Haworth, Yorkshire

Posted on 12th Nov 2012 by ian under Travel Tales | No Comments »

The destination of Haworth was a major part of this trip. 34 years ago I fell in love with the cobblestoned main street of the village and the Parsonage Museum that was once home to the amazingly talented but tragic Brontë family. I wanted to share this experience with Annie and Laura.

In 1904, Virginia Woolf wrote, Haworth expresses the Brontës; the Brontës express Haworth; they fit like a snail to its shell. I will add that, as rewarding as the Bronte works of fiction are (and the cinematic representations), only by visiting Haworth can you understand that statement.

This time I drove, slowly, up the cobblestoned main street to the watering hole of Branwell Bronte, The Black Bull Inn. From there, on to the car park near the Parsonage Museum, where they had a couple of disability parking spots. Unfortunately I don’t know why they were there… across the car park there are steps to the path leading to the museum, two more lots of steps before the entrance, and the main part of the museum upstairs with no disabled access.

Fortunately I could use the wheelchair as a ‘walker’ and I still have the memory of the interior museum. I was happy to soak in the exterior and my memories while Annie and Laura explored, and enjoyed, the museum.

It is a museum about genius, literature, family and a snapshot of an historical time.

The two oldest Bronte daughters died aged 10 and 11… Charlotte Bronte died, pregnant, aged 38… Branwell Bronte died, aged 31… Emily Bronte died, aged 30… Anne Bronte died, aged 28. But, as Monty Python may have said, they were lucky! Because of poor nutrition and sanitation, the average age of people shuffling off was 25 and the infant mortality rate was 41%. The cemetery next to the Parsonage saw Rev Patrick Bronte deliver many last rites… and the decomposing bodies contaminated the water that seeped into the Bronte well.

Of course, overriding this tragedy is the genius and imagination of these young ladies who touched on themes dark, disturbing, passionate and provocative. Jane and Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre… Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and, in Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Helen Graham’s love for the alcoholic, violent and lecherous Arthur Huntington. They had subtexts of nature versus nurture, the role of women in society, the enduring dilemmas woven into morality, education and sexuality. The latest movie version of Wuthering Heights was released last month. Forget 50 Shades of Grey and enjoy real passion from the pen of a 29yo spinster Sunday school teacher in 1847. Here endeth the obsession.