The Independent is featuring a wonderful write-up by David Barnett of our recent book Spirits of Place (featuring contributions from Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Gazelle Amber Valentine and many others), under the title “How places can influence the mind – and vice versa“:
Not far from where I live there’s a landscape that’s soaked in apocalyptic imagery. Thornton is a wild and sometimes bleak place, on the hills above Bradford, where the Brontë sisters were born before moving to Haworth, the place they’re more usually associated with, six miles away.
Thornton is farmland and scrub, beautiful in the summer sun, foreboding and often impassable in the depths of winter. There’s a place called World’s End View, from where you feel it really is possible to sit out the apocalypse. There are scattered communities with Biblical names… Egypt, Jerusalem, and Jericho, which even had its own monstrous walls in the Victorian era, massive ramparts that edged the road through and held back the mountains of waste from the stone quarries. There’s a chapel that dates back to the 16th century, which is thought to have been one of the birthplaces of the English Dissenting Christianity movement. The land is well known to be the haunt of the Gytrash, a spectral black hound that snuffled its way into Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, born here 200 years ago.
It’s a place that has soaked up history and stories, legends and folklore, tales that sit and ferment in the unforgiving stone, long outlasting those frail humans who first forged them. It has what we might call psychogeography, an entwining of people and place, where humans influence the land and the land, in turn, makes its indelible mark on generations of people.
And Thornton is by no means alone in having this strong sense of history and myth about it… there will doubtless be a place just like it near where you live, or grew up. And this is what has informed a new book, Spirits of Place, which over the course of a dozen essays looks at the locations where stories are so embedded that they seem to become part of the landscape themselves.