If you long for windswept inspiration, then fly straight to Brontë country and walk the hills that inspired the three Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Anne and Emily to write their classic gothic novels.
Haworth lies at the heart of this area and the Brontë sisters grew up in the parsonage at the edge of the village. Nowadays the pretty spot is surrounded by a mixture of russet moorland and rolling green fields. However, when the Brontë’s lived here, the landscape was smoked with mills and factories. You can still see remnants of this industrial past today.
We spent a day here during a sunny September and the whole family left feeling energized by the visit – so much so that we’re planning to return again soon, possibly with an overnight stay.
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A Brief History of the Brontë Family
Patrick Brontë moved to become curate of St Michael and All Angel’s Church in 1820 – bringing his six children and wife with him. Originally from Ireland, he changed his name from Brunty or Prunty to Brontë – possibly to seem more learned. When his wife and two eldest daughters died, he was left to bring up his four remaining children – Branwell, Charlotte, Emily and Anne.
The four siblings were all gifted artists and writers from an early age, but Branwell was seen as the most promising. However, after turning to alcohol, he died aged 31. During his decline Brontë sisters used an aunt’s inheritance to publish a poetry collection and soon after they published their famous novels under the pseudonyms Currer, Action and Ellis Bell. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (Currer Bell) was an immediate bestseller on its publication in 1847.
Although they eventually revealed their true identities, their success was short-lived. Emily and Anne died of tuberculosis within the next two years, and Charlotte perished in 1855 after marrying her father’s curate Arthur Bell Nicholls. All were under 40.
Novels written by the Brontë sisters
Charlotte Brontë (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855)
- Jane Eyre 1847
- Shirley 1849
- Vilette 1853
Emily Brontë (30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848)
- Wuthering Heights 1847
Anne Brontë (17 January 1820 – 28 May 1849)
- Agnes Grey 1847
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 1848
Whether you’re a serious book lover, a history buff or someone who simply appreciates beautiful places (or all three!) then the Brontë Parsonage Museum is an essential stop when visiting Brontë country. This was my fourth tour of the house and one of most memorable.
The Parsonage is maintained by The Brontë Society, one of the oldest literary societies in the English-speaking world. It conserves the building in memory of the Brontë family with particular emphasis on the three sisters who wrote their famous works of fiction – including Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights here.
The rooms have all been carefully decorated so that they match the styles that the Brontë family would have enjoyed during their residency. Wallpapers and paint tones have been reproduced from original samples, which gives the house a real air of authenticity. I recommend looking at the official website to see all the rooms but I’ve picked out some of my favourites here.
Ground Floor of the Brontë Parsonage
You enter the Parsonage grounds via a side entrance on Church Street. With Covid measures in place, this is an opportunity to enjoy the well-tended Parsonage garden which overlooks the graveyard while you wait to be invited into the house.
There are five rooms to see on the ground floor including the entrance hall and Mr Bronte’s Study. We were most taken with the ones which the sisters would have spent the most time in.
The Dining Room
This warm room at the front of the Brontë Parsonage is where the sisters discussed and wrote most of their major works. They would walk around the table while sharing ideas. Later when Emily and Anne died, Charlottle continued the ritual alone.
The kitchen was the heart of the home and all the daughters were expected to help with household tasks. This room has a lovely feel and you can imagine the sisters working together happily in this snug space.
Upstairs at the Brontë Parsonage
There are five rooms on the first floor as well as an exhibition space in the adjoining extension. Two are tiny, the Servant’s Room and The Children’s Study where the siblings played and created their little books (later Emily slept in the Children’s Study).
The largest bedroom is now an exhibition space showing artwork by the sisters, editions of books and writing desks. It changed hands many times over the years, but was occupied by Charlotte and her husband at the end of her life. The author Elizabeth Gaskell, a friend of Charlotte’s, also slept in this room when she visited.
Mr Brontë’s Bedroom
Mr Brontë moved into this room after his wife died. Later, he shared it with Branwell, when his son’s addiction to alcohol and opiates began to rage out of control. It has been recorded that he used to fire a loaded pistol out of the window every morning to keep in working order.
Despite high expectations, Branwell failed as both an artist and a tutor. The poet Simon Armitage styled Branwell’s former studio for an exhibition in 2017 to coincide with the release of the BBC film, To Walk Invisible, which focuses on the relationship between the Brontë sisters and Branwell.
The Extension at the Brontë Parsonage
The Exhibition Rooms
There are two exhibition rooms in the museum building and these contain the largest Brontë family collection in the world. Housed in the extension built by Revd. John Wade, the items have been assembled over the years by the Brontë Society whose aim is to keep all the family’s possessions together.
The first floor is dedicated to the whole family and showcases the little books, first editions and pieces of beloved furniture. This room covers cradle to birth and it tells the story of the Brontës in an accessible, fascinating way.
