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A Brontë Pilgrimage

I was recently lucky enough to spend a long weekend in Haworth, the Yorkshire village which has become an international place of pilgrimage for devotees of its most celebrated daughters, the Brontë sisters. I am a great Brontë fan, so visiting Haworth fulfilled a long-held ambition to see the buildings and landscapes that inspired some of my favourite novels. I found it quite difficult to pull together an itinerary of all of the Brontë locations in Haworth, so I hope that this post might help fellow devotees to plan future pilgrimages…

My first stop in Haworth was St Michael’s Church, where the majority of the Brontë family were laid to rest. Patrick Brontë, father of the famous siblings, was Vicar at this church and the family lived in the Parsonage opposite.

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The church was rebuilt in 1879, so it is no longer the original building in which the Brontës were buried. Over the site of the Brontë vault, however, is the Brontë Memorial Chapel, which was completed in 1964. It contains the communion table, chandelier and memorial stone from the original Brontë church.

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My next stop was, of course, the Bronte Parsonage Museum. On walking into the gardens, the first thing that struck me was the view; looking back to the church, you can see an ocean of grey tombstones stretching out in every direction.

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Perhaps there were not so many graves when the sisters were living at the Parsonage, but I couldn’t help but wonder what effect such a daily view would have had on them. It brought to mind some lines from one of Emily’s poems:

I see around me tombstones grey

Stretching their shadows far away.

Beneath the turf my footsteps tread

Lie low and lone the silent dead;

Beneath the turf, beneath the mould

For ever dark, for ever cold…

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It was not possible to take photos inside the Parsonage, but a tour of the building was extremely moving. It was humbling to see the rooms where such famous works were written, and the many little objects, notebooks and drawings which constituted the Brontë’s world of imagination. Especially emotive was the sofa on which Emily died, and Charlotte’s wedding bonnet, worn so shortly before she died too. An aspect of the Brontë story I previously knew little about was the life of Patrick, the father. This man outlived his six talented children, as well as his wife. It was so moving to wander through the rooms where Patrick lived and worked, having lost all of his family.

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Before visiting Haworth, I spent some time researching a route for a walk that included all of the Brontë sights surrounding Haworth. The best route I found was the Brontë Connection walk, which I completed. I was lucky enough to be staying in a farmhouse that was almost directly on this route, very close to the Victorian Ponden Reservoir, so this is where I began the walk. The first stop taking this route was Ponden Hall, a house that was visited by the Brontë sisters and was reputedly the inspiration for Thrushcross Grange in Wuthering Heights.

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The only Brontë attraction not included on this walk are the Brontë Falls, but happily I found them anyway; it is impossible to miss the signs for them between Ponden Hall and Top Withins, so I made a short diversion to see them. I was very glad I did; the falls, a favourite place of the Brontë sisters, are beautiful.

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The original bridge is no longer standing, but a new Brontë bridge sits in its place.

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I then picked the original route back up, heading through goregeous open Moors and climbing up to Tip Withins; the famous inspiration for Wuthering Heights. The ruined house is as atmospheric as I had imagined.

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The two iconic trees next to Top Withins brought to mine lines from another of Emily’s poems:

There are two trees in a lonely field,

They breathe a spell to me;

A dreary thought their dark boughs yield,

All waving solemnly.

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The last stop on the walk was the awe-inspiring Ponden Kirk, the inspiration for Penistone Crags in Wuthering Heights; it was at Penistone Crags that Cathy and Heathcliff first meet. The scenery is every bit as dramatic as you would imagine for such an infamous meeting!

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The walk was the highlight of my trip; seeing the landscapes and locations that inspired the Brontë novels has given me a new understanding of these brilliant works.

There are many more Brontë sights in Haworth, including Branwell Bronte’s favourite pub, The Black Bull.

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Here are a few other Brontë-inspired locations I spotted in Haworth…

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And no literary pilgrimage would be complete without some tourist tat..!

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I recommend the beautiful seventeenth-century farmhouse where I stayed, in a self-catered flat. It is run by Whitestone Arts, a local group of artists, and offers direct access onto the Brontë moors through it’s garden gate.

Local restaurant Embers is also a winner; it was so good that I ate dinner here twice, ordering the exact same meal again! Betty Sampson’s Fish & Chip shop just off of Haworth’s main street was also excellent.

My favourite shop in Haworth was Venables and Bainbridge second-hand bookshop, which stocked a great number of Bronte books, including beautiful antiquarian editions.

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