Blake Hall, Mirfield, West Yorkshire


While passing Mirfield in West Yorkshire I called at a former Bronte location even though there's nothing to see - except a housing estate. The Blake Hall estate used to be here and Anne Bronte came to work as a governess in the imposing mansion. Sadly there's nothing left - - no cornerstones or original pillars leading to the estate. There're some predictable names: Bronte Grove, Bronte Close and a Bronte Way. The family Anne worked for - The Ingham's - are remembered too with Ingham Garth, Ingham Close and Ingham Croft,


Aged 19 Anne moved into Blake Hall to look after two children. Coming from near-poverty where her dad earned a vicar's stipend she must have been in awe at the by-products of wealth around the house. The Ingham's were loaded. They owned mills and mines they lived in the most imposing mansion in Mirfield. When Anne took up the governess job it surprised her siblings. The town held bad memories; along with her sisters had attended nearby Roe Head School but had left when tuberculosis ripped through the place (killing some pupils.)


She arrived at Blake Hall to look after Tom and Mary-Anne who were six and four years old. It was no easy ride for the dainty tiny Bronte who wasn't much more than a child herself. She soon learnt the children were horrors and had received hardly any discipline or education. In a letter she described them as "desperate little dunces". The children were unable to sit still and take lessons, didnít know the alphabet and had scant knowledge of anything. They ran rings around their new governess, spat at her, spat in her handbag and threw her belongings out of the window.


Anne lasted about eight months and was finally sacked as the Ingham's thought their children had made little educational progress. The ordeal was material for Anne and the house, the family and horrible kids appeared in her first novel Agnes Grey. The Ingham family became the Bloomfield family and Blake Hall became Wellwood House.


I had a walk around the housing estate but I'd done my research and knew there was nothing to unearth. Blake Hall has gone. The rich Ingham's found their wealth declining and the huge home became so expensive to maintain it was demolished in the 1954. They're buried nearby in the grounds of Mirfield church alongside the ruins of the old church where they and Anne worshipped. Anne knew it well as she'd attended it with Charlotte and Emily when they attended Roe Head School.


Oddly an ornate Queen Anne wooden staircase from Blake Hall survived and is 3000 miles away in New York. The hand-carved staircase was bought at a London auction along with a few fixtures and fittings by opera singer Gladys Topping and her husband Allen who were building a house in Long Island in New York (see photo.)


I had a coffee in the car with the kids watching on. Afterwards I walked up Bronte Grove which is a cul-de-sac and took some photos. When one of the boys asked what I was doing I said I was a private detective looking for a block of gold that had been thrown over a wall when the burglars were being chased by the police.