Two of Britain's greatest novelists, Charlotte Bronte and Elizabeth Gaskell, shared a close friendship – and it all began at this beautiful home in the Lake District.
Briery Close is located between Windermere and Ambleside, and when the two writers met here in August 1850 it was a sprawling manor house.
The property was later subdivided, though as you can see from the pictures on this page, the portion currently for sale at £1.45m – which is number 4 Briery Close – clearly has some of the manor house’s very grandest features.
The hallway is the most obvious demonstration of that fact, with a magnificent wooden staircase rising to a landing lit up by a beautiful Victorian skylight.
There are plenty of other original features throughout the house: the main sitting room boasts original friezes and oak panelling, an oak floor and a spectacular fireplace.
This is the very room where Gaskell and Bronte first met in the summer of 1850, both having been invited to stay by Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth and his wife, whose summer residence the house was. Mrs Kay-Shuttleworth took to her sick bed with a cold, meaning that the writers ended up spending plenty of time at needlework, walking together and taking trips out onto the water.
Thankfully, given how they were thrown together, Gaskell and Bronte hit it off immediately. Bronte later wrote that Gaskell was ‘kind, clever, animated and unaffected’ and ‘a woman of whose conversation and company I should not soon tire’, while Gaskell wrote to a friend that she and Bronte had ‘quarrelled over almost everything’ but that ‘we like each other heartily and I think and hope that we will ripen into friends’.
That is exactly what happened, and the two writers remained close friends until Bronte’s premature death in 1855. Gaskell went on to write a biography of her friend, The Life of Charlotte Bronte, which was published two years later.
The whole house was clearly designed from scratch to make the most of the setting. One of the other reception rooms has French windows that show off the utterly stunning views of the lake and the mountains beyond, while upstairs three of the four bedrooms have terrific views across those gardens to Lake Windermere.
The en-suite master bedroom also has a balcony – and on a fine day, this must be one of the most delightful spots in the Lake District.
The lawns immediately in front of the house are private to number 4, while there are a further 11 acres of gardens and grounds shared with the owners of the other parts of the manor – including 130ft of waterfront on the lake itself.
There are also several other shared facilities, including a billiard room, squash court and two tennis courts.
All that, and the intriguing history too. ‘I’ve often wondered how their conversations went,’ says the present owner of the house, Hazel McFarlane.
‘It’s been wonderful to have such an important piece of literary history within the home.’
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