'Jane Eyre's' secret staircase discovered

Dec. 4, 2004 at 10:12 AM

NORTON CONYERS, England, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- The secret staircase leading to an attic prison, which inspired Charlotte Bronte's novel "Jane Eyre," has been discovered in Britain.

It's believed Bronte based her character of Mrs. Rochester on a story she heard while visiting a country mansion in Norton Conyers, near Ripon, in 1839, reported the Daily Telegraph Saturday.

Currently, the country house attracts 2,000 visitors a year, including many fans of Bronte. The grand rooms are the only rooms shown to visitors, but the owners -- Sir James and Lady Graham -- have discovered a hidden staircase linking the first floor directly to the attic, just as Bronte described in her novel.

The Grahams found the staircase by taping on the wooden paneling near where the steps were described in the novel. At one point they heard a hollow sound and lifted floorboards in the attic where they discovered the top of a narrow flight of 13 steps.

"We were hoping to find the Norton Conyers' treasure, that's another family story about a hoard of gold and jewels supposedly hidden during the Civil War," said Lady Graham. "But all we found was lots of woodworm, some old nails and a collar stud."

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