Wuthering Heights and Ghostly Wanderings - Moors of Devonshire and West Yorkshire England
Summer Blooms of Heather and Gorse on the Moors
Wuthering Heights and ghostly wanderings are very much at home on the moorlands of Devonshire and Yorkshire.
The moorlands England's West Country have a natural beauty that is lovely to see. What is not always seen is deeper. It is the lingering spirits and forbidden love of Heathcliff and Catherine of Wuthering Heights locked in eternal brace. And something darker - the ghostly wanderings of menacing spirits that inhabit the moors.
The moors are ravaged by westerly winds, bringing with them unsettled and windy weather, particularly in winter. The winds in spring and early summer bring the heavy mists which hover over the land like lost souls looking for a final resting place.
For those who know and love the story of Wuthering Heights, one can clearly imagine Emily Bronte's Catherine and Heathcliff, standing at the top of one of the crags, his arms around her, her back to him, head resting on his chest, staring out across to the haunting home they grew up in. Catherine's long, thick hair and dress skirts billowing out, Heathcliff's wild tangle of curls ruffled and forced back off his dark and passionate brow.
They were there, running with the wind, hand in hand, laughing with no thoughts of anything but each other. - together at last for all eternity in their forbidden love for each other upon their beloved heather covered moorland where they played and loved since childhood.
The hauntingly beautiful portrait of Emily above looks very much like Catherine. The story of the two doomed lovers was the only book written by Emily Bronte.
"... ...heaven did not seem to be my home, and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on top of Wuthering Heights, where I woke sobbing for joy." - Catherine Earnshaw, from Wuthering Heights— Emily Bronte
Catherine Forced Death Upon Herself
Catherine died in a fit of defiance against her husband, Edgar Linton, and all who forbade her to return to Heathcliff and the moors.
For years she haunted Wuthering Heights, the old manor where she grew up with Heathcliff. She haunted him till the day he ran out on the moors, so insane and desperate he would reunite with her in spirit, which he did. His body was found one night in Caterine's childhood room, but his spirit was seen out on the moor where Catherine's spirit called to him and, together again, they held hands as they walked up to their favorite place near the crags.
This is a story of a deep, enduring love that one will not soon forget.
Setting for Wuthering Heights ~
The setting for Wuthering Heights was West Yorkshire, England. Emily Bronte supposedly was inspired by two estates that were, in her time, still quite lovely.
Top Whithens, now in ruins, was a farmhouse near Haworth, West Yorkshire. This was a popular walking area for residents and still is today very much an attraction for tourists as well as residents. Even though the house does not match Bronte's description of Wuthering Heights in her novel, the setting in the country side is very much like what the Heights would have been.
High Sunderland Hall, just outside Halifax, West Yorkshire, is also considered an inspiration to Bronte for her novel. Although far too elaborate for the farmhouse, Emily Bronte may have used the grotesque figures on the building for inspiration of her description of Wuthering Heights.
Before passing the threshold I paused to admire a quantity of grotesque carving lavished over the front and especially about the principal door, above which, among the wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date 1500 ...
- Lockwood, character and narrator of the story.— Emily Bronte
High Sunderland Hall
Gate to High Sunderland Hall
From 1992 Version of the Movie
There is a lot more than wild, abandoned love and romance among the moors. The moors seem to bring out the passion of lovers as well as the passion of murderers, and the eternal wanderings of ghostly hounds.
This is where Squire Cabell supposedly murdered his wife in 1677. This is where the faithful hound of the murdered bride returns each year to haunt the ancestors of Cabell. This is where Sherlock Holmes encountered the Baskerville hound. This is also where the Black Shuck roams.
Squire Richard Cabell of Buckfastleigh in the Devon, England countryside, was a local squire in the 1600s. During his lifetime he was thought of as a monstrously evil man. It was believed that his reputation became such for his immorality. If that was not enough, it was also believed that one night out on the moors, he murdered his lovely wife whom he had accused of infidelity.
The Squire, as his father before him, supported the Royalists, who taxed peasants instead of the rich landowners. The family was very unpopular with the people of the land because of this. They believed that Squire Cabell sold his soul to the devil.
After the Royalists were defeated in the English Civil War, the Squire married Elizabeth Fowell, the daughter of the local tax collector, hoping to rid himself of the bad reputation. Cabell became so insanely jealous and abusive towards the unfortunate lady that she escaped one night with her dog and fled across the moor.
The moor is the mysterious and gloomy land even during the day, and dangerous at night when the mysterious and evil wanderings of hounds are often seen or heard and the treacherous landscape awaits the traveler unfamiliar with the dangers thereof.
Higher above the pleasant English countryside where hedgerows confine lovely and orderly gardens, the moors are a wild and inhospitable land of harsh winds and rain, an infertile wetlands covered with tenacious gorse and grasses, a desolate land, violent and brutal. It is full of granite towers, spires, and cliffs and amongst them the acidic waters of the bogs. It was here that Cabell ended the life of his bride in a fit of jealous rage.
