Pocket Britain

Home of the Bronte sisters


Bronte Parsonage Museum
Bronte Way
Scroggling of the Holly
Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte were three English sisters who wrote some of the best-loved and most well-respected novels in British history, including Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Their home was here, in a village cradled among the desolate moors that would provide them with a lifetime of inspiration.
Their father, Patrick, was curate of St. Michael and All Angels, the local church. He brought up his daughters in the parsonage, in a world surrounded by books. Patrick was an author himself, of poetry and fiction, so the sight of the the name "Bronte" on a book's spine wasn't an unfamiliar sight to the young girls.
The parsonage is now a museum, dedicated to the Brontes' lives. You can see the piano they played, the books they read, and the table where they wrote their novels. This was the birthplace of all their most famous works. The furniture and decorations are all authentic, so if the sisters were able to visit today they'd probably barely notice that anything had changed.
The museum is run by the Bronte Society, one of the oldest literary societies in the English speaking world. There are members all across the globe, and anyone is welcome to join.
Elsewhere in Haworth are the other landmarks from the family members' lives. There's the church that Patrick was in charge of, where several Brontes are buried. Sadly, none of the three sisters lived past their 40th birthday. Nearby is the Black Bull pub, where the girls' brother Branwell frequently came to drink, and the local school, where Charlotte taught. A plaque was installed in memory of her service. Emily briefly taught here too, but her temperament wasn't as calm as her sisters'. Her employment was terminated soon after she informed her young pupils that she much preferred the company of the school dog to any of them.
The land surrounding the village is known as "Bronte country". A popular way to explore it is via the Keighley and Worth Railway, an authentically preserved steam train line. There's another connection here to England's literary past. This was the set for the 70s film The Railway Children, which was based on the classic novel.
Instead of riding the train, you can always walk. Haworth sits at the middle of the Bronte Way, a 43-mile route on which everything you pass has some connection to Charlotte, Emily or Anne. There's Top Withens, the ruined farmhouse that inspired Wuthering Heights, and the stone chair, where the girls sat and wrote their first stories.
Every May, Haworth celebrates another period of its history. For a whole weekend the village jumps back in time to the 1940s, with traditional music, clothes and vehicles all on display. There are RAF flyovers during the day, and dance parties at night.
Christmas celebrations are even bigger. They begin in November with the "Scroggling of the Holly", a tradition that's just as odd as its name. Children dress up as Victorians, a "Holly Queen" leads a procession of morris dancers, and then Santa turns up with sackfuls of holiday cheer.
Even if there isn't an event on at the time you visit, Haworth offers independent shops and tea rooms in a wonderfully low-key atmosphere.

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