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Brontes by Dave Whitehouse

05 October 2012


We regularly house-exchange with folk from other parts of the world. We have visited many countries and have enjoyed becoming involved and living for a few months at a time with people of different cultures to our own.

On a recent exchange into North Yorkshire we visited the charming little town of Haworth, renowned as being the home of the Bronte sisters. The town is ancient and on a steep hill with narrow, cobbled roads. At the top of the village is the church and parsonage where the Rev Patrick Bronte served for over forty years from 1820 to 1861 and from where his six children developed their writing skills and produced what many call the very finest of English literature. Seeing the small, dark rooms in which the girls wrote with their tiny handwriting producing such amazing works as 'Jane Eyre', 'Emma', 'Wuthering Heights' and 'The tenant of Windfell Hall' brought home to us the brilliance of their writings under such difficult circumstances and in such surroundings.

Patrick Bronte lost his wife to cancer in 1821 leaving the children in the care of their aunt. All of his children were to die prematurely in the years that followed. In 1854 Charlotte was the only Bronte to marry and she was found to be pregnant when she died in 1855 the last child to pass away.

Patrick died in 1861 and had buried all of his family in the church at Haworth, except Anne, who was taken to the seaside at Scarborough in May 1849 hoping the sea air would cure her tuberculosis but she died four days later and is buried in that town.

It is an incredibly sad story and emotion is evident on the faces of visitors to this beautiful little church and parsonage in this Yorkshire village high above the Moors. 'Wuthering Heights' is probably the most descriptive of the times in which they lived and one can easily picture in one's mind the cold dampness and bleakness of the windswept moors.

We visited the town on a lovely spring day which belied the darkness of those earlier times. Of the thousands of photos taken on that home-exchange one photo stands out for us. It was taken from just below the church looking down the main street of Haworth with the chequered moors in the background. The original photo shows it is bright and sunny and the various retail establishments were warm and welcoming and were obviously a world apart from nearly two centuries ago when the Brontes lived and worked in Haworth.

However, to us the story of the Brontes was anything but bright and sunny. So, as a reminder for ourselves, we altered the original photo to a mono version and took out much of the evidence of the 21st century and we ended up with a second photo more befitting the Haworth story and which brings us much pleasure in that it gives two versions of a memorable visit to England, two centuries apart.

Dave Whitehouse

BrontesBrontes old

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