“ Church Street / Haworth / Keighley / West Yorkshire / England / BD22 8DR / Tel : +44(0)1535 642323. The Museum is open every day from 10.00 - 5.30 (April to September) and from 11.00 - 5.00 (October to March), except 24 - 27 December and 2 - 31 January. „
The Brontë Parsonage Museum is in the village of Haworth in Yorkshire. Once in the area it's very well signposted and easy to find; at the top of the village, behind the church.
Patrick Brontë, his wife and their six children moved to Haworth in 1820 when Patrick was appointed curate at Haworth Parish Church. Patrick outlived the rest of his family and after his death in 1861 the parsonage stayed in the possession of the church up until 1928, when it was put up for sale. It was acquired by The Brontë Society who have since used it to display their ever growing collection of Brontëana. Haworth has become something of a literary mecca and every year, innumerable visitors come to see the home of the world's most famous literary family. My first visit here was a few weeks ago.
At first glance the parsonage was bigger than I expected, an extension was added at some point since the Brontë's lived there. In the photograph you can kind of tell, the extension is the taller part of the building on the right as you face it. Although alterations have been carried out, the Brontë Society have tried to make it as much as possible a replica of how it would have been.
After you've paid your entry fee, you will be handed a guide which contains a written tour of the parsonage. There's another guide given to children which has cartoons and puzzles in. The woman on the till who hands out the guides seemed very pleasant and friendly.
The downstairs area consists of; the entrance hall, Mr Brontë's study, the dining room, kitchen and Mr Nicholls' study.
Of these it is perhaps the dining room that is the most poignant. This was where Charlotte, Emily and Anne wrote their most famous novels. Here they would discuss their writing and walk around the table reading to each other. The room contains the sofa on which Emily is reputed to have died, as well as Anne's rocking chair and writing slope. Even when it's very busy I think there is still something special about the atmosphere in this room. I was crowded into a corner, but felt quite awe struck to think that all those years ago the three sisters sat here, unknown, writing poetry and novels and reading them to each other. Could they ever have imagined that nearly two hundred years later, the room in which they sat would be filled daily with visitors from all over the world coming to see the room in which they wrote? Incredible.
In each room, there is something extra for children to do. As well as the plaques with written information for adult visitors, there are flaps to lift for young ones and an 'I spy' type question or puzzle. For example; a picture of an object will be shown and the child has to look around the room to find it. My daughter was unable to read the leaflet she was given, but we were able to take information from it and make things more entertaining for her.
I had hesitated about taking my daughter, we had half formed a plan that I would visit on my own as my husband had no great interest in going, and we didn't think it would be that good for children, but my daughter said she really wanted to go and promised to be very good, so in went the three of us. I think three, (my daughter's age), probably is a bit young, but I imagine older children could get a lot more out of a visit here. The Brontë Society have made an effort to keep it interesting for young ones. As it turned out my husband also enjoyed it and was pleased he went.
Moving upstairs there is; the servants room, Charlotte's room, the children's study/Emily's room, Mr Brontë's bedroom, Branwell's studio and the exhibition room.
Obviously not all the rooms can be kept the way they used to, some, such as Charlotte's bedroom, were more like traditional museum rooms, with costumes and artefacts behind glass. There was also an art exhibition, with some pieces displayed in the rooms. It was by Su Blackwell, who creates book-cut sculptures. I wasn't that keen on it being in the house, if it had been in an exhibition room, maybe I would have appreciated it more, but although it wasn't too obtrusive, I found it a bit of a distraction. It wasn't what I came to see.
Branwell's studio was the last room of the original building and the windows have been left in. One of them now looks into the exhibition room, which is housed in the extension, and gives more depth to the story of the lives and works of the family. There are many personal relics and original letters and documents in here. To keep children busy there is a dressing up box and a replica doll's house of the building, as well as colouring pencils and paper. Some of the exhibits will also appeal to children, such as the tiny little books the Brontë children made.
I found the Brontë story fascinating and would have liked to have spent longer reading through some of the exhibits. It could have taken all day to go through everything thoroughly. I particularly liked reading some of the letters and the contemporary reactions to the publications of the sisters books. There were some very strong reactions to the books and amidst speculation over their identities, it was declared that it was impossible for a woman to have written Jane Eyre, (the pseudonyms Currer, Acton and Ellis Bell were used, as the sisters felt that females weren't taken seriously as writers).
Downstairs to the left there is another small room, the Bonnell room, which contains changing exhibitions, when I was there the exhibits focussed on the life of Branwell. The exit from here leads to the garden and souvenir shop. Also in the exit area are two huge tombstones engraved with the names of Catherine and Heathcliff which were used in the 1992 Wuthering Heights film that starred Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes.
The narrow corridors can get rather congested, we visited the area the week after the school holidays ended as we thought it might be reasonably quiet, but the museum was busy when we visited, apparently it can get extremely busy in high season. Private tours are available by special arrangement. Unfortunately disabled access is limited, the website gives a phone number for people with special needs to ring in advance for advice.
I've read five of the seven Brontë novels and have picked up a lot about the sisters and their lives along the way, but I learned much more during my visit here. I could write much more too, but for fear of being too boring I will just say that overall I found it an informative, interesting and, at times, moving experience.
After the parsonage has been toured there is still the rest of Haworth and it's connections to the Brontë's to explore. Cross the garden and see the route the sisters took to church, visit the church and graveyard. A trip into the village of Haworth is well worthwhile, it's a picturesque little place. On it's cobbled main street you will find The Black Bull - the public house Branwell Brontë used to frequent, as well as the old apothecary opposite, where he bought his opium. It's notable that the signs around Haworth are also written in Japanese, thousands of Japanese visit the parsonage every year and there is a project underway to translate all the exhibit notes into Japanese.
