Few people know that Charlotte Bronte had a connection with the village of Lothersdale, where she worked as a governess for a short time. Here, reporter Lesley Tate reveals how Charlotte’s employer bore a resemblance to Edward Rochester, a character in her much-loved novel Jane Eyre.

In the summer of 1839 the young Charlotte Bronte was living at a grand country house near Lothersdale. The then 23-year-old was employed as a governess to the wealthy mill-owning Sidgwick family of Stone Gappe.

Charlotte, who would shortly write the classic novel, Jane Eyre, appeared to have liked Lothersdale, but not a life devoted to looking after children.

Indeed, in a letter to her younger sister, Emily, she described her young charges as “riotous” and “unmanageable cubs”.

However, she was kinder in her description of Mr Sidgwick, who appears to have born a striking resemblance to Edward Rochester – the employer and eventual husband of her fictional heroine Jane Eyre.

Mr Sidgwick, who Charlotte describes on a walk with the children, even had a Newfoundland dog – much like Mr Rochester’s large black and white dog, Pilot.

He is also unusually tolerant in Charlotte’s eyes to his children – much like Mr Rochester is to his young ward, Adele.

This week saw the publication of a horror version of Jane Eyre, which was published in 1847 under Charlotte’s pen name, Currer Bell.

Written by American writer, Sherri Browning Erwin, Jane Slayre – published on Charlotte’s birthday, April 21 – features vampires, werewolves and voodoo.

It may not appeal to everyone, but the book has been welcomed by Ann Dinsdale, Bronte Parsonage Museum collections manager, who believes it may encourage more people to read the original.

Charlotte and her sisters, Emily and Anne, lived at Haworth Parsonage with their father, the Rev Patrick Bronte, and their brother, Branwell.

Emily would go on to write Wuthering Heights and Anne, Agnes Grey. All the books became best sellers in their day and have gone into popular culture, with numerous adaptations being made of both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

Haworth has become known as Bronte Country and is known all over the world as the place where the literary family grew up.

But less well-known is Charlotte’s connection with Lothersdale, where she lived during a short spell working as a governess between 1839 and 1841.

In Charlotte’s letter written to her sister, Emily, from Stone Gappe on June 8, 1839, she describes the children as “riotous” and “unmanageable cubs”.

Her apparent impatience with her charges seems to indicate an unsuitability for life as a governess and might well explain why she spent just a month in Lothersdale.

In the letter, she wrote: “The country, the house and the grounds are, as I have said, divine … the children are constantly with me, and more riotous, perverse, unmanageable cubs never grew.”

In the same letter, Charlotte goes on to describe a walk out with Mr Sidgwick and the children.

“Mr Sidgwick walked out with his family, and I had orders to follow a little behind.

“As he strolled on through his fields with his magnificent Newfoundland dog at his side, he looked very like what a frank, wealthy Conservative gentleman ought to be.

“He spoke freely and unaffectedly to the people he met and though he indulged his children and allowed them to tease himself far too much, he would not suffer them grossly to insult others.”

Many years later, in 1907, the Craven Herald passed comment on the death of Charlotte’s husband, who had died a few weeks earlier at the age of 90.

The Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls had married Charlotte in 1854.

Sadly, Charlotte, together with her unborn child, died the following year at just 38-years-old, but her husband was to survive her by 52 years.

Mr Nicholls had bequeathed George Richmond’s famous portrait of Charlotte, painted in 1850, to the National Portrait Gallery, and in 1907 it had gone on public display for the first time.

The Craven Herald suggested that Charlotte, who wrote under the name of Currer Bell, might have got the name from one of two sources.

“It is supposed that she either took the name from Currer Hall, near Beamsley, or else, as it is more believable, from the Currers, who then lived at Kildwick Hall, the greater part of whose magnificent library is now at Eshton Hall.”

The year before he married Charlotte, the Rev Nicholls had attended the consecration of St Mary’s Church, Embsay.

Initially, Charlotte’s father, who reportedly had a vicious temper, would not hear of the match and, 10 days after his visit to Embsay, Mr Nicholls was forced to leave the area A one-time headmaster of Skipton Grammar School, Dr Cartman, was a great friend of Charlotte’s father, Patrick.

In a letter to her father written from London on June 7, 1851, she wrote: Dear Papa, I am very glad to hear that you continue in pretty good health, and that Mr Cartman came to help you on Sunday.”

The Rev Patrick Bronte died in June, 1861 and Dr Cartman was one of the pallbearers at his funeral in Haworth.

In July 1910, the Craven Herald again passed comment about Charlotte.

Ninety of her letters were to be sold at Sotheby’s in London and one of them had been to a friend, while Charlotte was again employed as a governess – her first job after leaving the Sidgwicks.

In her reply to her friend, who had invited her away for a weekend, she had described the response she had got from her employer on asking permission.

“As soon as I had read your note, I gathered up my spirits directly, and walked, on the impulse of the moment, into Mrs … presence, popped the question, and for two minutes received no answer.

“Will she refuse me when I work so hard for her, thought I. ‘Ye-es-es, drawled Madame, in a reluctant, cold tone. ‘Thank-you Madame’, said I, with extreme cordiality, and was walking from the room when she recalled me with, ‘you’d better go on Saturday afternoon then, when the children have holiday, and if you return in time for them to have all their lessons on Monday morning, I don’t see that much time will be lost.’ You’re a genuine Turk, thought I.”

The Craven Herald concluded that the lady in question was a Mrs White – based on the evidence of Anne Bronte’s diary of 1841.

In it, she wrote about Charlotte and her attempts to be a governess. “Charlotte has left Miss Wooler, been a governess at Mrs Sidgwick’s, left her and gone to Mrs White’s.”

The paper went on to comment that Mrs Sidgwick was the mother of a Mrs Cooper, of Skipton.