The Blake Hall Estate - Mirfield
(Today)

The Inghams were a well-to-do family, Joshua Ingham being 'a local squire, magistrate and businessman'. Their home, Blake Hall, was situated in the south-eastern corner of Mirfield. This site is now occupied by a modern housing estate which has become known throughout the town as the 'Blake Hall estate'. The area is surprisingly pleasant - beautifully tended gardens abound - and there are quite a few trees around to give it a slight rural feel. A number of the street names commemorate the hall, its owners, and their famous governess: the area is largely encompassed by 'Blake Hall Road' and 'Blake Hall Drive': fanning out from these are the little cul-de-sacs - 'Bronte Way', and 'Bronte Grove'; and converging inwards to a central location (where the actual hall stood) are other cul-de-sacs named 'Ingham Close', 'Ingham Garth' and 'Ingham Croft'. A little way to the north from here, up the slight incline of Pinfold Lane, is Mirfield Church. This church was built in 1871, and an engraving on the outside stonework indicates that the church tower (which, incidentally, is massive) was built in memory of Joshua Ingham - confirming his prominence in the area; although the dedication and inscription had something to do with his son, Cunliffe - the young, grossly mischievous lad, who was taught by Anne. Cunliffe is noted to have grown-up a very determined person - 'not to be beaten or gainsaid.' Concerning the building of the new church, in 1871, he became involved in a quarrel with his neighbour, Joseph Lee, after he caused the omission of Lee's name on the memorial inscription (mentioned above) as another one of the church's benefactors; although an inscription for Joseph Lee was added at a later date - this now exists along side that of Joshua's.

Cunliffe was re-created in Anne's novel, Agnes Grey, as the brat-from-hell 'Master Tom': who, among other things, sets traps in the garden to catch birds: when Agnes discovers this, she challenges him:

      "And what do you do with them when you catch them?"
      "Different things. Sometimes I give them to the cat; sometimes I cut them in pieces with my penknife; but the next I mean to roast alive."
      "And why do you mean to do such a horrible thing?"
      "For two reasons: first, to see how long it will live - and then, to see what it will taste like."
      "But don't you know it is extremely wicked to do such a thing? . . ."
      "Oh, that's nothing! I'm not a bird, and I can't feel what I do to them. . . . Papa knows how I treat them, and he never blames me for it; he says it's just what he used to do when he was a boy. Last summer, he gave me a nest full of young sparrows, and he saw me pulling off their legs and wings, and heads and never said anything, except that they were nasty things, and I must not let them soil my trousers: and Uncle Robson was there too, and he laughed, and said I was a fine boy." . . .
      He next took me across the lawn to see his mole-traps, and then into the stack-yard to see his weasel-traps, one of which, to his great joy, contained a dead weasel . . .
. . . Agnes Grey (Ch.II)

At a later date:

      Tom, who had been with his uncle into the neighbouring plantation, came running in high glee into the garden, with a brood of little callow nestlings in his hands. . .
      "They're all mine. Uncle Robson gave them to me - one, two, three, four, five . . ." continued he exultantly; laying the nest on the ground, and standing over it with his legs wide apart, his hands thrust into his breeches-pockets, his body bent forward, and his face twisted into all manner of contortions in the ecstasy of his delight.
      ". . you shall see me fettle 'em off. My word, but I will wallop 'em! See if I don't now. By gum! but there's rare sport for me in that nest."
      "But, Tom," said I, " I shall not allow you to torture those birds. They must either be killed at once or carried back to the place you took them from, that the old birds may continue to feed them."
      "But you don't know where that is, madam. It's only me and Uncle Robson that knows that."
      "But if you don't tell me, I shall kill them myself - much as I hate it."
      "You daren't. You daren't touch them for your life! because you know papa and mamma, and Uncle Robson, would be angry. Ha, ha! I've caught you there, miss!"
      "I shall do what I think right in a case of this sort without consulting anyone. . . "  So saying - urged by a sense of duty - at the risk of both making myself sick and incurring the wrath of my employers - I got a large flat stone, that had been reared up for a mouse-trap by the gardener, then, having once more vainly endeavoured to persuade the little tyrant to let the birds be carried back, I asked what he intended to do with them. With fiendish glee he commenced a list of torments; and while he was busied in the relation, I dropped the stone upon his intended victims and crushed them flat beneath it. '
. . . Agnes Grey (Ch.V)

Surprisingly, it was not this novel, but her next, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, for which Anne was accused of having 'a morbid love of the coarse, if not of the brutal'! One may wonder whether these incidents actually happened between Anne, and her young charge Cunliffe Ingham. We can only refer to the comments later made by Anne:

' . . . the story of 'Agnes Grey' was accused of extravagant over-colouring in those very parts that were carefully copied from the life, with a most scrupulous avoidance of all exaggeration, . . . ' 

(Anne Brontë, Preface to the second edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall)


Just beside Mirfield Church are the ruins of the old church - this was the establishment which Anne, Charlotte, Emily, and indeed all the girls from Roe Head School, attended each Sunday.60  It is also where Anne worshipped with the Inghams while she was in their employ. One may wonder why the Roe Head girls did not attend Patrick's old church at Hartshead, which is much closer to the school than the one in Mirfield (the former being a little over a mile 'higher up the hill', while the latter is a good two miles lower down in the valley). The reason is that one of Miss Wooler's sisters - Susan Carter - who was the art teacher at Roe Head (and, incidentally, the person who produced the extant pencil sketch of Roe Head School that closely resembles the two produced by Anne and Charlotte - see Anne's copy at top of previous page), had obtained her surname by marrying the Reverend Edward Carter - curate, and later incumbent of Mirfield. Only the tower of the old church still stands - and what was the rest of the interior has now become a 'garden of remembrance', surrounded by a small wall and fence which has been formed from the foundations of the original church wall (see photographs below). There are a few tomb stones inside this 'garden', and the most dominant looking one is the tomb of Joshua and Mary Ingham - and other members of their family (also see below).


