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.
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.