“Jane Eyre” and The Apostle’s Cupboard, how Thomas Eyre proposed to Charlotte Bronte ?

jane eyre hathersage 2

Above is the walking tour of Hathersage and some of the properties featured in “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte.


Above is the link to the book : “Strange World of the Brontes”

Charlotte Bronte and Hathersage:

Charlotte Bronte stocked her mind with ideas from her visit to Hathersage in 1845 which later emerged in her book.

A background:

Charlotte Bronte’s close friend was Ellen Nussey, and Ellen Nussey’s brother  Henry Nussey , was vicar of Hathersage from 1845 – 1847.  Charlotte visited Ellen Nussey at Hathersge Vicarage for about three weeks in June and July 1845 when she was 29. Henry had once proposed to Charlotte because he wanted help with the school. ( She rejected him). Henry went on to marry Emily Prescott and they were on their honey moon when Charlotte visited .  Henry Nussey was home on July 20th to bury a Thomas Eyre aged 27 of Derwent ( a different Thomas ).

Charlotte visited Moorseats, owned by Thomas Eyre, ( known as Moor House in the book), where at that time in 1845 the Cocker family lived. Thomas Eyre was living there by 1851. At night the only light on the hill above , visible from the vicarage windows is Moorseats and the novel describes Jane being drawn like a moth to such a light.

Other connections with Eyres : Hathersage Church which had money donated by the eyres  and  where the name Morton appears on the Charity Boards in the Tower. (Morton was the name of the town in her book.)  The Hathersage Church still contains the Eyre Brasses , there is the Eyre west window and the Eyre graves outside. Rev Henry Cottingham was a friend of the Eyres in the 1850’s and 1860’s and he was the vicar of the church, possibly after the Rev. Nussey. As mentioned previously, in 1851/2 George Eyre  and  his sisters donated the west window of the church,  and Thomas Eyre donated  furniture – oak chairs and buffets that stand either side of the chancel.

The School:

A National school was built in1868, but I believe only the catholic school  survives to this day. The national school was described at a neat stone building erected in 1868 at a cost of 750 pounds( raised by subscription), exclusive of the land , which was given by Thomas Eyre esquire.  ( There was a former school that was supposed to have been built  in 1845, however, no further evidence of this exists – evidence suggests it was called the Endowed school which was turned into a reading room. )

Stanege Edge:
From our documents, Thomas Eyre owned property at Stanege edge , which was also featured in Jane Eyre when Jane traveled across the Moors. We are unable to identify a property , but wonder if it is land that was owned by Thomas Eyre, in connection with North Lees. They say it once was a private grouse moor, however,  it was all sold with North Lees and others after the death of Thomas and his brother George Eyre.


North Lees, known as “Thornfield Hall” :

1845:Charlotte visited North Lees where Mary Eyre was living , a widow with four unmarried children: George 48, Ann 44, Mary 40, and Harriet 39. ( Charlotte was 29). The eldest son, Thomas Eyre aged 50, lived in Liverpool ( where Henry Nussey’s new wife came from ), but visited the family home . Some say he even proposed to Charlotte, before his marriage to Sophie Linnington!

North lees hall, Hathersage

North Lees and Thornfield: ( “Thornfield” was our Eyre’s North Lees in the book ). In the book Jane talks about “on the leads” up a very narrow staircase to the attics and thence by a ladder and through a trap door to the roof of the hall. I was now on a level with the crow colony, and could see into their nests”.. .. I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three stories high, of proportions not vast, … battlements round the top give it a picturesque look”….. descriptions like these and others,  fit North Lees exactly.

