The Real Places of Jane Eyre's World

The Moor House

Actual Place: White Edge Lodge

In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë wrote of Moor House, “the grey, small, antique structure, with its low roof, its latticed casements, its mouldering walls, its avenue of aged firs--all grown aslant under the stress of mountain winds; its garden, dark with yew and holly––and where no flowers but of the hardiest species would bloom--found a charm both potent and permanent.” While the house at White Edge Lodge differs slightly from Bronte’s vision, it too has “a charm both potent and permanent.” The building, which lays in White Edge Moor, originally served as a gamekeeper’s cottage.

The Moor House (2)

Actual Place: White Edge Lodge

The White Edge Lodge on White Edge Moor is perfectly situated to bring Charlotte Brontë’s vision of St. John Rivers and his sisters’ rural world to life: “They clung to the purple moors behind and around their dwelling--to the hollow vale into which the pebbly bridle-path leading from their gate descended, and which wound between fern-banks first, and then amongst a few of the wildest little pasture-fields that ever bordered a wilderness of heath, or gave sustenance to a flock of grey moorland sheep, with their little mossy- faced lambs:––they clung to this scene, I say, with a perfect enthusiasm of attachment.”

Thornfield Hall

Actual Place: Haddon Hall

In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë describes Thornfield Hall––as first experienced by Jane––as being “of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman's manor-house, not a nobleman's seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look.” To capture this look and spirit, the filmmakers, including production designer Will Hughes-Jones and location manager Giles Edleston, turned to Haddon Hall. Located on the River Wye at Bakewll, Deberyshire, Haddon House is one of England’s most iconic landmarks, having been used  in films like Joe Wright’s 2005 Pride and Prejudice and the Shekhar Kapur’s 1998 Elizabeth. Dating back to the 12th century, Haddon Hall has miraculously remained intact through civil wars and rough weather. While it was left dormant between 1700 to the 1920s, in the 20th century the 9th Duke and Duchess of Rutland restored the house and gardens.

Thornfield Hall, after the fire

Actual Place: Wingfield Manor

After Thornfield Hall is destroyed, Jane rediscovers the house that had brought her such joy and terror: “The front was, as I had once seen it in a dream, but a well-like wall, very high and very fragile-looking, perforated with paneless windows: no roof, no battlements, no chimneys - all had crashed in.” Needing to find a house both ruined and distinguished, the filmmakers turned to Wingfied Manor in Derbyshire. Originally built in the 1440s for Ralph, Lord Cromwell, Treasurer of England, the grand style has been labeled an example of late medieval “conspicuous consumption.” From 1569, the house served as the place of house arrest for Mary, Queen of Scots. During the English Civil War, Wingfield was destroyed in sieges between the Royalists and Parliament forces. And while repairs were attempted, the great estate languished in disrepair. Now it is in the care of English Heritage.

Lowood

Actual Place: Broughton Castle

Charlotte Brontë sees the Lowood school through Jane’s eyes: “I looked round the convent-like garden, and then up at the house––a large building, half of which seemed grey and old, the other half quite new.  The new part, containing the schoolroom and dormitory, was lit by mullioned and latticed windows, which gave it a church-like aspect.” Filmmakers used the medieval Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire.  Built by Sir John de Broughton in 1300 at the intersection of three streams, which provided for a naturally flowing moat. After changing hands, and being besieged during the English Civil war, Broughton Castle was all but deserted in the 19th century. Then Frederick Fiennes, 16th Lord Saye and Sele, started the long process to bring the ancient fortress back to life. In recent years, the castle has made a cameo in such films as The Madness of King George and Shakespeare in Love.

Jane's School

Actual Place: Peak District National Park, outside Edale

Given the guardianship of the village school in Morton, Jane found, if not peace, then solitude. She observes, “At this thought, I turned my face aside from the lovely sky of eve and lonely vale of Morton--I say _lonely_, for in that bend of it visible to me there was no building apparent save the church and the parsonage, half-hid in trees, and, quite at the extremity, the roof of Vale Hall.” It is supposed that Brontë based her fictional town of Morton on Hathersage in the Peak District. For the area around her school, the filmmakers kept in the Peak District.

Thornfield Hall Country Side

Actual Place: Water Meadow below Haddon Hall

As Jane settles into Thornfield, and her dawning appreciation of Rochester’s affection, the natural beauty of estate carries her away. She describes one such encounter at Thornfield: “I set out; I walked fast, but not far: ere I had measured a quarter of a mile, I heard the tramp of hoofs; a horseman came on, full gallop; a dog ran by his side.  Away with evil presentiment!  It was he: here he was, mounted on Mesrour, followed by Pilot.  He saw me; for the moon had opened a blue field in the sky, and rode in it watery bright: he took his hat off, and waved it round his head.  I now ran to meet him.” Luckily in casting Haddon Hall to play Thornfield, the filmmakers also had easy access to Haddon Hall’s accompanying gardens and fields. Along side the River Wye are a number of lush Water Meadows that served  as riding paths for Rochester.

The Moors

Actual Place: Stanage Edge

In the summer of 1845, Charlotte Brontë stayed for three weeks at Hathersage Church Vicarage. The next year, when she started writing Jane Eyre, the wild romantic landscape of that area occupied her imagination. One of the area’s most striking natural landmarks is the gritstone escarpment Stanage Edge––or simply Stanage (from "stone edge"). For years, the area, scattered with striking cliffs and massive boulders, has been favorite of hikers, and more recently rock climbers. Jane describes the area in a passage with St. John: “we reached the first stragglers of a battalion of rocks, guarding a sort of pass, beyond which the beck rushed down a waterfall; and where, still a little farther, the mountain shook off turf and flower, had only heath for raiment and crag for gem--where it exaggerated the wild to the savage, and exchanged the fresh for the frowning--where it guarded the forlorn hope of solitude, and a last refuge for silence.”

The Moors (2)

Actual Place: Stanage Edge

Few writers have captured the profound emotional power of the moors as succinctly (or romantically) as Charlotte Brontë. To capture the area on film, the filmmakers could luckily allow Stanage Edge to speak for itself. The image of Jane Eyre (Mia  Wasikowska) looking out from Stanage Edge captures the profound sense of isolation that Brontë summoned up in her novel: “There are great moors behind and on each hand of me; there are waves of mountains far beyond that deep valley at my feet.  The population here must be thin, and I see no passengers on these roads: they stretch out east, west, north, and south––white, broad, lonely; they are all cut in the moor, and the heather grows deep and wild to their very verge.  Yet a chance traveller might pass by; and I wish no eye to see me now: strangers would wonder what I am doing, lingering here at the sign-post, evidently objectless and lost.  I might be questioned: I could give no answer but what would sound incredible and excite suspicion. Not a tie holds me to human society at this moment––not a charm or hope calls me where my fellow-creatures are––none that saw me would have a kind thought or a good wish for me.  I have no relative but the universal mother, Nature: I will seek her breast and ask repose.”

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