TODAY’S Object of the Week is a charming manor house which has played host to some famous visitors over the years.

Norton Conyers Hall is four miles north of Ripon, near the pretty village of Wath, less than a mile east of the River Ure.

It is a handsome house with medieval roots and a Dutch gabled exterior, the home of the Graham family for almost 400 years.

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Norton Conyers is essentially a late medieval structure with Tudor and Stuart additions and contains furniture of the 17th and 18th century.

Historically the house was the seat of a family called Norton whose numbers included Richard Norton, a Chief Justice of England in the late 14th century.

In 1569 a descendant of Richard, one Sir Richard Norton, supported the Rising of the North, a Catholic rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I.

Unfortunately for him, the rising was a complete disaster and he and his two sons were executed on the orders of the Queen.

The Norton Conyers estate passed to the Musgraves and then to the Graham family in 1624.

In 1644 Sir Richard Graham, a Royalist, fought at Marston Moor and somehow managed to return to his beloved home on horseback suffering some 26 battle wounds.

He would only live the last remaining hour of his life at Norton Conyers and following his death the troops of Cromwell are said to have badly damaged the house.

In 1679 the house played host to a more welcome guest when the Duke of York, the future King James II, came to stay at the house.

Another famous guest, who came here in 1839, was the author Charlotte Brontë who was inspired by the Norton Conyers legend of a mad aunt being incarcerated in the attic.

The Northern Echo: Charlotte Brontë is said to have based the charcter of Mrs Rochesteron the Norton Conyers legend of a mad auntCharlotte Brontë is said to have based the charcter of Mrs Rochesteron the Norton Conyers legend of a mad aunt

She later immortalised Norton Conyers as Thornfield Hall in her novel Jane Eyre in which the mad aunt appeared as Mrs Rochester.

The name Norton derives from the Anglo-Saxon words meaning north farm and the Norton family took their name from the settlement.

But the Conyers element which also occurs in the name of Hutton Conyers (Hutton means high farm) derives from a family surname. The Conyers family held land in the area between 1099 and 1133 and took their surname from either Cogners or Coignieres in France.

Members of the family came to England at the time of the Norman Conquest when William the Conqueror appointed one Roger de Conyers as a Constable of Durham Castle in the North East of England.

Sometime in the 12th century the Conyers family were granted the manor of Sockburn on Tees on the borders of Durham and Yorkshire.

Here the family was associated with the slaying of a legendary beast called the Sockburn Worm.

It provided inspiration for the Jabberwock poem of Lewis Carroll who lived in that area. Lewis Carroll’s father was a Rector at Croft on Tees and was a canon at Ripon Cathedral.

Some of the peculiar misericords in the pews of Ripon Cathedral are said to have inspired such characters as Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.

l Thanks to David Simpson for his help in compiling this feature. For more on the history and culture of the region, visit his website at

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