Phyllis Bentley

Phyllis Bentley was born on the 19th November 1894. She was the youngest child of Mr J E Bentley, who was a mill owner. She spent most of her life at Heath Villas, Free School Lane, Halifax. Phyllis was educated at Halifax High School for Girls and Cheltenham Ladies College. While there she undertook an external degree from London University. During the First World War she was a munitions worker in London. Phyllis returned to her native Halifax where she taught English and Latin at Heath Grammar School. She also did cataloguing work for the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society.

From an early age, Phyllis Bentley had stated her ambition was to be a novelist- ‘Two strong passions have always ruled my life: The first is literature; the second is the West Riding.’ After several rejections from publishers, in 1928 Phyllis commenced her long association with the Gollancz publishing house. Her first novel was entitled, ‘The Partnership’ and her most critically acclaimed novel was 'Inheritance', published in 1932. It tells the story of the Oldroyd family, set against the background of the development of the textile industry. Two further novels continued the Oldroyd family saga, 'The Rise of Henry Morcar' and 'A Man of His Time'. In 1967 Granada Television produced a ten-part series of the trilogy featuring John Thaw and James Bolam. In 1968 she wrote a children’s novel, Gold Pieces, based on the story of the Cragg Vale Coiners.

Phyllis regularly gave lectures, both in this country and abroad and was an expert on the Brontë family, publishing two biographies. A supporter of young writers, she spent many hours answering correspondence giving advice to those beginning their literary careers. In 1949 she was made an honorary Doctor of Literature by the University of Leeds. In 1958 she became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 1970 was appointed an OBE. In 1963 she moved into Grange House at Warley, a 17th century yeoman clothier's house.

Phyllis died in 1977 and the Museum Service has a selection of her books, a blank personalised Christmas card with a view of Halifax, and a 1970s suit and blouse she wore. The Museum Service is also looking after her desk, chair and graduation robes for the Library Service. Many of her diaries and letters are held by West Yorkshire Archives.