Charlotte Bronte is one of the famous visitors to Norton Conyers Hall


Today’s object of the week is a charming mansion that has hosted famous visitors over the years.

Norton Conyers Hall is located four miles north of Ripon, near the pretty village of Wath, less than a mile east of the River Ure.

This is a beautiful house with medieval roots and a Dutch gabled exterior, the home of the Graham family for almost 400 years.

Read more: Brutal instrument was used to ‘persuade’ lazy sailors to work faster

Norton Conyers is essentially a late medieval structure with Tudor and Stuart additions and contains furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Historically, the house was the seat of a family called Norton whose number included Richard Norton, a chief justice of England at the end of the 14th century.

In 1569, a descendant of Richard, a certain Sir Richard Norton, supported the Northern Uprising, a Catholic rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I.

Unfortunately for him, the uprising was a complete disaster and he and his two sons were executed by order of the Queen.

The Norton Conyers estate passed to the Musgraves and then to the Graham family in 1624.

In 1644 Sir Richard Graham, a royalist, fought at Marston Moor and managed to return to his beloved home on horseback, suffering some 26 combat injuries.

He would only live the last hour of his life in Norton Conyers and after his death Cromwell’s troops reportedly severely damaged the house.

In 1679 the house received a more welcoming guest when the Duke of York, the future King James II, came to stay in the house.

Another famous guest, who came here in 1839, was author Charlotte Brontë who was inspired by Norton Conyers’ legend of a mad aunt incarcerated in the attic.

Charlotte Brontë is said to have founded the character of Mrs Rochesteron the legend Norton Conyers of a mad aunt

She then immortalized Norton Conyers as Thornfield Hall in her novel Jane Eyre in which the Mad Aunt appeared as Mrs. Rochester.

The name Norton derives from the Anglo-Saxon words meaning northern farm and the Norton family took its name from the colony.

But the element Conyers which also appears in the name of Hutton Conyers (Hutton means high farm) derives from a surname. The Conyers family owned land in the area between 1099 and 1133 and took their surname from Cogners or Coignières in France.

Family members came to England around the time of the Norman Conquest when William the Conqueror appointed a certain Roger de Conyers as Constable of Durham Castle in northeast England.

In the 12th century, the Conyers family obtained the manor of Sockburn on Tees, on the borders of Durham and Yorkshire.

Here, the family was associated with the murder of a legendary beast called the Sockburn worm.

It inspired the poem Jabberwock by Lewis Carroll who lived in this region. Lewis Carroll’s father was rector at Croft on Tees and canon at Ripon Cathedral.

Some of the peculiar mercies of the pews at Ripon Cathedral are said to have inspired such figures as Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.

l Thanks to David Simpson for his help in compiling this feature. To learn more about the history and culture of the area, visit their website at

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