I mentioned a while ago that I received a copy of Miss Miles: A Tale of Yorkshire Life 60 Years Ago by Mary Taylor, friend of Charlotte Bronte, for Christmas. Inspired by the introduction (which is as far as I have got yet) I pestered Mr J for a day out in Gomersal where Mary Taylor's lovely family home is open to the public.
Mary, together with Ellen Nussey was a life long friend of Charlotte's from her school days in Mirfield. Whilst Ellen nursed Charlotte's posthumous reputation the feistier Mary had no time for the Bronte industry. The museum is a testament to a striking friendship between Mary and Charlotte, two piercingly intelligent women, as well as tribute to Mary's long life, lived unconventionally, and her remarkable feminist writing.
The Red House is a charming little museum. A pretty house in a pretty garden with a nice balance between rooms recreated as they would have been when the family was there, and extensive exhibition space both in upstairs rooms of the house and in an adjacent barn. There are some lovely exhibits and a great game with magnetic counters showing the choices in a middle class girl's life and how fate could raise you up or leave you destitute at a stroke.
Unbelievably, there is no charge to enter the house, garden, or any of the exhibitions, and there is a free car park. If you are interested in Charlotte Bronte rather than Mary then the house is notable for being the original of 'Briarmains' in 'Shirley'. Whether your interest is in the Brontes, women's history and early feminism, Mary Taylor, or the Luddites and mills of the West Riding then The Red House at Gomersal is well worth a visit.
The local church is not open to visitors but we did find Mary Taylor's grave in the church yard.
If you are interested Mary Taylor then her main works are:
Swiss Notes By Five Ladies, Lancaster: Peter A. Marshall, 2003 [Incorporating The Identification of the Five Ladies]
The First Duty of Women London: Emily Faithful, 1870
and the main biographical source is:
More Precious Than Rubies: Mary Taylor, Friend of Charlotte Bronte, Strong Minded Woman by Joan Bellamy. Hull: Highgate of Beverley, 2002 (also available in the shop at The Red House).
There is also a rather lovely small press miniature book:
Charlotte Bronte and Mary Taylor: Early Feminists by Suzanne Smith Pruchnicki. Illinois, The Brontë Press, 1999
Very cute, I think.
At the time of writing I have a very nice signed copy of this in stock (drop me an email if you are interested) though there are two or three others available via online sellers in the US.
And finally on the subject of Shirley there is a new review of Shirley on Shelf Love.