Visiting the Brontës

On Easter Sunday, myself and my family visited Brontë Parsonage in Haworth as an Easter treat. I have visited the museum, the home of the Brontë sisters once before many years ago when I was a teenager but my husband Andrew has never been around the museum and seen the remarkable collection that has been preserved by the Brontë Society. We visit Haworth Village throughout the year as there are lots of events to enjoy such as the 40's weekend which is on in May, where the whole village dress up in 1940's attire and the main street is decked out with flags, there is a vehicle parade down the street and dancing by the Black Bull it's a great event and a far cry from the Haworth the Brontë sisters would have known surrounded by the death of many men, women and children from consumption.

On visiting Haworth I always get goosebumps, you can feel the history of the place! One of my favourite spots is the gardens in front of the parsonage where you can stand and imagine the sisters and their brother Branwell emerging from the house with their father Patrick.  On entering the Parsonage you step into the entrance hall and in doing so take a step back in time as each room has been preserved with the belongings of the Brontë family. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos of the inside of the museum, so I took some photos outside and gathered some postcards of the interior from the Brontë Shop.

Standing in front of the Brontë Parsonage - Sarah Louisa Whittle


Church Yard - Haworth - Sarah Louisa Whittle

Click below to read more about our visit!

Mr Brontë's Study

Mr Brontë's Study is quite an austere room where he spent many hours alone carrying out his parish business and eating his meals. The room is dominated by an upright wooden chair which was uncushioned and he was said to sit upright in like a soldier. Upright is the only way you could sit in this chair as it was by no means comfortable. Mr Brontë's desk was tiny and on top were his magnifying glass that he used in later life after becoming almost blind. It was interesting to see this room and to imagine the man who had inspired his children to write. Patrick Brontë was the author of many poems in his own right. From his study he had a clear view over the gardens and to the church beyond. He was a good man who was concerned about the welfare of his parishioners and he wrote many letters campaigning for the improvement in sanitation for the village of Haworth which was said to be worse than some parts of London! It must have been hard for Mr Brontë to outlive his children and the parsonage must have been a lonely place without them. He died aged 85 supposedly at his desk.

Postcard of Mr Brontës Study - copyright The Brontë Society

The Dining Room

The dining room is where the Brontë sisters did most of their writing. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall were all written in this room! How fantastic to be able to visit the rooms where such famous novels of English Literature were created. The room contains the sofa where Emily Brontë is reputed to have died. It is a tiny room and it is easy to imagine the girls sitting in this room discussing their writing and reading. Apparently they walked around the table while they discussed their work and this was a nightly ritual that Charlotte Brontë continued to do after the death of her sisters. It used to sadden the servants to hear her walking around the table alone. Standing there I wondered whether the sisters could still be heard walking around the room on cold nights with the wind howling around the parsonage! Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë described how 'on autumnal or winter nights, the four winds of heaven seemed to meet and rage together, tearing round the house as if they were wild beasts striving to find an entrance.' Having been to Haworth in all weathers I can fully understand this, it must have been a harsh place to grow up in the Brontës day and no wonder they created such inspired writings.

The dining room where the Brontë Sisters created their famous novels - copyright the Brontë Society

The kitchen

The kitchen was where the children would huddle to listen to the stories told by their servant Tabby on cold Winter evenings. It was the heart of the home and despite the cold hard stone floor you could imagine this to be true. The girls were expected to help with household chores and after their aunt died Emily took over as the housekeeper helping in the kitchen and baking bread! Other than the Dining Room this is one of my favourite rooms in the parsonage because here you can imagine the children being inspired by the tales of the servant to write their own stories. The kitchen is not as it apparently used to be and was altered in 1878 when the house was extended by Patrick Brontë successor. My little lad Oscar loved this room asking lots of questions about the various cooking utensils on display. The furniture in this room all belonged to the Brontë family.

The kitchen heart of the Brontë home - copyright the Brontë Society

Charlotte's Room

I haven't got an image of Charlotte's Room much to my disappointment as this room contains many of Charlotte's belongings including items of clothing as well as her remarkable artwork! The room was originally the room of her mother and father and it was here her mother Mrs Brontë died leaving the children in the care of their Aunt Branwell. The room became their aunts room and was used to teach the girls embroidery and domestic skills. After her Aunt died the room became Charlotte's and when Charlotte married her husband Arthur Bell Nicholls she shared this room with him and it was here that she died nine months later on 31st March 1855 aged only 38! It is reported that she was in the early stages of pregnancy and further evidence of this is a tiny white embroidered baby bonnet or cap which was given to Charlotte by a friend.  

