A Literary Pilgrimage in Yorkshire

Yesterday I revisited Haworth with a friend. Looking back at my Flickr photos I see that my last visit to this Literary Shrine was in 2005. On that day, it was a Sunday, the queue to get into the Parsonage stretched down through the garden. I planned to return on a quieter day. So, a mere 7 years later, I was back again and indeed found the village and Parsonage very much quieter. [Mental note to self - visit Haworth Parsonage on a Monday in November] My only previous visit inside the house itself was in the early 1990s.

Approaching the Museum from the Car Park

I’m sure I don’t need to explain here that the Parsonage at Haworth, near Keighley in West Yorkshire was home to the Bronte family (probably the world’s most famous literary family) from 1820 to 1861.

Bronze Sculpture (by Jocelyn Horner) of The Bronte Sisters in the Heather Garden

Little had changed in the house itself – my friend and I and one other couple were the only visitors at 1pm today. Some of the pictures had been moved about and there’s a much improved permanent exhibition called Genius: The Bronte Story. My friend had brought along her guidebook from a previous trip [in 1983] so we were able to compare and as photography inside the house is prohibited. Here are some pictures from that book:

The Dining Room

Mr Bronte’s Study

Bronte Parsonage Guide, 1983

There’s a further exhibition called Bronte Relics : A Collection History.

New exhibition looking at the fascinating history of the Bronte Parsonage Museum collection, a story almost as extraordinary as the Bronte story itself.” [website]

“The provenance of a variety of objects is traced back through previous owners and collectors to the major sources of Bronteana; amongst them Charlotte’s husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls; Ellen Nussey, Charlotte’s lifelong friend; the family of Martha Brown, the Brontes’ servant, and the American collector, Henry Houston Bonnell.” [2012 flyer]

Opposite The Parsonage is the School in which Charlotte Bronte taught at one time.

The Parsonage is on the left and the School on the right

The Churchyard, Haworth

No visit to Haworth can be described without a mention of the weather. Maybe on occasion the sun shines up on Haworth Moor but I do believe that I have yet to experience this phenomenon! Today was cloudy and wet and typically atmospheric. But read here about a summertime visit.

The Black Bull – Branwell was a ‘regular’

Through The Book Shop Window

Cobbles and Clay Art Cafe, 60 Main Street, Haworth

Tea and Tart at Cobbles and Clay

After just over an hour in the Museum we headed for a bright and jolly Haworth tea shop, stopping briefly to enquire whether the bookshop [Venables and Bainbridge] had any copies of Wuthering Heights in Polish for my friend to buy for her daughter-in-law. It didn’t. We were surprised that there were no foreign language versions of the great novels in the Bronte Museum Shop. We know they had sold French and German versions in the past.

As we returned up the hill, back to the car park, we noticed that the church was open and popped quickly inside to look at the Bronte memorials before leaving the village.

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26 comments on “A Literary Pilgrimage in Yorkshire

  1. I want go to Haworth! I always imagine the Parsonage being really isolated, on the edge of the moors, so I am always surprised when I see photos and realise the Brontes lived in a village. So stupid of me, I know, because a clergyman would have to be near his church and congregation.

    • One day you’ll get there! It’s a shame about the crowds most of the year. The village was quite industrial. You can have a lovely day out in summer travelling there from Keighley on the lovely Worth Valley Railway. Quite a climb from the station though.

  2. You are my hero! I’ve longed to see the Bronte home for myself, but seeing it and the village through your eyes is just as good. You made my week.

  3. Oddly, my one visit to Haworth was in 1983, the same time as your friend’s visit; my guidebook is probably the same! I wonder how it has changed. Probably at certain times the place is far more overrun by swarms than it was back then, but nobody who has ever seen that churchyard, especially in a bleak November, can ever forget it. I wandered on the moor, got lost, and a postman had to drive me back. And I stayed overnight at the Black Bull, which rented rooms, and was so utterly freezing I had to wrap myself in my raincoat and got bronchitis anyway. I couldn’t imagine how those girls had lived as long as they did. Much enjoyed revisiting in your post – and it had particular meaning for me, having just played Charlotte Bronte in my own play, “You are Passionate, Jane,” excerpts of which are on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay8lOWtsJ7s
    Since “being” her, I’d more than ever enjoy going back there again…

  4. ms6282 says:

    Surprisingly, even though it’s not that far away, I’ve never been to Howarth. I guess I’ve never felt particularly motivated to go as I’m not a fan of the Brontes’ writing. And the thought of throngs of tourists (and tales of wheel clamping) also puts me off. Going on a bit of a miserable November Monday and avoiding the crowds was probably not a bad idea.

