The magnificent hall lies near Padiham in Lancashire, just off the present A671. The visit was a surrender to a sort of war of attrition waged by Sir James in an effort to get to know ‘Currer Bell’. He was a remarkable man, a great social reformer; in his younger days, as a doctor in Manchester, he had battled against problems of hygiene among the poor and was instrumental in opening schools in workhouses. He lobbied tirelessly for free libraries and free education, and suffered a series of nervous breakdowns throughout his life due to overwork He also had an artistic streak, which drew him to the company of writers. His interest had been aroused by the radical nature of Charlotte’s novel Shirley.
The Kay-Shuttleworths also came to hear about Charlotte Brontë who was becoming a well known author by this time and lived only 12 miles away in Haworth. They invited her to come and stay, which she eventually did in 1850 and then again in 1855. She also stayed with the Kay-Shuttleworths at their home in Windermere where she met Mrs Gaskell who became her great friend and wrote the first biography of Charlotte after her death. During Charlotte’s second visit to Gawthorpe in January 1855 it is said that she insisted walking out in the grounds and caught a chill from which she never managed to recover, she died two months later on 31st March the same year.