The Brontë sisters were surrounded by tragedy and it must have been hard for Charlotte to have been the only one remaining.  One thing we noted in the rooms was that everything was so small! Charlotte's pencil drawings and watercolours were so tiny but so detailed, the shoes which must have been so uncomfortable to wear and the dress which is on display in the centre of the room indicating Charlotte to have been less than five feet tall! In the guide to the parsonage it states that she could have been as small as 4' 9" or 4' 10". To be honest the rooms in the parsonage are very small despite Charlotte altering parts of the house and the later successor of Mr Brontë adding a gable to the parsonage. 

The Children's Study

The children's study was where the children played and wrote their tiny books about imaginary worlds of Angria and Gondal and believe me these books are tiny! Held in the exhibition room the tiny books and journals the Brontës created are fascinating to see. We were amazed at how small they could write and illustrate them. One of the books you had to look through a magnifying glass to read the text! Oscar loved the little books and was fascinated by all the different artifacts of the Brontë family. The museum had devised an Easter quiz for children and Oscar had such fun looking for the different clues to objects in each room. 

The Children's Study - copyright the Brontë Society

Branwell's Studio

Branwell Brontë hoped to be a famous artist and in this room examples of his portraits can be seen. When his career did not take off he was said to be unemployable. Maybe the high expectations that had been put on him as a boy took there toll on his character which was thought to be weak. He drank heavily and frequented the Black Bull in Haworth Village where he was to have his own chair which is also part of the museum collection. Branwell was also an opium user and a combination of this and alcohol ruined his health contributing to his death from tuberculosis at the age of 31. 

The Black Bull - Branwell Brontë drank here - Sarah Louisa Whittle

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Brontë Parsonage and luckily for us our ticket allows us to visit many times more during the year!  I would love to go back possibly without the children and spend more time studying the books and manuscripts that were on display as well as the tiny books. Highlights for me were seeing the original writing desks and the letters they wrote as well as Charlotte's Paint Box. Also being an embroiderer the embroidery samplers that were on display were fantastic to see! Though there is artifacts of all the family members I do feel there is an  emphasis on Charlotte, but this is understandable as she lived the longest of the sisters at the parsonage and also made this her home with her husband if only for a short period. 

We also visited Haworth church where Patrick Brontë was incumbent for almost 41 years and the place where the Brontë family are buried in a vault beneath a pillar in the church. On the pillar is a simple plaque to commemorate this fact. There is also a stone plaque on the wall which states who is buried in the church starting with Mrs Brontë and then Maria and Elizabeth Brontë who died at the ages of 11 and 12 years. Maria is said to have served as the model for the character Helen Burns in Jane Eyre. 

Charlotte also taught at the school close to the parsonage a testament to this can be seen on the plaque situated on the school building. It is no longer a school but used to hold events and talks by the Brontë Society and local community. If you get the chance and you are a Brontë fan I would definitely recommend visiting the Brontë Parsonage and the village of Haworth. There are places to stay close by in the village from B&B to holiday cottages and lots of wonderful events on throughout the year at the parsonage and in the village that are great fun for all the family. More pictures of our trip can be seen on my flickr page in the Brontë album.

I am currently re-reading Jane Eyre for the Bronte Along and also The Brontës Selected Poems which are beautiful and so moving. I am also embroidering another Brontë inspired tinted postcard, details soon as promised. We are so lucky to live but 30 minutes from Haworth and to be able to visit frequently! It would be fantastic to have access to the embroidery collection of the Brontës for a possible article in NEEDLE magazine!

Haworth Church - Sarah Louisa Whittle

The Brontë Vault within Haworth Church - Sarah Louisa Whittle


School Building taught at by Charlotte Brontë - Sarah Louisa Whittle                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Comments

  1. Sarah, in the church yard above are those tombstones that look almost like tables? Interesting... I have seen a version of Jane Eyre but haven't read any books by the Bronte's. My oldest son who is a school teacher loves Literature and liked Wuthering Heights. Which book is your favorite?

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  2. yes, the tombstones are laid on plinths that make them look like tables. The fact that the tombstones were laid flat in the graveyard made disease spread as the flat stones did not allow the bodies underneath to decompose! Bit grim! I love Jane Eyre but I think my favorite is Wuthering Heights as it is much wilder and more passionate. I think it also better conveys the harshness of the moors which surrounded the parsonage where the Brontes lived.

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  3. Sarah that is very interested about the tombstones!! I have Wuthering Heights. Is it a hard book to get into?

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  4. I'm from Romania, but I hope God will guide my steps towards Haworth and the Parsonage someday in the future.

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  5. I think you are hooked from beginning to end I love Wuthering Heights and I'm looking forward to re-reading it for the Bronte-Along! Have you seen any of the film versions? You can usually find them on YouTube.

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  6. gyges77 I hope you get the chance to visit the Brontes!

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  7. sarah...i am loving ur blog like anything.I love bronte sisters and I have read jANE Eyre and wuthering heights..U r really lucky to be 30 minuites in distance from Haworth.I am from India,wish to visit the blessed place as soon as possible.

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Cheers!
Sarah

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