When she tried to flee with her faithful hound, Cabell gave chase and caught up with her. He beat her savagely. That was a huge mistake, for his wife's loyal hound was still by the side of his now dead mistress. The hound grew in size till his skin was stretched so tight his skeletal frame could be seen. It's eyes glowed with rage and it turned on Squire Cabell and ripped his throat out. The hound then died from knife wounds received by the Squire during the bloody battle. Ever faithful, the hound returned to haunt each new generation of Cabell's family with vengeance for his beloved mistress.
This was not the end of Squire Cabell's evil ways, however. His ghost is said to still haunt the moors on the anniversary of his death in July. He is sometimes seen roaring through the village in a coach pulled by headless horses and driven by a headless coachman. Not long after Cabell was interred in the family tomb in the Holy Trinity Church graveyard, strange and frightening incidents began occurring.
On stormy nights, Cabell would rise from his grave and, with a pack of hounds, would go out on the moor, searching for Elizabeth. The Squire's eyes would glow with a red rage and he would attack anyone who was unfortunate enough to be in his path.
Even after the town's people placed a heavy stone slab over Cabell's grave, the ghost continued to rise and raise havoc. A stone sepulchre with a heavy wooden door, and metal bars on the windows was built around the grave. There is still seen today a frightening and threatening red glow drifting from the sepulchre. Local lore has it that if you run around the building seven times and put your hand through a window, the devil, or Cabell, will bite your fingers.
Although this legend may not be true, it is still talked about and believed by many. Some say that Mrs. Cabell actually outlived her husband by twelve years or more.
The stories and legends of Squire Cabell and his devilish ways was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, his most famous novel. In the book, Sherlock Holmes' partner, Watson, described the moors of Dartmoor amid the Devonshire countryside vividly:
Rolling pasture lands curved upward on either side of us, and old gabled houses peeped out from amid the thick green foliage, but behind the peaceful and sunlit countryside there rose ever, dark against the evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor, broken by the jagged and sinister hills.
- Watson, Sherlock Holmes partner— Arthure Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle and The Hound of the Baskervilles
Arthur Conan Doyle was the Scottish author and creator of Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget, 1904
Myths of Dartmoor
The myths of Dartmoor and the moors sparked Arthur Conan Doyle's imagination and he wanted to hear more. Bertram Fletcher Robinson, a journalist and friend of Doyle's, was more than agreeable to sit with Doyle in the hotel they were staying at in Norfolk and tell the local tales of Squire Cabell, his vicious killing of his wife, and the deadly attack on Cabell from his wife's faithful hound. The hound also died that same night from Cabell's knife wounds and haunts the moors just as Cabell does. This was the inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles that Doyle wrote.
Tales of a large black hellhound with malevolent flaming eyes of red, the Black Shuck, or the Doom Dog, runs wild throughout the moors. It is said that his appearance bodes ill to the beholder and terrifies his victims then leaves them with the horrifying nightmares that plaque them in their sleep at night.
Sometimes the Black Shuck has appeared headless, and at other times he appears to float on a carpet of mist. According to folklore, the spectre often haunts graveyards, side roads, crossroads and dark forests and the moors of England, just as the monstrous hound that Sherlock Holmes' was searching for on the moors.
The Black Shuck drifts in from the restless seas and can take on many forms other than a black dog the size of a donkey. Seeing this creature is really bad luck for the unfortunate who may be around at the time, but, if you ever see one, do not, repeat, do not, gaze into it's eyes, for to do so, those glowing eyes looking back into yours would be an omen of death. Local lore has it that this phantom dog has eyes that bleed fire and haunts the countryside, looking for it's prey.
Arthur Conan Doyle
But this ghostly hound seeking revenge on each generation of the Cabell family is not alone on the moor.
Other legends told of howling black hounds unleashed on the moor upon Cabell's death, the Whist Hounds, a howling pack of gigantic, red-eyed dogs, said to stalk the moors with the devil; and, of course, the Black Shuck of Dartmoor, the enormous hound with flaming eyes that looked for unsuspecting travelers foolish enough to cross the moors on late nights.
Hound of the Baskervilles ~
Have you read Hound of the Baskervilles, or other Sherlock Holmes stories?
So, if you are seeking romance in the lovely English countryside, stay clear of the moors at night.
During the day the lands are breathtakingly beautiful with the English heather and other wild flowers, butterflies and birds flitting about, the lovely roaming hills, the fresh scent of the sea. One could get lost in their own romantic imagination there.
Dare to Traverse
Driving by all this beauty makes one want to stop, jump out of the car and run across the heather laden hills as Catherine did when looking for Heathcliff. But, only the very brave or the spirits of the ones very much in love, like Catherine and Heathcliff, who know every inch of the land that offers so many surprises, dare traverse these moorlands when the sun sets.
Devonshire in southwest England.
Yorkshire in northern England.
Top Withens farmhouse that may have been inspiration for Wuthering Heights.
Where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stayed to learn about the moors and ghostly legends,.
Grotesque figures around the gate were another inspiration for Wuthering Heights.
1939 Wuthering Heights Trailer
© 2015 Phyllis Doyle Burns