Norton Conyers – an inspired revisiting

Norton Conyers near Ripon in North Yorkshire is a house with a history.  Of Anglo-Saxon origins, the house with its distinctive Dutch-style gables is mostly late medieval with Stuart and Georgian additions and has been owned by the Graham family since 1624. It’s historic in a National Garden Scheme sense too as it first opened its gates in 1935 and since then has opened in 56 years.

The romantic mid 18th Century walled garden is beautifully tended, with cut flowers grown from early summer through to late November and old apple, quince and beautiful buddleia make it a haven for wildlife too. Join artist David Stead, who is lucky enough to have his studio in the grounds and master plantsman Giles Gilby, for a tour of the garden filmed last summer:

The inspiration for Jane Eyre

Many years of occupation by the same family have given it a notably friendly atmosphere. Visited by Charles I in 1633, James II and his wife in 1679 (the room and the bed they used are still on display), and Charlotte Brontë in 1839. The legend of a mad woman confined in the attics in the previous century is said to have given Charlotte the idea for the mad Mrs Rochester in ‘Jane Eyre’ and the house is an original of ‘Thornfield Hall’. The discovery in 2004 of a hidden staircase connecting the first floor to the attics, clearly described in the novel, aroused world-wide interest.


The garden is five minutes walk from the house. Two paths meet at the central feature, an Orangery (open to visitors) with a small ornamental pond before it. The main approach to this attractive building is flanked by herbaceous borders and high yew hedges. There is a fine view from its front windows of the garden’s main gate and the park beyond. In season there are also borders of gold and silver plants, old-fashioned peonies and irises.

In its heyday the walled gardens would have produced cut flowers and edibles for the household and evidence of a heated wall points to the propagation of exotic species.

To find out when this wonderful house and garden reopens click here

Lead image: Val Corbett

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