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The tragic life of the Brontë sisters, and new photos of the parsonage at Haworth

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know I live in West Yorkshire, not far from Haworth and the home of the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne. I’ve visited the Brontë parsonage many times. Every time I discover something new, and I always come away with another perspective on this extraordinary family.

Helena Fairfax
The Brontë parsonage, Haworth

With each visit, I’m always struck by the same two things. Firstly, with the tiny size of the house and the rooms, which had to accommodate the three sisters, their brother, Branwell, their father, Patrick, their aunt, Elizabeth, and two servants. It must have been terribly claustrophobic, especially when you consider the effect of living in such a confined space with poor Branwell, with his terrible restlessness, his depression and his addictions. Branwell’s life and his effect on the family is movingly and convincingly portrayed in the excellent BBC programme, To Walk Invisible. (If you haven’t seen this programme, it’s available as a DVD on Amazon).

The second thing that always strikes me is the terrible tragedy surrounding the family. In the nineteenth century people were more hardened to the realities of illness and death than we are today, but the Brontës must surely have suffered more than most. Their mother died in her thirties, leaving six children under eight. The two older daughters, Maria and Elizabeth, died of tuberculosis four years later, within months of one another, at the parsonage in Haworth. They were just 11 and 10. Charlotte was left the eldest sibling. In just a few short months in 1848/9, Charlotte lost Branwell, Emily and Anne, who were aged only 31, 30 and 29. Charlotte herself died  a few years later, aged 38.

Although I find the house oppressive, the Brontë siblings were said to have loved their home and to dislike being away from it. It was certainly a place of extraordinary creativity, passion and emotion.

There was a time when photos were not allowed at the parsonage. Now visitors are allowed to take photos (without a flash). Here are some of mine, from a recent visit.

Helena Fairfax, freelance editor. Bronte parsonage, Haworth
The parsonage sitting-room. It was here the sisters would write. It’s thought that the sofa, just glimpsed, is where Emily died.
Helena Fairfax, freelance editor, Bronte parsonage
Patrick Brontë’s study. Patrick died in his eighties, outliving his wife and six children.
Helena Fairfax, freelance editor, Brontë parsonage
The kitchen
The beautiful hat worn by Charlotte at her wedding
Helena Fairfax, freelance editor, Brontë parsonage
A needle-case, delicately embroidered by Emily
Emily’s rose, in the parsonage gardens
Reviews of Wuthering Heights, cut from newspapers, and found in Emily’s desk after her death. Some of the reviews were scathing. I find it incredibly poignant that she read and saved them.
The High Street in Haworth, and the Black Bull – one of the pubs Branwell used to frequent.

* * *

If you have visited the parsonage before, I’d love to know what you thought of it, and what lasting impression you have of it.

If you live too far to visit Haworth, I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos and they’ve given just a glimpse of the Brontë sisters’ lives. Every time I visit, I am amazed at the imaginations of these three women, and the wonderful stories that emerged from this tiny house on the edge of the moors.

If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

18 thoughts on “The tragic life of the Brontë sisters, and new photos of the parsonage at Haworth

  1. Helena, thank you for this lovely start to Sunday! Haworth felt like a second home at times as we visited it so often when I was a child and I fell for the area immediately. A visit to the house was always followed by a ramble on the moor! You present the house perfectly, it is claustrophobic, so small and I felt an innate sense of sadness within the walls. My favourite items to view were their writing books, criss-crossed with tiny handwriting, trying to eek out every available space upon the surface. I had no idea Emily had saved the reviews … she must have been Heartbroken at the critical ones. Oh, Charlotte’s wedding hat is beautiful! Thanks also for the mention of the dvd … I haven’t seen that and look forward to seeing it. Wishing you a magical Sunday, xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Annika, thanks for your great comment. The loved their writing books, too. So much wild emotion and passion in the stories, and yet written in cramped form on tiny sheets.
      I really enjoyed To Walk Invisible. I look on their home life now in a completely new way . They filmed Branwell’s room actually in the parsonage, and you can walk through the room just as they arranged it for filming, It is a chaotic mess of books, drawings and paintings. I was unable to get a photo because it was in darkness. I hadn’t understood before watching this film just how much of an effect Branwell had on his sisters’ lives and their stories.
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I hope it brought back happy memories!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so true, Kitty! I expect it’s also available from many bookshops. I also don’t particularly like referring readers to Amazon, but it’s such a convenient place to send people to, as they sell in most countries. But if anyone can make it to Haworth, or else obtain the DVD from their local bookshop, that would be my preference, too!

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  2. I loved this post! Thank you, Helena. Next time we Will surely stop here.

    Is the house among other houses or in the open?

    Thanks again

    Ken Hicks

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Ken, at the top of the High Street in the photo in my post there is a church. It was here the Brontes’ father was vicar. The house (parsonage) lies behind the church. A graveyard lies in between the two, which makes the house seem even more oppressive to me. And then behind the parsonage lie the moors and open land. You can walk for miles.
      You can see more photos in this article here: https://www.beautifulenglandphotos.uk/haworth-yorkshire/
      I hope you do get the chance to come over again. It’s well worth the visit. Thanks so much for your comment!