Blake Hall Road - street signThe photograph on the extreme right shows the cul-de-sac 'Bronte Grove' from Blake Hall Road. Just beyond the trees at the far end of the cul-de-sac (in a direction travelling across the picture) runs the main Huddersfield to Leeds road (A644). On the opposite side of Blake Hall Road - and looking in the opposite direction (northward) . . . Bronte Grove - Blake Hall estate - Mirfield  (1998)

 

Ingham Croft - Blake Hall Estate - Mirfield  (1998) Blake Hall - around the turn of the century
Blake Hall
 

. . . the view is along Ingham Croft. The modern house on the left marks the approximate site of Blake Hall, and in the distance can be seen the tower of Mirfield Church. This church was built to replace the old one in 1871, and its tower was dedicated to the memory of Joshua Ingham (as mentioned earlier). The picture on the right is of Blake Hall around the turn of the century. This picture shows the south-facing, front of the house; and if the hall was still standing - this is the way it would appear (aspect-wise) in the modern photograph.


'Joshua Ingham' inscription on Mirfield Church tower This is the inscription on the outside of the (new) Mirfield church tower base: it reads:
 
THIS TOWER WAS BUILT TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN
MEMORY OF JOSHUA INGHAM OF BLAKE HALL. A.D. 1871


On the extreme right of this picture can be seen the rear-end of the current Mirfield Church. Beyond the trees are the ruins of the 'old' church. This building was attended each Sunday by all the Brontë girls while they were resident at Roe Head School, and subsequently by Anne during the time she worked for the Inghams. The interior of the church has now become a 'garden of remembrance' surrounded by a very low wall which was formed from the foundations of the old church wall (seen here to the left of the tower) . . . Ruins of Mirfield 'old' Church  (1998)

 

Former interior of Mirfield 'old' Church  (1998)This was the interior of the old church - taken from what was the back wall. Beyond and to the right of the old tower is the current church. Just beyond this, running across the picture (though not visible here) is the road that makes its way (to the right) through Mirfield - gradually rising to Roe Head School - a distance of about 2 miles. Off the picture to the left, at an angle of about a 45°, and about a quarter of a mile distant, is the site of Blake Hall. The recumbent stone cross seen in the foreground and on the extreme left almost certainly marks the grave of Cunliffe Ingham; the lad who was taught by Anne, and who was re-created as the monstrous super-brat, Master Tom, in Agnes Grey. Just beyond this, and a little to the right, is the tomb of his parents - Anne's employers, Joshua and Mary Ingham (see below).

(When I was planning my initial journey to this place, I wondered whether the church would be open . . . they don't come much more open than this!)

 

Joshua Ingham
Joshua Ingham
Tomb of the Ingham Family
The Ingham Family Tomb
Mary Ingham (nee. Cunliffe)
Mary Ingham (nee. Cunliffe)

The inscriptions for Joshua Ingham (the one who interests us) and his father - also Joshua Ingham are etched on the far side of the stone - and these state:

'HERE REST JOSHUA INGHAM OF BLAKE HALL,  BORN 13 FEB 1802,  DIED 16 MAY 1866.'
 
 'HERE ALSO REST JOSHUA INGHAM OF KNOWL HOUSE,  FATHER OF THE ABOVE BORN 5 MARCH 1773,  BUR 10 JAN.  1816.' 

The inscriptions on this side are of Joshua's wife and his grandfather (another Joshua!); they read:

'ALSO MARY CUNLIFFE,  HIS WIFE BORN 11 FEB 1811,  DIED 18 SEPT 1899.'
 
 'AND JOSHUA INGHAM,  OF BLAKE HALL,  GRANDFATHER OF THE ABOVE BAP.  4 JUNE 1740  DIED 15 JAN 1814' 


The large recumbent stone cross which lies beside this tomb (mentioned earlier) carries the inscription:

 JCI     AET AT 45     1877 

It indicates that the grave occupier died in 1877 at the age of 45. When Anne was at Blake Hall, in 1839, this person would have been 7 years old, which was the very age of the Ingham's son (and Anne's charge) - Cunliffe (also, consider, these tomb inscriptions seem to indicate that the Ingham family had a custom of passing the name 'Joshua' from father to son!); therefore can we assume that the initials stand for Joshua Cunliffe Ingham? and that this is the grave of 'Cunliffe' - the monstrous lad (one of the 'desperate little dunces', as Charlotte once referred to the Ingham children) who was taught by Anne? - it seems strange that this inscription is not more detailed.61n


Mirfield Parish Church 1826 - 1871 (c.1870) Mirfield Parish Church 1826 - 1871 (a study from memory)

The photograph on the left shows the old Mirfield Parish Church (1826 - 1871) around 1870 - shortly before its demolition: as mentioned above, this was the establishment attended by all the Brontë girls while they were at Roe Head School, and by Anne while she was employed at Blake Hall. The painting on the right shows its interior (viewed towards the rear wall): it is titled 'Mirfield Parish Church (Interior) 1826 - 1871. A Study from Memory. George Lindley 1921.' 61bn


Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage
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