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Lancashire's Literary Links

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Leighton HallArthur Conan Doyle was a student at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire from September 1868 and the college building is said tohave inspired some of the locations in his Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. Most notably  the long drive along the avenue as Baskerville house is approached, which has, just like the West Front at Stonyhurst, mullioned windows, a central block with ‘twin towers, ancient, crenellated’, and ‘to right and left more modern wings’.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a Granada TV series running 1984-1994 starring Jeremy Brett as the famous detective included a few locations in Lancashire. The first is Leighton Hall in Carnforth - this was used as 'Ridlingthorpe Manor' in an episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes called The Dancing Men in 1984. In 1988 there was an episode of The Return of Sherlock Holmes called Silver Blaze that filmed at Knowlmere Manor, Newton, near Clitheroe. And finally, in 1991, there was an episode of 'The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes' called The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax that filmed at Hoghton Tower in Preston (which was used as Rufton Hall).

Brontës in Lancashire 

Gawthorpe HallAlthough much more associated with Yorkshire, The Brontë sisters spent much of their lives in Lancashire walking from the family home at Haworth across the South Pennine Moors.  Charlotte and Emily Brontë are thought to have frequently visited the picturesque hamlet of Wycoller (near Colne) and in particular the secluded ruins of Wycoller Hall. The Hall is said by several experts to be the model for Ferndean Manor in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre and was used to illustrate the 1898 edition.

A second location familiar to Charlotte, not far from Wycoller, is the beautiful Jacobean Gawthorpe Hall near Padiham and it was here that her pseudonym ‘Currer Bell’ was blown. Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, owner of Gawthorpe Hall, had invited his celebrity neighbour to visit him and eventually Charlotte did visit the hall for the first time in 1850 and then again in 1855. Sir James showed her the sights of his district including the ruins of Whalley Abbey near Clitheroe. During her second visit to Gawthorpe Hall it is said that Charlotte insisted on walking in the grounds of the hall and caught a chill from which she was unable to recover from. (She died two months later.)

Brontë fans can visit Wycoller Country Park to see the famous ruins of Wycoller Hall and there is also a 6 mile walk which follows in the Brontë sisters footsteps around the area.

JRR Tolkien 

Stonyhurst CollegeJRR Tolkien’s son John, who was studying for the priesthood, had been evacuated from Rome to Stonyhurst College during the second World War, and so JRR Tolkien, his wife and other children regularly stayed at a guest house in the grounds of Stonyhurst College during this time.

‘Middle-earth’ is said to resemble the surrounding Lancashire countryside which encompasses the stunning Ribble Valley and Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A number of names which occur in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ are similar to those found locally, including Shire Lane in the village of Hurst Green and the River Shirebourn which is similar to the name of the family which built Stonyhurst. The ferry at Hacking Hall (still operational when Tolkien stayed) may have provided the inspiration for the Buckleberry Ferry in the book and the view from Tom Bombadil’s house may have been based on that from the New Lodge at Stonyhurst, where Tolkien stayed.

Whatever the direct links which Tolkien used in his book, he certainly spent much of his time at Stonyhurst working on the Lord of the Rings in a classroom on the upper gallery of the college. As an Oxford Professor of Anglo Saxon and later of English Language and literature he even taught a few lessons at the College during his visits.

Stonyhurst College is open to the public for tours during August and there is a 5.5 mile circular Tolkien Trail that can be walked around the college and surrounding countryside.

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