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Haworth: Bronté Country
The Village of Haworth
The Village of Haworth is a small village in West Yorkshire, England. It is popular with tourists who want to learn more about the place where the Bronte family lived from 1820 until 1861. It is a delightful, picturesque village today, but when the Bronte family moved there it was a small, overcrowded mill town.
The streets are still very steep, narrow and cobbled, just as they must have been when the Bronte family lived there, and many of the buildings remain, too. The views from the hilly streets are delightful and helped to inspire the writings of the Bronte sisters at a time when there was much prejudice against female writers.
Revd Patrick Bronte
The Reverend Patrick Bronte, father of the famous early feminist writers, has an interesting story of his own. In 1819, while he was ministering in Thornton, the Bishop of Bradford offered him the living at Haworth, but had gone over the head of the local people and they were very unhappy, so he declined. The following year the people, through the Bishop, offered Revd Patrick the living and he accepted. The family moved to the Vicarage in 1820 and Revd Patrick began his ministry at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels. The Vicarage, which also seems to be known as the Parsonage, remained his home for the next forty-one years.
Priestly Duties: As priest of the Parish, the Reverend Patrick Bronte was acclaimed as a talented preacher. However, his priestly duties went well beyond writing and delivering sermons. There was a high birthrate in the mill town and he baptised an average of around 290 children per year. There were also many funerals to conduct and grieving families to visit. Almost half of the Haworth children did not survive for long and it was recorded that 41.6% of them died before reaching the age of six. In fact, the average life expectancy for the inhabitants of the town was only 22 years.
Other Duties: Revd Patrick Bronte was concerned for all the people of Haworth, many of whom lived in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. He had many calls on his time as he also directed the National School and St. Michael and All Angels' Sunday School. He was a popular rural Vicar and instigated improvements in both sanitation and education that made a lasting difference and are still remembered.
The Bronte Family
The Revd Patrick's wife, Maria (née Branwell), did not survive long in Haworth. In the following year, 1821, she died of cancer on September 15th. Her sister took over the care of the six Bronte children, but in 1825 both Maria and Elizabeth died. The remaining four children, three daughters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, and the only son, Branwell, lived at the Vicarage.
In 1831, Charlotte went to work at a school in Mirfield and others followed her example and found work: Emily at a school in Halifax and Anne as a tutor with the Robinson family. For a while, Branwell tried to work as a portrait painter, but was not very successful, so then also became a tutor, but was accused of having an affair with the children's mother and returned home in disgrace.
In 1842, their aunt Branwell died and the legacy enabled all four Bronte children to return home. Now they had the finances, they were able to remain at the Vicarage and begin publishing.
The Works of the Three Bronte Sisters:
- 1845: The three Bronte women jointly published a book of their poems.
- 1847: Two novels: Charlotte's 'Jane Eyre' and Emily's 'Wuthering Heights.'
- 1848: Annie's novel: 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
- 1849: Charlotte's 'Shirley.'
- 1853: Charlotte's 'Villette.'
- Charlotte also began a novel, 'Emma,' and a final one, 'The Professor,' was published in 1857 after her death.
Life in Haworth must have been very unhappy at times as the Reverend Patrick Bronte saw firstly, his wife die in 1821, then each of his children go. He outlived them all.
- 1825: Maria and Elizabeth, as we have seen.
- 1848: On 24th September, Branwell, aged 31, died as a result of his addiction to both alcohol and opium.
- 1848: 19th December, Emily, aged 30, died of tuberculosis.
- 1849: On 28th May, Anne Died, aged 29. She had gone only four days earlier to Scarborough, hoping that the sea air might cure her tuberculosis, but it was not to be. She is the only one of the family who was not buried in Haworth.
- 1855: On 31st March, Charlotte, aged 38. She had married Arthur Bell Nichols, her father's curate, and was pregnant when she died, so her father did not even have the pleasure of a single grandchild from his six children.
The Black Bull Inn
There are several pubs and inns in Haworth, but the Black Bull is the most famous, especially for tourists who want to experience the ambience of the village. This was Branwell's favourite and where he frequently drank to excess. It is a lovely, cosy inn with small rooms and intimate alcoves for diners. The day we went there, the food was excellent and it was lovely to sit and watch, through the tiny panes that made up the windows, seeing the passing parade of happy visitors as they toiled up the cobblestoned, winding road.
Most of the fame the sisters achieved from their writing only came after their deaths and it was sad to think of their father, bereft of all his family, persevering on in his work in the Parish until he, too, died.