North Lees Hall

Roof Top north lees

In a letter from Harold Stubbs to Eric Stubbs from Bovey Tracey, South Devon, he provided the North Lees 1869 manuscript to Eric Stubbs date unknown.( after 1924).  He describes that back in 1869 the Eyres may not have been living in North Lees long during that period. We know that George and his sisters were living there and it was a farm for a time with George at the helm for a time. By 1925 Harold describes that “only half of the main building is left now – the front portion remains, but it is not lived in , but most of the back portion on the left of the print is in ruins. ….When I visited the place, I found – that someone lived in the cottage on the right, and I was able to enter the main building which was in a pretty bad state ”  ( see plate XXIX)… he goes on to say ” I think it is most unlikely that the place is being made into a tourist show place “….

north lees 1869

1869 north lees : detail of the ceiling and of the spring

As it turned out , North Lees was renovated and part of which is now a tourist show place since 1989.

Apostles Cupboard:

Apostles_Cupboard photo taken at Charles Stubbs' s Home in Ashstead, Dining, Drawing room, 1925

apostles cupboard bronte museum

Apostles cupboard Jane Eyre reference

1862 thomas eyre estate inventory from moorseats and from north lees

1862 thomas eyre inventory from moorseats page 2, note the Ebony and walnut wardrobe, North Lees

The inventory above from June 1862 is held at the Bronte Museum. Sophie was living in Kensington and it looks like the walnut and ebony wardrobe could very well be the Apostle’s cupboard, located at North Lees. It makes sense that the cupboard was at North Lees as that is where Charlotte Bronte would have seen it.

The description in the guide reads” it is known that the Eyres of North Lees owned a large cupboard with 12 panels, each depicting one of the 12 apostles. When Thomas Eyre died in June 1862, the cupboard passed  to his wife’s nephew, Charles Stubbs”… this is not quite true. The cupboard initially passed to Thomas’s wife Sophie who sold it and Charles bought it back again.

In a letter dated Feb. 12th, 1917 from Charles Stubbs to “Dear Madam”, he writes with the approval of a Mr. Hardy of 12 Sussex St. Strand, the acting executor of the will of my Aunt, the late Mrs. Eyre Smith.. I am informed that Mrs. Eyre .. received from you a sum of money , I believe 40 pounds in respect of the Apostle Cupboard. ”

letter apostles cupboard 1917 page 1

letter apostles cupboard page 2

So good for Charles !! If it were not for him, that cupboard would be selling at Southebys for a lot of money.

The story goes that after Charles died 1931, and Eric Stubbs, who was now in Australia could not take it, it was up to Harold Stubbs to try to find a good home for the cupboard. It was a combined effort on the Stubbs’s. I believe, that one of the  reasons the cupboard ended up at the Bronte Museum was because no one else seemed to want it.

apostles_cupboard the library chatssowrth bakewell, 1932

Clearly the library at Chatsworth were interested and had or still have an original Van Dyk Painting , the copy of which is on the bottom left hand panel. I have yet to research the apostle series from Van Dyk after which the copies were modeled. There were many dutch painters in England and we may never know who painted these panels. Van Dyk’s sketch book from an Italian period ( early 1600s- 1621 or so ) exists and is known at the Chatsworth sketch book. This Van Dyk painting of the bottom left hand panel is , as far as I know still hanging at Chatsworth House, Chatsworth.


( Above about Sir Anthony Van Dyk).

apostles_cupboard_rejection letter

apostles_cupboard_archbishop of canterbury rejection letter

apostles_cupboard_keighley museum reply

The Bronte museum in 1935 agreed to buy the Apostles cupboard for 25 pounds. ( A lot less than than what Sophie had sold the cupboard for earlier at 40 pounds ! )


They agreed I suppose to 30 pounds, wow, a 5 pound increase. Considering what it is worth today ! Price less !

This entry was posted in 1800's, charlotte bronte, Eyre, jane eyre, John Stubbs relations, Linnington. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Jane Eyre” and The Apostle’s Cupboard, how Thomas Eyre proposed to Charlotte Bronte ?

  1. Pingback: The Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth | BooksPlease

  2. Richard Humphry says:

    I have not found anyone querying the inclusion amongst the Apostles by Charlotte, a devout Christian and vicar’s daughter, of St Luke who was not an apostle but an evangelist.

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