How I came to Write
I moved to Wycoller at the end of April 2017. It is a beautiful hamlet in the Pendle district of Lancashire, between eight and nine miles from the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth. Wycoller is well-known for its three bridges, the Craft Centre with its wonderful tea room, the many attractive walks leading from it, a nearby panopticon, an aisled barn and Wycoller Hall, which was possibly Charlotte Brontë’s inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre. Most of these are visible from the window of my little study at Chapel Cottage.
Having written The Boy with Four Hats, which suggests how Dickens might have been inspired to write Oliver Twist, the temptation to write a companion piece on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre was irresistible. Claire Harman’s recent biography, Charlotte Brontë: A Life, was an invaluable resource, stirring recollections of my engagement with the novel during a long and enjoyable teaching career.
I imagined the young Charlotte Brontë sitting on the riverside after one of her walks from Haworth to Wycoller. Her mind is restless. Charlotte reflects upon the restrictions felt by women in early nineteenth century England and of the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade.
Wycoller’s three very distinctive bridges enable Charlotte to focus her thoughts and provide her with the inspiration for many of the themes in her great novel, Jane Eyre.
Charlotte also visits Wycoller Hall where she is told of the ghosts and legends which will inspire her creation of Ferndean Manor, where Jane Eyre is reunited with Mr. Rochester at the end of her novel.
I have read a great deal about the slave trade and shall never fully come to terms with the fact that this country, on average, enslaved one black African every seven and a half minutes for an entire century! Regarding the treatment of women in the United Kingdom, I continue to be appalled by the ongoing revelations of abuse and inequality. Major battles have been won but there is still a long road to be travelled. This little book gave me the opportunity to express my feelings in miniature; I remain in utter awe of the achievement of Charlotte Brontë.