Haworth in Yorkshire to visit the home of the Brontes took place over the last weekend in April and we had a great time. We stayed in a B+B in Haworth itself, a quaint little town on the edge of the moors with a steep cobbled High Street made famous in the old Hovis adverts.
Most people visit Haworth because it is the main place that the Bronte family lived after their father was appointed Rector of Haworth church in 1820 with his wife and six children. Sadly he outlived all of them, but his three daughters acheived some of the greatest writing that England has ever known during their short lives.
The town itself is quite small but has a healthy dose of quirky shops, restaurants and decent pubs. There is a lovely second hand bookshop there too. You can be delivered by steam train on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (also famous for The Railway Children) at the bottom of the town and climb your way up the main street to the tourist information at the top. The major draw is the Bronte Parsonage, now owned by the Bronte Society and a museum celebrating its famous family. A beautiful house of Yorkshire stone set beside the atmospherically gothic cemetary and small church it does not disappoint. Emily and Charlotte are buried in the church, as are the other members of the family. Anne is buried in Scarborough.
The museum itself is excellent with many original artifacts, clothing, letters, possessions. Not only is it all authentic and informative, but it accurately sets the scene for Bronte fans to get lost in. I was also impressed with the deatails of how the Bronte society secured many of the articles to be brought back and put in their rightful place.
Haworth has quite a history apart from its literary connections, and a walk around the graveyard conveys this with the high mortality rate, especially with children, and even a stone for an executed highwayman. Indeed the graveyard probably contributed to the early deaths of the Bronte sisters because it was condemned as a health risk in the late 19th century due to its severe overcrowding and lack of trees to aid decomposition (the trees were added afterwards). The 'black ooze' the came up in the ground probably contaminated the water supply to the poorer end of town, and possibly the well in the Bronte garden.
Also recommended is the walk across the moors to Top Withens, an abandoned farmhouse that is said to have influenced the setting of Wuthering Heights, more for its bleak position than any exact replication. Nevertheless, it is a lovely walk (about 7 miles full circle) taking in the Bronte waterfalls, the moors (it was suitably windy and rainy when we were there), and also a Quaker buriel ground and other fascinating places with stories behind them. There is a pub on the last part of the walk which was good timing for a pitstop and a pint.
While we were there my friend and I had some discussion comparing Wuthering Heights to Jane Eyre, both of which we made sure we read before going which added to our weekend.
Haworth is an essential destination for Bronte fans but also highly recommended for literary fans generally, as well as anyone who enjoys a good starting point for walks on the Yorkshire moors.