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  3. Did visit Haworth a few years ago – just after the newest version of JANE EYRE came out, I think – and looked around the area (including sneaking into the station used in THE RAILWAY CHILDREN!); lovely area and a reminder that we’re in a lovelier country than we may always realize, when there is si much talk of Trump and Brexit and general disaster…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi James, I so agree about remembering the really good things about our countries. 70 years of the NHS last week. Brilliant to see that celebrated, instead of us moaning about it as we usually do! And a great run by an England team to be proud of – although you may not be quite as excited about that one! :D Thanks for your great comment!

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  4. Thank you for the lovely photos and text. I agree with all you’ve said. I was just there for a few days in April, staying at the Weavers Guesthouse, spending lots of time at the Parsonage, and walking the moors with Johnnie Briggs—the Brontes continue to be a passion for me, and I’m writing a series of poems about them. I adore Haworth and plan to spend more time there next year!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Pam, I really love Haworth, too. I can see why the Bronte siblings didn’t enjoy being away from home. There is a unique atmosphere to the place – both claustrophobic and wild. I also love the trip on the steam train from Haworth station. The landscape constantly changes with the seasons. I do hope you get back to the parsonage. Please do drop in again when your poems are finished and let me know. Thank you so much for your great comment!

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  5. What an interesting post, Helena, and great photos. It’s one of the places I still haven’t visited and, as you can imagine, it’s high on my list of things to do. I loved To Walk Invisible which conveyed a very good sense of what it must have been like to live there together with all the simmering creativity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The museum staff have done a lot of work in trying to discover how each room must have been decorated when the family lived there, and trying to replicate it. It certainly gave me a totally different perspective on the sisters’ writing the first time I visited. I do hope you make it here, Rosemary. Please let me know if you do!

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  6. What wonderful pictures of the visit. Touring the museum with you was one of the highlights of our trip to England. When I entered the dining room, I felt an affinity with the sisters. To actually see where they sat at the table to write their stories reminded me of my writing group who sit at a coffee shop table to brainstorm and work on our writings. Writers gathering, supporting each other and scribbling (or typing) stories hasn’t changed through the ages. I loved the atmosphere within the house and in the area. And the visit to the village of Haworth was special. BTW, our grandson received the postcard from Haworth before his birthday!! Thanks for the memories.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. In reading your blog today, I’m very appreciative of the photos you’ve posted.
    I visited the Parsonage 4 yrs ago, and my reaction to the size of interior of the house was quite different from yours. Standing at 5’11”, I was very comfortable moving throughout each id the rooms on both levels.
    My heart was pounding when I finally stood inside the large parlor where the sisters wrote. The room was cordoned off, and a large table was positioned next to the window. No photography was allowed.
    I stared at Charlotte’s portait, and gazed over to the divan (not the original) where Emily died. Mostly I looked at the large table imaging the countless hours spent discussing their writings, critiquing each other’s writings was an incredible feeling for me.

    I was surprised at how wide the staircase seemed to me. Seeing Branwell’s famous ‘pillar’ portait up on the opposite wall leading up to the second level startled me. I had no idea the painting was so large. Is it still there?
    Yes, seeing Charlotte’s wedding hat and gown was a dear treat. Thank goodness these items are kept under glass to preserve them.

    Thank you for sharing your insights and photos with everyone.

    How lucky you are to live so near to rhe Bronte Parsonage.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Ginny, thanks so much for giving your impression of the parsonage. That’s so interesting how you felt about it. Yes, the staircase is quite wide, and yes, the portrait is still there on the landing, just as you remember. I can understand the emotion you felt on entering the parlour. It is very moving indeed to stand in the room where the sisters wrote, and to imagine them all walking around the table.
      The museum staff do an incredible job of looking after the family’s items. How proud their mother would have been of the three sisters if she had lived, and how different Branwell’s life might have been, too. It’s wonderful how the siblings touch people around the world, even today. I totally agree on how lucky I am to live so near their old home, and to be able to visit it often.
      Thank you so much for dropping in, and for your touching comment.

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  8. What an interesting and lovely blog post, Helena. Thank you. It brought back so many memories of our visit to the parsonage a few years ago. I remember how emotional
    I felt walking round that fascinating house, and how surreal it was to be in the very room where the sisters wrote their novels.
    The sisters’ presence is everywhere in the house. …And beyond the house, the moors where the willful Catherine Earnshaw and the strange, moody Heathcliff would run and play and be together in their own make-believe world. Just wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is such a moving place, Rena. It does feel unreal to be in the house where the sisters lived, and I can’t help wondering what they would have made of it all – especially Emily, who loved her privacy. But I hope they would have liked that they are still so loved and that people come from all around the world to see the place where they sit and wrote their amazing stories.
      I’m so glad you liked the post. Thanks so much for dropping in, and for your lovely comment!

      Like

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