte, 1850 by George Richmond. Credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

Charlotte Bronte, 1850 by George Richmond. ©: National Portrait Gallery, London

In the heart of industrial Lancashire lies the National Trust’s Gawthorpe Hall. Affectionately referred to as the ‘Downton of the North,’ this Elizabethan gem was owned in the 1850s by James and Janet Kay-Shuttleworth.

Gawthorpe Hall is also the final stop on ‘The Brontë Way,’ a long distance route with strong associations with the writings of Charlotte Brontë and her family. James Kay-Shuttleworth was a literary enthusiast who knew well the work of Charlotte Brontë (who wrote under the pseudonym “Currer Bell”). Once he learned she lived merely 12 miles away in Haworth, West Yorkshire, he invited her to come and stay, which she did in 1850 and then again in 1855.

Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire

Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire

In this bicentenary year, Gawthorpe Hall launched an exhibition entitled “Literary Lions” (on view until October 30, 2016), dedicated to her visits to Gawthorpe Hall, friendship with the family and how she came to meet Elizabeth Gaskell through them—Gaskell would become a dear friend and write the first biography of Charlotte after her death. Objects on display will include one of Charlotte’s original letters written to Janet Kay-Shuttleworth after her first visit, original items of Charlotte’s on loan from the Brontë Parsonage Museum, as well as costume items of the period from Gawthorpe Textiles Collection.

Charlotte Brontë’s earliest surviving miniature manuscript book, c. 1828.  Credit: Brontë Parsonage Museum

Charlotte Brontë’s earliest surviving miniature manuscript, c. 1828. ©: Brontë Parsonage Museum

But don’t fret if you can’t make it to the other side of the pond this fall! Join us on Friday, September 30th for a private tour of Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will, presented by The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.  This fascinating exhibition presents an intimate portrait of Brontë and features objects like her earliest surviving miniature manuscript.

Other items include one of her dresses; a pair of ankle boots; intimate letters; and even the manuscript of her novel Jane Eyre which is on view in North America for the first time.

Charlotte Brontë’s day dress of cotton and wool.  Credit: Graham Haber/The Morgan Library & Museum, Brontë Parsonage Museum

Charlotte Brontë’s day dress.
©: Graham Haber/The Morgan Library & Museum, Brontë Parsonage Museum

The New York Times describes the exhibition as “a compact, sensitively arranged and surprisingly comprehensive tour of the life and work of one of the Victorian era’s most beloved writers.”  We are thrilled to have the exhibition’s curator Christine Nelson, Drue Heinz Curator, Literary & Historical Manuscripts, lead us through.

Click here to read the full New York Times Review.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to celebrate one of our greatest female authors!

This tour is available to Royal Oak members only. Take advantage and become a member today! Join Now