Branwell Brontë by Joseph Bentley Leyland
Local legend, referred to previously, has it that around 1559 Edward Tyldesley eloped with Anne Leyland to avoid the objections of her father, Thomas Leyland, to their marriage. Anne Leyland lowered herself into the moat at Morleys Hall and was drawn to the far bank by means of a rope pulled by Edward Tyldesley. Edward and Anne rode swiftly to Wardley Hall and were married in its chapel.
Certainly, there is no doubt that it was by this marriage that Morleys Hall passed into the ownership of the Tyldesley family. Thomas Leyland is known to have been an irascible man and he seems entirely possible that he may have objected to his daughter marrying Edward Tyldesley—whose prospects may have appeared limited by the fact that he was the second rather than the first son of Thurstan Tyldesley.
In 1846 this legend was brought to the attention of Branwell Brontë by his friend Joseph Leyland:
Around this period, Joseph had a fanciful notion that his family were descended from the Leyland family of Morley Hall, Lancashire. Speaking to his friend about the subject, it was decided on Joseph investigation that Branwell would write an epic poem about Morley Hall, and in return Joseph would sculpt a medallion of Branwell's head. This was agreed and after three days the friends to leave of each other, Branwell returning to Ayliffe, happy to be writing again and Joseph to start work on the medallion. [FN1]
In a letter dated 28 April 1846 Brontë sought further details:
As I am anxious – though my return for your kindness will be like giving a sixpence back for a sovereign lent – to do my best in my intended lines on "Morley" I want answers to the following questions.1st (As I cannot find it in the map or Gazetteer) in what district of Lancashire is Morley situated?2nd Has the Hall a particular name?3rd Do you know the family name of its owners when the occurrences happened which I ought to dwell on?4th Can you tell me in what century they happened?5th What, told in the fewest words, was the nature of the leading occurrence?
Work clearly did not progress smoothly and in June 1846 Brontë wrote again:
I should have sent you "Morley Hall" ere now, but I am unable to finish it at present from agony to which the grave would be far preferable.
By October 1846 the news was more positive:
"Morley Hall" is in the eighth month of her pregnancy and expects ere long to be delivered of a fine thumping boy whom its father means to christen Homer at the least, though the mother suggest that "Poetaster" would be more suitable but that sounds too aristocratic.
In fact the work was never finished, and Brontë was to die just two years later in September 1848. A 90-line fragment, entitled Morley Hall, survives in the Brotherton Collection at the University of Leeds. One verse contains a reference to Sir Thomas Tyldesley 1612-1651, the great-grandson of Edward and Anne Tyldesley:
When Death draws down the veil, and night bids evening close.
King Charles, who, fortune falling, would not fall,
Might glance with saddened eyes on Morley Hall
And while his own cause—glides into the grave—
Remember Tyldesly died his throne to save.
1. Brontë studies (Journal of the Brontë Society), Volumes 31-32, 2006