Monday, June 5, 2017

Haworth and the Bronte Parsonage

The Moors above Haworth

Happy June! I hope you have been enjoying this beautiful month. I've been sorting through photos and souvenirs from my trip to England in May and have finally settled down to write a blog post about Haworth. Visiting Haworth where the Bronte Parsonage Museum is located has been a dream of mine for years. I have been reading the novels by the Bronte sisters since I was in my twenties and their lives became as interesting to me as their books. I wanted to see where they lived and wrote. There was such a romantic and tragic sensibility to it all: the parsonage with its adjoining graveyard where they lived, the wild and beautiful moors where they walked each day, and their creative and talented lives cut so tragically short. Finally my husband and I traveled up to Yorkshire in May and it was everything I'd hoped for and more. I learned so much while we were there.

The Parsonage

Walking through these doors was a moving experience. This is the home of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, authors of some of the most beloved books in the English language. In 1820 their father Patrick Bronte was appointed Curate of Haworth Church and came to live here with his wife Maria and six children. Within eighteen months his wife died and her sister Elizabeth moved into the Parsonage to help with the running of the household. In 1825 the two eldest children Maria and Elizabeth also died after contracting tuberculosis while away at school. 

The Dining Room

This room is very special. It is where Charlotte, Emily and Anne did most of their writing. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey were written here. The sisters would walk around the table every evening until about eleven o'clock, reading and discussing their writing plans and projects. After the deaths of Emily and Anne, Charlotte continued the nightly ritual and walked in solitude, unable to sleep before doing so.

Mr. Bronte's Study

Patrick Bronte carried out most of his parish business from this room. The magnifying glass on his desk is a reminder of his failing eyesight that happened in his later years. It was in this room that Charlotte first told him that she was a published author. When he traveled to Manchester for an eye operation, Charlotte went with him. It was when she was nursing him in Manchester that she began to write Jane Eyre

The Kitchen

I loved the kitchen scenes in "To Walk Invisible," the recent television dramatization of the lives of the Brontes, especially those with Emily taking out her frustration on the bread dough! As children the Brontes would gather around the kitchen fire to listen to their servant Tabby's dark tales of the Yorkshire moors. The sisters all helped out with the household chores as they got older and when their Aunt Branwell passed away in 1842, Emily took over as housekeeper, helping in the kitchen and baking bread.

Patrick Bronte's Bedroom

When Branwell's alcohol and opium addiction got to the point of serious damage to himself, Patrick insisted that Branwell share this room so he could watch over his son. It was in this room that Branwell died at age 31.

The Haworth Church where Patrick Bronte preached every Sunday

Interior of the church

Charlotte and Emily are buried in a family vault to the right of the altar marked by this brass plaque

The moors just outside of the Parsonage

Another view

Haworth's steep Main Street with a view of the moors

Penistone Hill Country Park, close to Haworth 

The stone walls that are woven throughout the moors were assembled by hand with no mortar and have lasted for centuries.

If you are a fan of the Bronte sisters I highly recommend a visit to Haworth and the Bronte Parsonage. It will give you such a strong sense of the influences on their writing. Although there's never a bad time to visit as there is always such great programming at the Parsonage, now is an especially good time as they are currently celebrating the bicentenary year of Branwell Bronte, the troubled brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne. There is a very interesting exhibition about him curated by the poet Simon Armitage called "Mansions in the Sky." It's an exploration of Branwell's personality through his writings, drawings, and possessions. I also enjoyed seeing the recreation of Branwell's art studio -- he was an aspiring artist -- within the Parsonage. Another fabulous exhibition that we saw was the costumes from the television production "To Walk Invisible." They are beautiful and looked very authentic displayed in the historic setting of the Parsonage.

During the next three years the Bronte Parsonage will also be celebrating the bicentenary anniversaries of both Emily and Anne. This should be a great time to visit. The town of Haworth has remained much the same as it looked when the family lived there and it is easy to imagine the sisters walking through town to shop or out roaming the moors. I can't think of a more evocative landscape for understanding a writer than this remote little village in Yorkshire and its beautiful surrounding countryside.


  1. I loved reading this. Their whole story and incredible talents feel so otherworldly, and the image of them, and later, just Charlotte walking around the table before bed is fascinating and feels quite mystical as well. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    1. It was so meaningful and special to see the place where these sisters created their masterpieces!

  2. How timely this post!! The pictures are just breathtakingly beautiful!
    I just finished reading The Madwoman Upstairs and it was a fictional book about the Bronte family.

    1. Oh that's good to know. I will pick up a copy, thank you for the recommendation!

  3. I so understand your feelings here as I had the same upon visiting a few GARDENS in KENT!GREAT DIXTER and SISSINGHURST!YOU feel apart of them.......SO exciting to see the rooms and items one has read about!I have been back for a week...........and am in WHAT NOW MODE!!!!?

    1. I adore Sissinghurst and have been there three times. I need to see Great Dixter. So much to do in England!

  4. I doubt I will ever visit so I am very appreciative of posts like this. Thanks.

    1. Mystica, thank you for your kind words and I'm so glad you enjoyed this post!

  5. There are so many beautiful places to see in England. Haworth is one of them. I hope to make it there one day.

  6. How wonderful! I can imagine there would be a case of the shivers now and then while walking through the Parsonage. Thanks for sharing...I've been looking forward to this post.

  7. I am very late commenting on this post, but when I need cheering up I like to turn to your blog to imagine your beautiful life. I recently came across a review of a bunch of Bronte books in the London Review of Books. The review is by Allison Spawls, and since you enjoy the Brontes so much you might enjoy reading her take on biography writing. I can't remember the date, but the review is recent. I wrote a little about it on my own blog: (go to December 14, if you are interested). Yours, Elizabeth