The Old Kirk (again)

14 September 2011 00:02

Despite the fact that we were being blasted to bits on the tower parapet we both managed to take quite a few photos. I like old graveyards and it was interesting to see this one from above. You can see that there is quite a lot of space given to each lair. I think some of the gravestones have disappeared over the years but even so when you compare it with the graveyard at the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth which is absolutely crammed with graves it’s easy to see how they got into trouble there.

You can just see what was the original manse at the top left of the photo. They have a huge garden and typically it’s all just grass. Why is it that non-gardeners always get the biggest gardens? It’s one of those ‘sod’s law’ things!

The graveyard from the tower

This cute wee turrety building is in the grounds of the church. I don’t know what it’s used for now – if anything, but I think originally it must have been inhabited by whoever looked after the church and graveyard or maybe the session clerk. As you can see, it’s quite a long way down from that tower.

Across from the house you can see a hideous cream coloured building which was built some time in the 20th century. It replaced the school and house where Thomas Carlyle lived and taught for a couple of years.

Turrety house

And this is another one of the memorial stained glass windows. Photos don’t really show up how beautiful they are.

Stained glass window (east)

This is the Old Kirk from the bottom of Kirk Wynd and the turrety building, you can see the parapet which I took the photos from.

Kirk Wynd

Haworth Church, Yorkshire

8 August 2011 23:50

Church 3

I couldn’t go to Haworth and not take some photos of the church which is more or less right next to the parsonage. The Brontes were actually buried inside the church, I suppose that’s one of the ‘perks’ of having the minister as your father! As the church isn’t usually open it means that most visitors to Haworth don’t actually get to see the Bronte stones, presumably there are inscriptions.

Church 1

Ever since I read years ago that Patrick Bronte didn’t take his meals with his family I’ve had a real dislike for the man and when I went on the tour of the house a couple of years ago the guide’s talk made me dislike Pa Bronte even more.

I suppose we can expect Victorian men to be selfish as a matter of course but I think he must have been worse than most and I think when his poor wife died, probably of cervical cancer and after being worn out by him and constant pregnancies, it must have been quite a relief for the poor woman in the end. It wasn’t long before Patrick Bronte started proposing marriage to other women, luckily none of them were daft enough to accept him.

Church 2

According to the guide he also had a habit of leaning out of the parsonage windows and taking pot shots at the church tower with a gun! It’s certainly pock-marked with what looks like bullet damage, I think he must have had more than a few screws loose.

Haworth, Yorkshire and Bronte Parsonage

5 August 2011 23:57

I was thinking that it was just last year that we first visited Haworth (Bronte country) but it turns out that it was actually two years ago. How time flies! We didn’t do the tour of the house this time. Maddeningly I can’t find the photos which I took last time so I don’t have any of Haworth Parsonage interiors. Well that’s a good excuse to go back again and take some more, plus my husband fancies having a pint standing at the bar in The Black Bull where Branwell Bronte drank.

Anyway, here is a photo of the outside of Haworth Parsonage, which never changes much. It has been added on to over the years but this is the original part which is as it was when the Brontes lived there. It looks much bigger than it really is. Internally it’s exactly the same as my own house with four rooms downstairs, two either side of the front door. My house doesn’t look so grand, I think Georgian houses always look nicer than Victorian ones. There must also have been a wash-house too as all old houses had one, mine has been turned into a kitchen. They didn’t have a bathroom so had to make a trip to an outside toilet which can’t have been much fun but I suppose it was the same for everyone then.

House

The last time we were in Haworth we were in a hurry for some reason and we weren’t able to walk up to the moor, so we did that this time. This is the pathway up to the moor which is the one which the Brontes would have used. The path goes from the edge of the graveyard and it’s quite a steep hill. I took this photo on the way back down because on the way up I was so hot and puffed out that I didn’t notice what a lovely tree lined lane it is. They have drystane dykes in Yorkshire just like Scotland.

Trees + lane

And these are some photos of the moorland. This just looks exactly like a Scottish moor, the purple heather was just beginning to flower and next week it’ll look lovely but most of the year moors look bleak although there are usually loads of ground nesting birds like skylarks in the undergrowth.

