14th October 2013

Literary daytrip: Hathersage

Books Editor Esmé Clifford Astbury invites you to hop on a train to Hathersage and walk in the footsteps of Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennet

A mere hour’s train journey from Manchester lies Hathersage, a charming village in Derbyshire that is steeped in literary history. Charlotte Bronte stayed here in the mid-19th century and used many of its places and people as inspiration for Jane Eyre. More recently, a famous scene in the 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden, was shot on location nearby at Stanage Edge.

This walk takes you through the village and across countryside and moors to Stanage Edge.

As you leave the train station, turn left and walk down the road (B6001) to the village. Before you stands The George Hotel, which, when Charlotte Bronte arrived in Hathersage in 1845, was a coaching inn. Bronte named the village of Morton, where Jane Eyre works as a schoolteacher, after the inn’s landlord.

Turn right and walk up the main street to the village, then turn left onto Baulk lane, a public footpath. As you approach Cowclose Farm, take the signposted left fork and follow the footpath until you reach Brookfield Manor. Bronte used this large house as inspiration for Vale Hall in Jane Eyre. Vale Hall was owned by Mr Oliver. His daughter, Rosamond Oliver, funds the school where Jane teaches.

Continue along the footpath until you reach the road, where you take a right. Then, turn left onto the public footpath and follow it until you reach North Lees Hall. Built in the early 1590s, it is thought that North Lees Hall served as a model for Thornfield, the home of Jane Eyre’s beloved Mr Rochester. It was owned by the Eyre family, whose name, needless to say, Bronte also used. Legend has it that an early mistress of the hall, Agnes Ashurst, was imprisoned in its attic as a madwoman, just like the fictional character of Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre.

After rounding North Lees Hall, climb the stone steps to your right and follow the path, which crosses hillside pastures before entering some woods. As you leave the woods behind, you will come to a road. Turn left along the road for a short distance, then right onto a grassy path leading to Stanage Edge. In the 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the famous scene where Elizabeth Bennet stands on a cliff edge was shot on location at Stanage Edge (watch it here: Lizzie on top of the world).

Stanage Edge, featured in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Photo: Esmé Clifford Astbury

Head back to Hathersage along the same route. If you’re feeling a bit thirsty, grab a pint at The George Hotel before getting the train back to Manchester.

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