Branwell who? Trip to Haworth discovering the Brontë family
Aggiornamento: 12 gen 2020
Traveller type: Bookworms
Where: Europe, England, Yorkshire
The moorland surrounds the small town built on a hilltop in West Yorkshire. My gaze wanders around the green fields where the heather is still sleeping, waiting to bloom. I imagine Heathcliff and Catherine walking side by side, leaving behind the grey stones of Haworth. Visiting the place where Emily Brontë and her sisters lived and wrote is an experience that I’d recommend to anyone that, like me, fell in love with the tormented characters and intricated plot of “Wuthering Heights”.
Brontë’s house is located at the very top of Haworth and today it’s a museum (Brontë Parsonage Museum) where time has left everything untouched. The living room where Emily, Charlotte and Anne used to write and exchange literary opinions has not changed, and it is believed that Emily died on the dark blue sofa displayed in that room.
Although every chamber attracts considerable interest, the one that strikes the most is Branwell’s. “We tried to reproduce Branwell’s bedroom based on the sources we had to represent his tormented mind” explains a museum assistant, a frail 60-year-old man with magnetic blue eyes. They succeeded: Branwell’s room does not seem part of the museum, but a private lodging, a personal space that makes the visitor feel like an intruder. The drafts of poems scattered everywhere, the sketches hung on the walls, and the unmade bed well represent Branwell’s personality and his internal conflicts.
“Everyone expected so much of him, and compared to many others, he was successful. Most of men live leaving no trace, but he did. Two of his paintings are exhibited at the National Gallery and his poems became famous. But he was overshadowed by his sisters. He died there, in his father’s bedroom, probably due to tuberculosis, and in the grip of alcohol hallucinations”. At this point our guide stops talking for a second, as if he was mourning that horrible death. “They say he was a brilliant storyteller” adds with a smile “and it is believed that at the Black Bull anyone was willing to offer him a drink just to hear one of his stories. I wish I could meet him and offer him a pint!”
To end your day in Haworth, you can sip a beer at the Black Bull where Branwell was a regular costumer. The pub is at a two-minute walk from the museum, near St Michael and All Angels church in which Patrick Brontë, the father, worked as a curate. Inside the church all family members are buried, except Anne, who rests in Scarborough. In the gothic graveyard next to the church Tabitha, the cook-housekeeper who served the family for 30 years, is buried as well.
Apart from the museum, Haworth offers a great variety of antique and art shops. Not to be missed is the Cabinet of Curiosities, a Victorian style shop that sells soaps, shampoo bars, bath powders, creams and peculiar houseware. Shopaholics will love it!
For another jump in the past, you can visit the train station (The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway) where you can take a steam train to reach the nearby villages. It was also the set of many popular films and TV shows, such as ‘The Railway Children’ (1970) and ‘North and South’ (2004). Unless you are crazy about steam trains, I would not recommend taking it: it was a bit expensive and unfortunately the landscape has been spoiled by houses and factories. However, if you want to reach the other towns in a non-conventional way, it could be a good alternative.
Finally, if you fall into the category of nature lovers, Haworth won’t let you down. Due to lack of time (and of sun) I couldn’t wander around the moorland, but from my research I found out that the Parsonage Museum organises free walks for visitors on some occasions. If you want to combine nature and literature, the best walk is the one around Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse that is supposed to be the source of inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Indeed, this walk was loved by the Brontë sisters and the waterfalls you’ll pass by are dedicated to them.
I hope I’ve intrigued you about Haworth and the Brontë family, and I’ll leave some suggestions to make the most of your trip there!
Music: Wuthering Heights - Kate Bush, 1978
Book: "Wuthering Heights"- Emily Brontë, 1847
Film: "To Walk Invisible"- directed by Sally Wainwright, 2016
Art: "The Brontë sisters" – Branwell Brontë, National Portrait Gallery (London)
Cool article: National Portrait Gallery to Reveal Mysteries of Shadowy Bronte brother - H. Furness, 18 Dec 2015, The Telegraph
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Thank you for reading!