Moor 1

Moor 3

Moor 2

The front windows of the parsonage look onto the graveyard which is very close to it. I have to admit that I enjoy looking around old graveyards but when I first saw this one it struck me immediately that it’s incredibly tightly packed with graves and when we did the tour of the house we learned that there were so many bodies packed into the ground around the parsonage that they didn’t deteriorate naturally as there wasn’t enough air in the earth. It meant that poisonous liquid from the bodies was leaking out and when it rained the very steep street was running with rainwater contaminated with dead bodies. The houses in Haworth also have cellars which poor people had to live in and the water flooded into them. It’s no wonder that Haworth had the highest rate of deaths in the whole of Britain at the time the Brontes lived there. Even although the parsonage is on higher ground than the graveyard, it didn’t stop the dining-room from being flooded when it rained heavily. The smell must have been appalling and it’s a miracle that any of the Brontes managed to reach adulthood given the circumstances.

Graveyard 2 (house)

Graveyard 1

Graveyard 3

This is a photo of the main street in Haworth which is just a short walk from the parsonage, not even one minute. The last time we were there there were quite a few empty shops but this time the whole place looked better and there are a couple of decent second-hand bookshops, an old-fashioned sweetie shop, vintage clothes shops as well as gift shops.

Street

I love it when I can stand in a street and see the hills nearby, just like the town which I grew up in. I hope I’ve managed to give a bit of a sense of Haworth to anyone who hasn’t been able to visit it. If you’re a Bronte fan, like myself it’s well worth a visit or two, or even three!

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

15 May 2010 10:14

I had just been thinking that it was about time that I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea, probably as part of the Flashback Challenge. Jean Rhys wrote the book as a prequel to Jane Eyre and it’s the story of Mr. Rochester’s first wife.

As these things often happen, I noticed that a biography of Jean Rhys has just been published, it was reviewed in The Guardian Review last Saturday.

It’s called The Blue Hour: A portrait of Jean Rhys and is by Lilian Pizzichini. It sounds like it could be a really interesting read but I’m going to wait a bit and see if my local library will be buying it.

I’m not supposed to be buying books if I can at all help it, mainly because they are taking over the house. But let’s face it, sometimes you just can’t help it and you find yourself on Amazon or Abebooks yet again.

Haworth at Christmas

20 December 2009 00:07

I’ve been finding it difficult to get into the Christmas spirit this year, partly I think because there isn’t anything going on around here in the way of traditional celebrations. It’s all about parting everyone from their cash really, which is a shame.

Although I can’t say that I’m in any way religious (quite the opposite really), I still think that the mad commercialisation of Christmas is a complete pain in the neck. Let’s face it, the shops are full of tat at the moment, and expensive tat at that! And people feel the need to spend and spend and spoil their children rotten, even when they know that the kids get more fun out of simple things, like big boxes they can sit in and pretend that it is a car, bus, train or whatever.

Some people are still paying for Christmas by the time the next one comes along. I wish we could get back to the time when people just made something for their friends and relatives, if they feel the need to give something.

I must admit that we have never exchanged presents amongst our brothers and sisters as there are just too many of us and it is much simpler to give to the young people only, and our parents of course, (when they were alive).

So what has all this moaning got to do with Haworth in Yorkshire? We visited Haworth for the first time in the summer and we really enjoyed it, although we didn’t have enough time there. So we thought we would definitely go again and I did a bit of research and discovered that the good people of Haworth are up to all sorts throughout the year. The place really seems to be jumping and if we lived a bit closer I would definitely be visiting the Christmas market and going to see exactly what holly scroggling is. Singing carols at Haworth would just be perfect, I’m sure that you couldn’t stay ‘bah humbugish’ for long there.

I really fancy going to the vintage fair which they have later in the year, well it’s all recycling isn’t it, and wouldn’t it be great
to dress up in a 1940s tea dress for the 40s weekend that they have every year.

Have a look at the Haworth Village site to find out more.

Bronte by Glyn Hughes

8 November 2009 23:38

Bronte

I bought this book as my recent visit to Haworth Parsonage had left me feeling the need to immerse myself in Brontedom. This book managed to feed my appetite and although it is a work of fiction, I feel that it was well researched and well written.

There are a few clunky parts in it, which isn’t bad for a book of 506 pages. Quite early on Hughes writes that Patrick Bronte had liked to feel his wife’s foetuses kicking. It may seem like nit-picking but I can’t imagine anyone feeling anything other than a baby kicking and that word foetus is too medical and just jars the ear.

