In the 1950s, many old mansions in England were being dismantled and sold off; crippling taxation meant their owners could no longer keep them. Such a fate befell Blake Hall, in Mirfield, Yorkshire, which was dismantled in 1954. Its fine old Queen Anne staircase was purchased by a London antiques dealer.
On this side of the pond that year, Allen and Gladys Topping built a new home they called Sanderling on Beach Lane in Quogue. In 1958 they attended the Kensington Antiques Fair looking for items to put in their house; they bought the Blake Hall staircase and installed it at Quogue. Blake Hall was notable in that Anne Bronte worked as a governess there in 1839, and it's claimed that she based characters in her book Agnes Grey on its inhabitants.
In 1966, a syndicated newspaper columnist wrote that Mrs. Topping told him,
"On the 3rd of September 1962, about sunset, I was sitting in my second-floor bedroom in an hour of meditation. […] Suddenly I heard light footsteps which seemed to be on the stairs. […]
To my astonishment, I saw the figure of a young woman ascending the stairs. She was dressed in a long, full skirt which she lifted above her ankles. A tri-cornered shawl was about her shoulders, and her hair was held in a bun on the back of her neck. In her right hand she carried a chamber stick. Her expression was pensive, as though she were locked deep in her own pleasant thoughts.
[…] "Mentally, I asked: 'Who?' and the instant impression I received was 'Anne Bronte.' […] I had, of course, read and studied about the Bronte sisters and had been touched by the exceeding pathos of their short lives. And, when in England, I had visited the lonely moors where they often had walked. Perhaps it was this bond that caused the spirit of Anne to pay me the visit and again climb that stair.
"Since then, I have not seen her again. But often I feel her presence. I hear footsteps and, occasionally, rappings and other noises. […] But Anne — if, indeed, it is Anne — apparently she does not wish to reveal herself any more. She seems content just going up and down the stairs."
[Staircase at Blake Hall]
Now the staircase—fully intact in Quogue—has been rediscovered and it is hoped that it will play a part in the upcoming bicentenary celebrations of the births of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte. No word on whether the shade of Anne plans to show up.
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