Copyright Man Alive!
I was super excited when I woke up on the first Saturday of our 2015 trip to England and Scotland. I was to go on pilgrimage. Metallica’s Enter Sandman was on my inner iPod, but Jameshad changed the lyrics into Off to Brönte-Brönteland. My friend Elly took us to Haworth, to the parsonage where the Brönte family used to live. I have been a fan of their books since I was 17, so this was some sort of Holy Grail for me. Charlotte, Anne and Emily, somehow they could have been my sisters. I used to imagine myself rambling the dark and gloomy moors with Heathcliff and Mr Rochester. God, how horribly romantic of my younger me.
I prepared my pilgrimage very well: I read some of the Brönte books again and I read Elisabeth Gaskell’s extensive biography about Charlotte Brontë and her sisters. Which -I must say- was sometimes hard to read because it is incredibly detailed, but it was worth the effort. So I travelled to England, having very high expectations.
When you arrive in Haworth, it takes a little walk to get to the centre and the parsonage which leads you through the local Central Park. The main street in Haworth is very touristy and if the Brontës can be used as a marketing tool, shops won’t hesitate, as you can see below. As Virginia Woolf already remarked in 1904 in The Guardian: “Haworth expresses the Brontës; the Brontës express Haworth; they fit like a snail to its shell.”
And yet, Haworth has a lot of lovely artsy, retro and nice shops and cafés. I bought a really nice Alice in Wonderland card, probably because I was in an fairytale magic kind if mood.
We walked up to the church where father Patrick Brönte was curate and where the Brönte family has been buried (except for Anne, who has been buried in Scarborough. She died there in 1849 hoping a stay at the east coast would improve her health).
In the Brontë Parsonage Museum my favourite was the dining room where the sisters wrote and discussed their books. In my head a voice was screaming: “Om my God, Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre there!” I just could see them sitting there, all together there, in the evening, talking and writing … We were not allowed to take pictures unfortunately, so I will have to take another internet picture.
We also saw their father’s study, the bedroom, kitchen… As Charlotte was already a famous writer at the time of her death, the museum has obtained some of her belongings as people kept those. Anne, Emily and Branwell died before they were famous.
I bought a book about Charlotte and Emily living in Brussels, so I think I will spend some lunch breaks continuing my pilgrimage. Apparently there is even a Brussels Brontë group that does research and organises activities.
You can go there by car, but we took the steam train in Keighley in some Harry Potter like railway station, which increased my literary experience even more. The train was adorable: old benches, wood … It felt far more luxurious than the rubbish modern trains we took during the rest of our trip. It’s great that the volunteers of of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society keep this lovely train running.