Norton Conyers is a mid 14th Century house with Tudor, Stuart and Georgian additions. It has been the home of the Graham family since 1624.
It is best known for its connection with Charlotte Bronte who paid a visit in 1839.
In the early 16th century the Grahams' ancestors migrated from Scotland to the English borders, where they acquired a reputation for turbulence and cattle-stealing. In the early 17th century, however, Richard Graham, a younger son, went to London and entered the service of James I's favourite the Duke of Buckingham. He rose to the position of the Duke's Master of the Horse, going on to become one of King Charles I's Gentleman of the Horse, a baronet and the owner of two estates - Norton Conyers in Yorkshire and Netherby in Cumbria.
Sir Richard stayed loyal to his master when the Civil War broke out and after it ended was heavily fined for his Royalism. When he died his elder son George inherited Netherby and his father's baronetcy, his younger son, another Richard, inherited Norton Conyers. The younger Richard was in his turn created a baronet in 1662.
His descendants lived at Norton Conyers in comparative peace and prosperity for the following two centuries. Then in the 19th century the 7th baronet's extravagance obliged him to sell all his estates; Norton Conyers went in 1865. His son's marriage, to an heiress however, enabled him to buy back the house and estate 17 years later. Since then there has been no break.
Today Norton Conyers is owned by Sir James and Lady Graham.
The house has a friendly, tranquil atmosphere.
The main rooms contain some fine 17th and 18th century furniture; the long table in the hall dates from the Middle Ages.
The parlour and the dining room have good 18th century plasterwork. King James's Room, where James II stayed in 1679 when he was Duke of York, has kept its 17th century appearance.
The main rooms and the main staircase contain a fine collection of family portraits.
A celebrated hunting picture by John Ferneley, "The Quorn Hunt", painted in 1822, hangs in the hall. Family and other costumes are displayed in the Library and the best spare bedroom. These displays are changed annually.
Norton Conyers is probably best known from its connection with Charlotte Bronte: she paid a visit in 1839 and heard the legend of a mad woman who had in the previous century been confined in the attics. When Charlotte wrote "Jane Eyre" eight years later the mad woman became an original of the mad Mrs Rochester and Norton Conyers provided many details for Mr Rochester's house, Thornfield Hall.
The discovery in November 2004 of a blocked staircase, clearly described in "Jane Eyre", aroused world-wide interest.
The mid 18th century walled garden, which stands near the house, is about two acres in extent.
The garden is five minutes walk from the house.
Laid out in the mid 18th century, it retains the essentials of its original design, together with sympathetic replanting in the English style.
Two paths meet at the central feature, an Orangery (open to visitors) with a small ornamental What visitors most frequently comment on is the tranquil atmosphere.
A small sales area specialises in unusual hardy pants. Pick-your-own fruit is available in season.
Please note: Dogs must be on a lead in the grounds. Credit cards are not accepted.
2011 Garden Charitable openings:
12 June National Gardens Scheme
19 June - Ripon Museum Trust
10 July - Forever Fourth (a Forces Charity)
17 July - Ripon Age Concern
7 August - Amnesty International
On these days the garden will be open from 14:00-17:00 (last entry 16:40), entrance charge will be £5 (children of 16 and under free), and teas will be served.
The main path is gravelled, and runs up a slight slope. The rest of the garden is suitable for disabled access.