The following is a guest post by my friend and sister-in-law, D.S. Bunker. D lives in Cornwall, England with her historian husband Steve and her daughter, my adorable god-daughter, Tamsin. This is the first of a two-part series on West Yorkshire, England. Enjoy!
I first read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre when I was thirteen. Then read her sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights well after that. Little did I know that in the future I would be visiting their hometown in Haworth, England.
Haworth in West Yorkshire is a well-known tourist area, and yes, it is known as Bronte country, made famous by the Bronte sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte. For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, they were Victorian writers who wrote under the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. The Bronte’s led tragic lives really. Their mother died of cancer not long after giving birth to the youngest, Anne. Then two of the older sisters died early at ages 9 and ten. The only Bronte male ended up an alcoholic and drug addict, dies tragically at age 31 (he also wrote poetry and was also an artist), then Emily passes away the same year as her brother. The next year, Anne follows. Of all siblings, it was Charlotte who managed to get married but died not even a year after her marriage. She was only thirty-eight.
WHAT TO VISIT
The Haworth Parish Church
First stop was the church where Patrick Bronte (father of the famous sisters) was curate for a long time. The lower part of the tower dates back to the 15th century. It is considered to be the oldest part of the present church. The famous family is buried in a vault inside the church, except for Anne is buried in Scarborough where she died.
The cemetery is certainly worth a visit, especially for those who love old burial grounds like I do. You will find graves dating as far back as the 16th century. What struck me was the high number of children and babies graves around the 17th and 18th century – there was a high mortality rate of children at that time because of poor water facilities.
You feel a certain melancholy in the air, as you walk through the parsonage where they lived and have been made into the Bronte museum. Perhaps, it’s just me? It could also be the gloomy English weather as we were there in autumn. The museum, with all the gloom and doom feel about the place is still very much worth a visit.
You’ll see how the Bronte’s lived, with a lot of their furniture and things on display. Attached to the house is a gift-shop where you can buy all sorts of Bronte souvenirs. I bought myself Charlotte Bronte’s biography and a three-book-set of the novels written by the sisters. I figured it’s time to re-read them again.
An old-style drugstore that was there even during the Bronte period (you’ll find a plaque by the door). It’s also like a museum. There you will see what was being sold during the 19th century and early 20th. Certainly, a place worth visiting.
Haworth, being a famous tourist area is abound with cosy little tea-rooms in the village where you can order a local delicacy called a ‘Fat Rascal’ which is like a big fat fruity cake.