    But, as usual, you’ve produced an interesting report with some good photos. Perhaps I should reconsider! And that pie looks rather good.

    • Not surprised to read this, Mick. You weren’t keen on Jane Austen, either. Definitely avoid spring, summer, autumn and Christmas (so that leaves Mondays in November ;-) ) and park in the Bradford CC car park adjacent to the Parsonage. Also if you DID decide to visit out of season always check the website as the Parsonage does close in January for a few weeks each year.

  5. Darlene says:

    Will not rest until I visit Haworth one day…and the tea shop…and the bookshop!

  6. Lovely to revist Haworth Barbara, thank you. We visited on a July day that was balmy and warm everywhere else and the minute we got out of the car at Haworth it was on with the fleeces, but I loved it all the same. I get really emotional visiting places like this and imagining lives like the Brontes. I remember being particularly undone by the sight of Charlotte’s final few letters as the hyperemesis took hold in her pregnancy… the pencil seemed to get fainter and fainter as her life ebbed away. Imagine what she night have written with the experience of childbirth and motherhood to call on. We nipped from Haworth across the way to Heptonstall to see Sylvia Plath’s grave, glutton for emotional punishment me:-)

    Hope you had a lovely doves day yesterday…another ‘bad ‘ weather day for your meet-up, you certainly choose them!

    • Oh, just imagine what more she (and her sisters) would have written had they not been swept away to an early grave. So very poignant and sad that Mr B outlived his wife and all his daughters. I’ve still to get to the SP grave at Heptonstall – there’s a lady who lies so far from home.
      Lovely day, thank you. I’m home now and catching up with messages. It was very windy but stayed dry and yesterday was positively warm which was a bit weird really. Thank you for asking!

  7. Fran says:

    I was taken to Haworth when a young teenager, ie many years ago ! The thing I wanted to see most in the Parsonage were the miniature books written by the young Brontes, which I had read of. A walk up on the moor later in the day ended in an eerie encounter with a gentlemen dressed in clothes more associated with the 19th century. He strode through our family group who were resting in the heather, not looking at us, or speaking. Plenty of speculation there for my vivid imagination.
    Your photos have jogged my memories, many thanks.

  8. Simon T says:

    I’ve only been once, with Colin three years ago, and there was a school party also walking through.. in every room, a teacher stood outside the door saying “No, we can’t go in until these two men have finished.” I’m sure she meant to be considerate, but it really just made us want to leave each room asap!

    You didn’t buy anything in the bookshop, then? I got hold of an Ivy Compton-Burnett Companion (or perhaps Compendium) but didn’t get anything Bronte-related.

    • Hi, Simon, now I am getting confused about which bookshop this week! As I said my friend wanted a copy of WH in Polish and we had a bit of a ‘barney’ with the assistant who insisted that the shop had never sold foreign language editions. I’m afraid we went back to long before she worked there as my Swiss friend is now a Bronte-fan due to having bought all the German editions on her first visit to the Parsonage probably (oh dear) about 28 years ago! Also, both of us remembered seeing a collection of foreign language editions within the main museum displays. So, no, I didn’t buy anything although there were secondhand books for sale (bit pricey) along with the new editions.

  9. Lyn says:

    You’ve brought back lovely memories of my visit in 1999, Barbara. I took my much-read Penguin paperbacks of JE & WH with me which is silly but it was such a pilgrimage for me. We were there in October & it wasn’t too busy, I remember. Didn’t have time for moor walking but visited the Parsonage, the church & the shops.

    • Barbara says:

      It’s busier in October now, Lyn. Seems to be my most-visited-by-others literary location! Hope you still have your much-travelled paperbacks.

  10. Barbara Tschirren says:

    …on a rainy and dark novembersunday it’s so nice to stroll along those beautiful places with you Barbara! I would like to come to England again and visit this place with you…

    • Barbara says:

      Barbara! There you are! No Swiss visitors for a while. Yes, come on over – how soon can you get here? Remember, although London is full of interest so is much of the rest of the UK!

  11. I’m catching up with milady — didn’t we go to Haworth together decades ago? I truly admire your diligence in putting this blog together. A very valuable resource. Beats wasting time on Facebook.

    • Oh I’m sure we must have taken you to Haworth decades ago – BB before boys. Thank you, I’m flattered that you have enjoyed your visits here – you being a ‘proper’ writer ;-)

      • Truly Barbara — you could publish this. You have a very readable style, the result, no doubt, of, well, reading. If I “follow” this will it tell me when you add another? I have never signed on for one of these, so it will be a first.

  12. Oh, you old flatterer you – an author in your own right! Yes, press to ‘follow’ and leave your email address and I believe each new post will alert you directly in your Inbox. Happy New Year to you and John – have you received the artist’s card yet??

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