About half way through the book, it becomes very religious with the sisters worrying about sinful thoughts and ending up in Hell, about Universalism, Calvinism and Wesleyans. I could have done without this part altogether.

Perhaps they did have such worries but I think it more likely that they had a less questioning attitude to their faith. Given the fact that they had already lost their mother and two sisters, I think they would have been clinging on to the thought of them as having gone to a ‘better place’ as a source of comfort, rather than anything else.

I’ve known a lot of clergyman’s daughters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts, (my husband comes from a long line of Episcopalian clergymen – or ‘penguins’ as he puts it) so I know from experience that religion and faith are not high on the agenda of things to worry about.

Despite that, I think that Hughes has made a good job of filling in the gaps between the known facts and has written an entertaining novel, which should be enjoyable to anyone with an interest in the Brontes beyond reading their novels.

For me, it was definitely enhanced by the fact that I had recently visited Haworth Parsonage and I could easily imagine all the action taking place there.

I think the book could easily be adapted for television and it would be more interesting than yet another version of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. The actress Shirley Henderson would make a good Charlotte.

Bronte by Glyn Hughes

26 October 2009 00:23

I’ve just finished volume 2 of Pepys Diary and I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from London 1666.

As I was saying earlier, I bought a few books at the charity bookshops in Stockbridge, Edinburgh last week. One of them was Bronte by Glyn Hughes which was published in 1996 but I haven’t come across it until now.

I just started it last night so I haven’t got very far with it but already I’m really enjoying it and finding it such an advantage to have actually visited Haworth as I can picture everything so clearly now.

So must get on with it now and a review will be forthcoming at some point.

Haworth Parsonage

19 August 2009 20:57

The next stop on our road trip was Haworth, which I have always wanted to visit since I read Jane Eyre when I was about 12. I have to admit that my first reading of it was 38 years ago – I can hardly believe it.

I wasn’t disappointed. We arrived in Haworth quite late at night and so we had the chance to see the parsonage when it was beginning to get dark and there was nobody else about and that was a really good start to the Haworth experience.

We left the B&B around 9.30 the next morning as we knew that the parsonage didn’t open until 10 o’clock and we wanted to have a bit of a walk around Haworth before then. So again we just about had the place to ourselves as things seem to start very slowly there and most of the shops don’t open until 11 o’clock.

Looking around the place my first impression was much better than I had imagined it would be. The countryside is really lovely and the parsonage is set at the top of a very steep hill where you would think there would be plenty of fresh air to keep you healthy. However, if you go on the guided tour you will discover that the graveyard just outside the parsonage garden was absolutely stuffed with bodies as the mortality rate was the highest in the whole country. We visited the graveyard before going into the parsonage and tombstone wise it is the busiest I have seen by far, and I’ve seen quite a lot of graveyards in my day as I like going around them – there’s no accounting for it really. And when you think that most of the bodies would have been tucked underground in nothing but a shroud, as a coffin would be too expensive and a gravestone just out of the question, you get the idea that Haworth was not a great place to be. However, even I was shocked to discover that there were 42,000 bodies buried there before it was closed down. So many that they couldn’t decompose properly.

Haworth Parsonage

Haworth Parsonage

Anyway, onward to the parsonage, which as you can see looks lovely. Apart from the view of that graveyard a stone’s throw from the front door. I was quite amazed that so much of the furniture had actually belonged to the Brontes. Often, museums just have furniture which is of the correct period in them so it is really lovely to see the real things, including the sofa on which Emily died.

So many personal belongings are on show. Letters and tiny books, art work, dresses, shoes, jewellery, hair, sewing boxes and even dog collars. The house is beautifully decorated and set out and I would recommend visiting it if you are at all interested in the Brontes.

The one thing that surprised me was the size of the place. I had always imagined the parsonage to be really big as it does look very imposing in photographs. In reality it is much smaller than I had thought it to be and it must have been quite a squeeze to fit 6 children, mum and dad and a servant into it. Parsonages and manses are usually huge, so I think Haworth must have been a very poor parish. I wonder if Reverend Bronte ever tried to move elsewhere.

It was all too much for me to take in really, so I will have to go back again when we aren’t so pushed for time. I would like to take a walk on the moor over to High Withens.

The staff are very friendly and you can use your entry ticket for a whole year, which is brilliant if you live nearby. Unfortunately it was a 5 hour drive for us.

If you do get the chance to go, make sure that you find time to attend the very interesting talk and the tour of the churchyard.