Described at various places in the novel as both a fortress and an aerie, Patterne Hall serves as Willoughby’s Garden of Eden, in which he can pursue idiosyncratic pleasures. The grounds of the estate are spacious and variegated, consisting of woods, farm lands, and several cottages in which tenants and other dependents live. Sir Willoughby’s second fiancé, Clara Middleton, is at first taken with the magnificence of the hall but eventually finds it is a prison in which she is likely to become trapped if she marries Willoughby. Much of the novel is taken up with her struggle to be released from her engagement and leave Patterne Hall. Clara finds it difficult to escape, however; her friends and family believe her engagement to Willoughby is a coup for her, since her father has wealth but only minor social status. The notion that the hall is a kind of heaven on earth is reinforced when Willoughby punishes his cousin and ward, Crossjay Patterne, in a manner he finds most appropriate and harsh: he banishes him from the estate. Meredith makes the hall a symbol of its owner: As other figures feel trapped at Patterne Hall, Willoughby is likewise a man trapped in his own self-absorption.
Railway station. Railway stop to which Clara rushes in her attempt to free herself from Sir Willoughby. Frustrated in her attempts to get him to call off their engagement, Clara plans to escape to London to visit a friend. Willoughby’s close friend Colonel De Craye finds her at the train station and persuades her to return to Patterne Hall; their conversation makes it clear that Clara feels trapped in her relationship with Willoughby.
Laboratory. Room in Patterne Halle that Willoughby uses as a retreat whenever he wishes to escape social pressures at Patterne Hall. He affects to be a man of science, but the laboratory seems more a refuge where he can tinker with experiments. His claim that women are incapable of understanding science is a convenient ruse to keep the many women who visit the hall from following him into this inner sanctum.
Dining hall. Center of much of the social activity at Patterne Hall. Meredith uses occasions such as luncheons and dinners not only to further the plot but also to bring together various characters for discussions of politics, social relationships, religion, science, and matters pertaining to culture and civilization. In the dining hall, Sir Willoughby is able to dominate conversations and thereby display his exceptional self-centeredness.