When we visited, the ground floor was dedicated to Anne Brontë, the youngest and least famous of the sisters yet a powerful voice in her own right. I found the displays very poignant especially those surrounding her early death.
You exit via the shop which has a lovely range of Brontë books and merchandise. As the Brontë Parsonage Museum needs funding at the moment, we bought several items – a clothbound edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, a card and a pop-up of the Parsonage for Little M. You can have your book stamped as well – so of course we opted for this!
It’s free to spend time in this grassed area behind the Parsonage and look across Brontë Country. Dogs need to be on leads.
Visiting the Brontë Parsonage Museum
The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm and you have to book a pre-timed ticket. This is to align with Covid-19 measures.
Adult tickets cost £11 (concessions available for 65+, students and means-tested). Tickets for children aged 5-16 cost £4 with under 5s free. You can purchase a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) for £24.
When in the house, you are asked to wear a mask, use the hand sanitiser and observe the distancing markers on the floor. The team very gently direct you as you tour the building to ensure that everyone has adequate space to browse.
We spent around an hour and quarter on the grounds – with a little amount of queueing involved.
There are no toilets at the house or the adjacent car park (all day parking £4) so you will need to visit a local cafe or pub if you need the loo!
Families at the Brontë Parsonage Museum
7 year-old little M enjoyed her visit and really liked the beautifully designed welcome guide that she received at the entrance. She was particularly fascinated by the tragic history of the sisters 🙁 I’m not sure if this is her age or just her!
I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend it for children under 5 as there are alarmed ropes and small spaces to content with (plus as above – no toilets).
When you leave the Parsonage, you’ll emerge on Church Street which takes you into the centre of Haworth. Take a little time to linger on this charming lane as you pass the Old School Room, built by Patrick Brontë in 1832 and head towards St Michael and All Angel’s Church. You would think that the Brontë family is buried in the graveyard, but they are all interned in a crypt beneath the church aside from Anne, who died in Scarborough.
You are welcome to enter the church and view the memorial enscriptions to the family. However, please make sure that you wear a mask and observe social distancing.
Look up Haworth on Instagram and you’ll see why so many people flock straight to Main Street. Traditional buildings sweep down a steep hill with a view of emerald green fields in the distance – often with a light touch of mist. It was extremely busy on the day that we visited so we didn’t manage to capture the classic shot, but snapped a rare moment of quiet further down the street.
Haworth is also lovely because it’s filled with independent shops, cafes and pubs which is give it a unique charm. The best known of these is The Cabinet of Curiosities at the top of the street, which still has its original Victorian apothecary shop fittings and sells a magical assortment of bath stuffs, books and witchy items.
Bookshops in Haworth
There are several bookshops. Cauldron Books at The Cabinet of Curiosities, specialising in the supernatural and fantasy, Spooks of Haworth for physic phenomena supplies and Hatchard and Daughters which was closed when we visited, but looked very enticing.
Haworth Eating Options
There’s no shortage of places to eat out in Haworth and options for all budgets. As we hadn’t gone to a restaurant for months, we treated ourselves and had a delicious Sunday lunch at The Hawthorn Haworth, a gastropub. The Fleece Inn is highly rated at the moment too.
For cheaper eats, there are plenty of cafes. The Coffee House and Cobbles and Clay have good reviews at the time of writing this post, but check the latest feedback before you visit.
Moorland Walks around Haworth
After the bustle in Haworth, we felt the urge to seek out the wide open spaces and run free on the moors that inspired the Brontë sisters. Luckily, you only have to walk 15 minutes and you’re up on the tops with outstanding views of West Yorkshire.
The best route into Brontë Country is via the path that runs along the bottom of the graveyard. From here, you pass through the kissing gates and follow the track then turn right and up again until you can clearly see the moors.
We didn’t have enough time to walk far, but the routes to the Brontë Waterfall and High Withens (the accepted inspiration for Wuthering Heights) are well signposted. Guides estimate anything between 3 to 5 hours to complete a circular walk to Top Withens from Haworth so if you are planning to do this, you most likely will need a second day in the area.
Other Places to See in Brontë Country
Brontë country spreads further than Haworth and you’d need more than a few days to see everything! Here are some of the other places that you could add to your Brontë-inspired itinerary.
Ponden Hall has often been said to have been the model for the Lintons’ home Thrushcross Grange in Wuthering Heights. Emily and Branwell used Ponden Hall library so would have been well-acquainted with the building. It’s a B&B now so this could be an ideal place to stay if you visit the area.
Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, Emily and Anne were all born in the village of Thornton which is approximately 6 miles’ drive from Haworth. The house that they lived in is now a cafe – Emily’s – The Dining Room and you can eat in the very room where they all came into this world.
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