Since my interest in the Bronte’s has begun, I’ve desperately wanted to go back to Haworth. I went for the day years ago, before I had read any of their novels, and didn’t go to the Bronte Parsonage. This time around I was going to Sheffield to visit my sister with my parents, but the day before we left, travelled up to Haworth just for the day. It was not enough time to be able to explore Haworth and the beautiful moors surrounding it, but it was such a worthwhile trip and has definitely left me determined to visit again.
Of course the main attraction for me was to see the Bronte Parsonage. After arriving we were told there was a talk we could attend, and so while waiting we went to the gift shop and I bought all the Anne Bronte things I could find. (Counts as dissertation research right?) One small complaint I would have I that there isn’t nearly enough Anne in the shop, even with the postcards they had one of Emily, Charlotte and Branwell, but not an individual one for Anne. Other prints of quotes from their novels left Anne out again, though I did manage to find a card with a quote from Agnes Grey on. I’m biased I guess, and the shop had a great selection of books, my dad buying The Bronte’s: A Life in Letters by Juliet Barker which I’m looking forward to reading.
The talk we were given exceeded my expectations, sometimes at historical places the talks are too vague, or they leave large chucks of information out or stick to historical myths and misinterpret historical figures entirely. The one at the parsonage though given by someone who worked there, was great, detailed without being dull, and kept it equally balanced on all members of the family. It kept it focused on their lives, their works, and what we have left of their lives today, such as the famous Branwell painting of all three of the sisters. Admittedly I disagreed with one point in the talk, that Anne didn’t have that same spark of genius as Emily and Charlotte, but naturally I’m incredibly biased in that opinion.
It’s clearly a busy year for the Parsonage, with it being Branwell’s bicentenary year, and the airing of the brilliant To Walk Invisible in December, the costumes and props being displayed around the museum. The museum really felt like their home. It should regardless, but I’ve been to their places that have been great, but have left me feeling disconnected from the actual people that lived there. You could imagine and see the Bronte family in all of the rooms, you felt like you were in their home, and was nice to feel comfortable and relaxed while walking around, while still receiving information about the family.
Branwell, the Bronte brother that everyone had high expectation of who sadly became an alcoholic in his struggle for greatness, is being celebrated this year. Simon Armitage has turned Branwell’s room into how it might have looked in his last years, chaotic and disordered. There are drawings all over the wall, half written poems everywhere and it’s incredibly effective in picturing Branwell’s state of mind, and feeling sadness for someone that had great potential.
My favourite part however was the Wuthering Heights manuscript they are currently creating for Emily’s bicentenary next year. Since the original Wuthering Heights manuscript was lost. Claire Twomey is recreating this manuscript of Emily’s incredible novel, visitors writing a sentence out from the book into the manuscript, being gifted a pencil each to encourage and inspire visitors to write. When I visited they were on Chapter 11, and it’s worth paying a visit to be a part of it and get to have it exhibited next year.
Aside from the rooms of the house itself, there is a room with artefacts and information displayed, such as letters and drawings, and information about the entire Bronte family. Seeing Anne’s bloodstained handkerchief was shocking, I didn’t realise that they kept it, let alone that it was displayed in the museum. But it was incredibly interesting and well displayed, I especially loved that there were quotes from various Bronte novels on the walls.
The rest of the day passed very quickly, had a great lunch at a café called Villette (titled after Charlotte’s last novel), had the best piece of chocolate cake (sadly ate it before I could get a photo). Managed to have a quick look in some of the shops in Haworth, and visited the Church.
The Church was very quiet and beautiful, and they had plaques commentating the deaths of the Bronte family. Anne however, is buried in Scarborough where she died, somewhere I desperately want to visit. After visiting the Church we had to leave sadly, and didn’t have time to visit the moors or do any of the walks around Haworth, so another trip is definitely needed.
Thankful to the Bronte Parsonage for keeping the family’s memory alive so well, and it was everything I had hoped for and more.