Last week my family and I took a trip up to Haworth, which is a lovely little village in Yorkshire. It’s also where the Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) lived and penned their famous novels, which include such greats as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
It was a cold, drizzly day, and so naturally, as soon as I got out of the car, the humidity sent my hair crazy (which is especially bad when your hair is pink – it starts to look like candy floss!), and it was pretty chilly. Nevertheless, I had a good day, and Haworth is a great place to visit (even in the rain!), especially for anyone interested in the Brontës.
When we arrived we parked up and walked along a path down to the village, and came out in the churchyard of the church where the Brontë sisters’ father Patrick was curate. It was a quite a misty day, so walking amongst the graves was pretty atmospheric (and you can see me and my dog Molly taking a stroll in the picture above!), and felt suitably Gothic for the place where Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were written.
My Mum and I then visited the Brontë Parsonage Museum (whilst my Dad and sister went for a brew!), which is the actual house where the Brontës lived. Although I’m reasonably familiar with the story of the Brontë sisters, I learnt a lot more, and it was really interesting to see where they actually lived, and find out more about their family.
The story of the Brontë family is without a doubt a sad one. In 1820 Patrick Brontë and his wife Maria moved to Haworth with their six young children, Maria (born 1814), Elizabeth (born 1815), Charlotte (born 1816), Branwell (born 1817), Emily (born 1818) and Anne (born 1820). Maria Brontë (the mother) sadly died the following year, and her sister (known as ‘Aunt Branwell’) moved to Haworth to help care for the children (she eventually died in 1842). In 1825, the two elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth went away to Cowan Bridge School (believed to have been the inspiration for Lowood School in Jane Eyre) with Charlotte and Emily, but returned home to Haworth due to illness, and both died within a month of each other at the ages of 11 and 10. The four remaining Brontë children were said to have been incredibly close, and spent much of their childhood inventing stories, particularly centring around some toy soldiers their father bought for Branwell. Later on the three sisters would write and publish several novels under the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, Emily writing only Wuthering Heights before her death in 1848 (a couple of months after her brother Branwell’s alcoholism related death) and Anne writing Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall before her death in 1849. Charlotte outlived her sisters by six years, going on to write a total of four novels, the best known of which is Jane Eyre. In 1854 she married curate Arthur Bell Nicholls, but died the following year in the early stages of pregnancy. Patrick Brontë died several years later, having outlived his wife and all their children.
The Brontë Parsonage has been made to look as near as possible to how it would have looked in the Brontës day, with recreations of the original wallpaper on the walls, and a lot of the original furniture. It was quite sad really, walking from room to room and reading the plaques on the wall, many of which said that a member of the family had died there. The first room we went into was a kind of sitting room, and the plaque said that this was where most of the sisters’ writing went on, and that they would walk round and round the table telling stories and discussing ideas in the evenings. Apparently following her sisters’ deaths, Charlotte would pace the room on her own. There was also a room that displayed some of Charlotte Brontë’s actual clothes (including the veil she wore to her wedding), and another which exhibited some of Branwell Brontë’s paintings from his brief time as a portrait artist. As a the lesser known Brontë sibling it was really interesting to learn more about his troubled life. At the end there was also a really interesting exhibition that told the Brontës’ story from beginning to end, and chronicled their literary careers and inspirations. For anyone interested in the Brontë sisters, the Brontë Parsonage Museum is definitely worth a visit!
After our visit to the parsonage we had a wander through the village back to the car and had lunch (ham sandwiches, in case you were wondering!) and then went on to Wycoller Country Park, stopping first at a place called the ‘Atom Panopticon’. It was basically a weird oval-shaped shelter on a hill, with circular holes in it that framed some really pretty views of the countryside below. Although it is in no way Brontë related, I’ve included some photographs, because the views were amazing, particularly in the mist!
From there we drove further down the hill and parked up, walking into Wycoller village to see the ruins of Wycoller Hall, a sixteenth-century manor house believed to have been the inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre (where Jane is reunited with Mr Rochester at the end). It looked really pretty with all the autumn leaves around it, and I can definitely see why it would be an inspiring setting for a writer. After that we headed home.
As someone who has always loved the Brontë sisters work, and is interested in the story of their tragically short lives, Haworth and Wycoller were really interesting places to visit. To be honest, I think even if you weren’t interested in the area’s literary history it’s worth a visit, as there are loads of walks and beautiful views (plus a whole load of cafes!).