For those who are fit enough, there is a well signposted walk across the moors, known as The Brontë Way, which takes in a waterfall and bridge the sisters used to walk to and carries on to Top Withens; the ruins of a farmhouse associated with Wuthering Heights - it is thought Emily had this situation in mind when she wrote of the setting for the Earnshaw's home in her novel.
Further Details, (from the website www.Brontë.org.uk):
The Museum is open every day from:
10.00am - 5.30pm April to September
11.00am - 5.00pm October to March
except 24-27 December and 4-31 January.
~Entry Fees 2010~
Standard Admission £6.50
Senior Citizens £5.00
ES40 holders £4.00
Students 17 years + £5.00
Children 5-16 years £3.50 (Children under 5 free)
Family Ticket £15.50 (admits 2 adults and up to 3 children aged 5 - 16 years)
The Brontes were the world's most famous literary family and Howarth Parsonage, now the Bronte Parsonage and Museum was their home from 1820 to 1861. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte were authors of some of the world's best-loved books in the English language. Charlotte's novel "Jane Eyre", Emily's "Wuthering Heights" and Anne's "Tenant of Wildfell Hall were written in this house over a hundred and fifty years ago, yet their power still moves readers today. Charlotte and Emily are ranked among the world's greatest novelists; Anne wass a powerful but somewhat underrated author, and both their father, the Reverend Patrick Bronte, and brother Branwell also saw their own works in print. The Brontes' novels, published under the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, were acknowledge at the time for their directness and powerful emotional energy, qualities that were sometimes interpreted by their critics as "course" and "brutal" Wuthering Heights is among my favourite books. I read it at school and then again more recently. I have seen several film versions and even bought the record by Kate Bush. I also think that Jane Eyre was a great read. It is because of my admiration of these books and the interest in the family as a whole, that I paid a visit to the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Howarth, West Yorkshire.
The Parsonage was built in 1778 and when Mr Bronte was appointed Reverend of the church in 1820, the Parsonage came rent free with his new position. The fact that Mr Bronte had no independent means was a source of anxiety, for if his health failed, they stood to lose both income and home. In the event, Patrick outlived all his family. He died in 1861. Over the years several extensions have been made to the rear of the house in order to create more exhibition space. The original Georgian Parsonage is still very much, as the Brontes would have known it. The majority of the rooms are set out in as close an approximation as possible to their appearances in the Brontes' day, and most of the objects and furniture on display belonged to the family. For conservation reasons, the exhibits are changed regularly and as we found, you may not always see what is in the souvenir guide.
Mr Bronte's Study
Once through the entrance hall, the first room we came to was the study where Mr Bronte did most of his parish work. He took many of his meals alone here and a place is set for him at the side table. His books of Psalms and magnifying glass were on the desk before the fire. There was also a small piano, which belonged to his children and was played mainly by Emily.
The Dining Room
This is the room I found carried most interest. It is the room, which the sisters did most of their work. It contains the rocking chair where Anne used to sit with her feet on the fender and the sofa on which Emily died. The room was enlarged by Charlotte when she became a successful writer.
The kitchen has been reconstructed as far as possible and the original furniture reintroduced. There is a table where Emily made bread every week. Even the utensils and pieces of china on display came from the Bronte household.
This room is at the front of the house and is the bedroom in which Mrs Bronte died in 1821, leaving her small children to be cared for by her sister. Here she taught the girls needlework and domestic skills. I was fascinated to find Charlotte's tiny shoes and a dress so small, you would think that it belonged to a child.
There are several other rooms including Branwell's studio and Mr Bronte's bedroom, I have highlighted the ones that carried the most interest.
The layout of the garden is apparently the same as it was in the Bronte's day. The garden has been planted with shrubs and flowers of that period in an effort to recreate an authentic Victorian setting. Our first visit was early summer, we returned again in the autumn. On both occasions we felt like we were walking around the original garden and taken back in time.
The Exhibition Rooms
These rooms contain "The Brontes; a family history" which tells the story of the lives and works of the family. Sadly all the women died young. Included in the memorabilia is a collection of mourning items and Charlotte Bronte's funeral card. Charlottes was in the early stages of pregnancy when she died just before her 39th birthday. Their father lived to age 84.
It was amazing to see actual early writings, poems and scribbles from all three women. I hadn't realised until my visit that all three of them painted really well too and their paintings were also on display.
Lots of merchandise can be found here including dvd's of films taken from their novels, all their books and some excellent biographies. I bought one by Juliet Barker, which is extremely informative. I also bought "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre" on dvd.
Visiting the home in which these remarkable women spent most of their lives provides a fascinating insight into the freedoms and restrictions of the time, in which they lived and therefore gain a deeper understanding of their novels. I have been twice now in a relatively short time and found the visits very moving. Although children are allowed at all ages, personally, I think that any child under 10 would find most of it a little boring. As well as the displays, there is a lot to read and I don't think there is enough to hold their attention. For older children and adults, it makes for a great afternoon out.
£3.60 oap's and students
£1.60 children up to age 16.
Closed 24-27 December
AROUND AND ABOUT
You will need at least two hours to see all there is at the Parsonage. Spend some time too in Howarth itself, it is a marvellous place with lots of character and lots of history. And why not wander on to those wonderful moors, they are eerie but beautiful and they were the inspiration for perhaps the best known of all Bronte novels "Wuthering Heights"