Earlier in the month me and Mum managed to sneak away for a few days. We didn’t go far. In fact, as the crow flies, it was only about fifteen minutes away from home. As me and Mum aren’t crows, however, it took us a bit longer.
Our destination was Ponden Hall, a lovely old house on the edge of the moors not far from Haworth, with strong connections to the Bronte family.
It was originally built for the Heatons, a family of wealthy land-owners who moved into the area from nearby Lancashire in the 16th century. The oldest parts of the house date from this time, but much of it was built in 1643 and more work was done in 1801.
By this time the Heatons had become even wealthier as, in 1791-2, they’d built Ponden Mill in the valley below the house. This was the first mill in the area and used water-power to drive machinery to spin cotton into yarn.
It was probably this wealth which enabled them to build up what was said to be the largest private library in Yorkshire in the early 19th century. On the second floor of the house, it was filled from floor to ceiling with books on many different subjects and must have been one of the reasons why the Brontes were frequent visitors to Ponden Hall.
The house is also said to have been the inspiration behind some of the houses in their novels, including both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and possibly also Wildfell Hall in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte.
In the late 19th century the Heaton family’s fortunes began to decline and by 1900 the family itself had died out. The library was broken up and Ponden Hall was sold. It changed hands several times over the following 100 years and is now a lovely family home. It also provides bed-and-breakfast accommodation for visitors and includes one room which has a box bed built around a window, just like Cathy’s bed in Wuthering Heights.
But for once me and Mum weren’t there as tourists or holiday-makers. Instead we were there to work. Or, to be honest, Mum was there to work and I was there to make sure that she did, because that week there was a four-day writers’ retreat at Ponden Hall and we were part of it.
It was led by Rowan Coleman, whose latest novel The Girl At The Window is set in Ponden Hall. Like me and Mum, she’s a great fan of the Brontes and, under the pseudonym Bella Ellis, has also just published The Vanished Bride, the first in a series called The Bronte Mysteries.
There were workshops and organised walks, as well as time to write, but nothing was compulsory, and so Mum was able – at last! – to get on and write the final chapter of When Daffodils Bloom and also make a start on Master of Wuthering Heights.
And she rewarded herself for these two achievements by getting this lovely picture from James O’Connor to celebrate finishing When Daffodils Bloom…
…and having this fantastic necklace made by her friend Nikki to celebrate starting Master of Wuthering Heights. http://www.nbjewellery.com
It wasn’t all writing, however. We took time out to eat, talk, get some exercise and take some photos of the lovely scenery around us. But I’ll tell you more about that in my next post, when I’ll also tell you about my Big Adventure, walking the Pennine Way…
Follow my next blog: 75. RETREAT TO PONDEN HALL PART II