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Red House and the Brontes

 

Having written her first novel 'Jane Eyre', Charlotte Bronte followed this up with something quite different - 'Shirley'.

This novel is set during a time of political unrest due to the upheaval of the Industrial Revolution, and also explores the contemporary role of women. The story follows what happens when Robert Gerard Moore, a mill owner, introduces a labour saving device into his mill. The workers oppose this and finally rebel, threatening Robert's mill and his life.

Robert loves his penniless and gentle cousin, Caroline, who is being brought up by her rather fierce Uncle, the Rev. Helstone. However, in order to rescue his financial situation after the uprising he proposes instead to Shirley Keelder, an orphaned heiress with a headstrong and independent attitude. Shirley rejects Robert but later marries his brother Louis, leaving Robert and Caroline free to unite.

Until the novel was published Shirley was a name which was in use only rarely, and was traditionally given to boys. Bronte's heroine is so called because her father had hoped for a son, and after the book became popular Shirley became predominently a female name.

Bronte had visited the Spen Valley area and had friends there - the house called Briarmains, which in the book is the home of the Yorke family, is closely based around Red House and the family who then lived there, the Taylors.

You can read the chapter about Briarmains on line HERE

And you can read more about Red House's Bronte connections HERE