A hugely charismatic country house in Yorkshire has come to the market, one with a great literary claim to fame: it was the inspiration for Emily Brontë's seminal novel Wuthering Heights.
There’s a fundamental flaw with the teaching of English literature: tell somebody to read something, and it can’t help but be a chore. Wouldn’t it make more sense to let English GCSE and A-level students choose whatever they liked — from a reasonably decent list, of course — and take it from there?
All this is by way of introduction to my guilty little secret: a lifelong antipathy to Wuthering Heights. It might be a classic that redefined the concept of literature and all that jazz, but frankly I loathed every page. There wasn’t a character in it I wouldn’t gladly have strapped to a rocket and fired into the Sun, and as for the excruciating rendering of local dialect… words fail me, just as standardised spelling failed Emily Brontë.
In case anyone’s wondering if I feel better for getting all that off my chest, the answer is ‘yes, yes I do’. And part of the reason why is because my spirits have been cheered by the house on this page — a house which inspired the book that so tormented me as a 17-year-old A-level student. Sure, every brick bears an imprint of guilt for the horrors it helped spawn via the Brontë Pen of Doom, but that’s not to say I can’t appreciate why it might have inspired a budding writer.
The house in question is Ponden Hall, a great country house not far from the Brontë’s parsonage at Haworth — and now on the market via Strutt & Parker at £1m. In the early 19th century the house kept an extensive library, and the Brontës were regular visitors; many details of the house, particularly the interior, suggest fairly clearly that it was the inspiration for the Lintons’ home, Thrushcross Grange. Anne Brontë was just as inspired as Emily, incidentally: Ponden is also the model for the titular house in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Ponden Hall is in the village of Stanbury and is even accessed via a lane with a suitably Gothic name: Scar Top Road. It’s huge: there are eight bedrooms, a paddock, four acres of land and a further two-bedroom annexe — ideal for the Nelly who looks after your family, or for use as a potential holiday let to Brontë-mad tourists.
The oldest parts of the hall date to 1541, but most of the house as it stands today goes back to 1634 — and the evidence of its great age is plain to see.
The beams, walls, floors, ceilings, fireplaces and windows are gloriously authentic — and the owners have doubled-down on the effect with some wonderfully inspired furniture choices, especially with the beds. Don’t fret about the fact that you’d struggle to find similar pieces yourself: the vendors are apparently happy sell it on via separate negotiation.
The heart of the house is a huge living/dining room, while there’s a kitchen/breakfast room across the hallway. There are two bedrooms downstairs and six more upstairs, two of which are en-suite.
The annexe’s two rooms are both en-suite and on the ground floor, with an open-plan living space above.
Ponden Hall has been run as a B&B and could just as easily continue as a business or once again become a family home. Either way, lovers of Gothic Romance will be hoping that it inspires another famous book. Future generations of A-level students, of course, may not feel the same way…
Some of our most enduring stories were conceived at Haworth – Jeremy Musson enjoys a literary pilgrimage.
To mark the forgotten Brontë’s 200th birthday, Charlotte Cory looks back at the life and works of this ‘runt of
Mark Griffiths examines our ancient fear and fascination with ecologically invaluable moorland, of which we have more than any other