“I’m going to kill your whippets mate”
Welcome to the second instalment of The Road Trip Diaries. In this episode we will be leaving Liverpool for West Yorkshire, in search of the Brontë Sisters.
Here is where it gets a little confusing… My friend “Brontë” was given this nickname because we have always shared an interest Charlotte Brontë‘s novel ‘Jane Eyre’. In the interests of clarity, my friend will (for one blog post only) go by the name “Brunty” – the original name of the Brontë family before their father Patrick changed it to sound more sophisticated.
As you will remember from the last instalment, we fell asleep in the pod. The next morning it was quite difficult to wake up, especially with a complete absence of natural light. Nevertheless we hopped straight in the car and headed for Haworth, a small village with a big legacy.
Haworth is home to the Brontë Parsonage. This is the house that the Brontë family moved to in 1820 when Patrick Brontë was appointed curate to the local church. The whole village seems slightly frozen in time, but clearly manages to thrive from its reputation as a literary hotspot.
For a little background on the Brontë sisters – they were Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Charlotte wrote the astounding ‘Jane Eyre’, Emily penned the dark and mysterious ‘Wuthering Heights’ and Anne was the author of the ferociously feminist ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’. The fourth Brontë sibling was Branwell, who held promise but squandered his talents in drink and drugs, leading to an early death and little accomplishment to leave behind.
We had lunch in the village, at a café called Cobbles and Clay. Brunty had an amazing Ploughman’s, which for those of you reading from outside of the UK, is an English platter consisting of bread, meat, cheeses and pickle. I definitely had food envy as I ate my fish finger sandwich!
Entry to the house and museum is £7.50 for adults. As a fan of history and literature, the house was fascinating. Each room had been preserved as close to the original as possible and contained information about how it would have been used, as well as describing events that had occurred therein. For example, the living room contained the very sofa upon which Emily had died!
The most interesting room for me however was that of Charlotte. There was a glass cabinet in the middle of the room which contained one of her dresses on a mannequin, a pair of shoes and her wedding bonnet. From looking at it, you could see that she was a petite woman with a small frame – probably not much taller than 5 foot. I spent quite a long time staring at this dress and imagining her in it; transposing the head from her portrait on to the top and visualising her standing in front of me. It was quite chilling to stand in the room she had died in and imagine her so vividly. Sometimes when you idolise someone from the past you start viewing them as an otherworldly figure, rather than just a human being who enjoyed writing, ate and slept, worried about her brother and maybe occasionally argued with her sisters.
After we were done with the house, we were free to explore the museum which contained further artefacts and information. My favourite things from the museum were the following –
- Anne Brontë’s blood stained handkerchief which she used while she had TB (another thing which just made them seem so human);
- The story of Branwell’s demise. He began tutoring in the same household where Anne was a governess, and fell in love with the mistress of the house, Mrs Robinson. She had refused to marry him and this had caused him to spiral into his drinking and depression; and
- The review of Wuthering Heights which read as follows “There is an old saying that those who eat toasted cheese at night will dream of Lucifer. The author of Wuthering Heights has evidently eaten toasted cheese.”
The whole thing had been a little depressing to be honest, but also a fascinating insight into their lives outside of their work. However, while it may be seen as tragic to die by the age of 30 in 2015, this was pretty much the norm in the early 1800’s. Public health was poor and lifespans were short.
The Brontës saw much tragedy in their lives. Their mother (Maria) and two sisters (Elizabeth and Maria) died, followed by Branwell and Emily in 1848, Anne in 1849 and Charlotte in 1855. Their father Patrick lived into his 80’s, surviving his whole family. The museum and parsonage showed us the realities of this harsh and short existence, with different spots in the house being exactly where each member of the family had died. Anne was sadly the only one not to be buried in the family tomb in Haworth, as she had died in Scarborough after a battle with TB.
The only comfort that we can draw from this is the fact that the sisters achieved more in their short lives than most people can dream of achieving in 80 years. Their legacy will be remembered for centuries more, because the messages in their books are universal and timeless. Love, passion, determination, self-respect and death; these themes are intrinsically human and will continue to inspire future generations.
Before we left Haworth we went for another walk around the village and popped into the church where Patrick Brontë would have given his sermons, and where the majority of them were eventually buried. We had a quick snack of tea cakes and scones and got back in the car to our next destination.
Being in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales was amazing – nothing but plush green farm land, sheep and patches of bright purple heather. We stopped on our way to Hawes to take some photos of the stunning scenery, on top of a place that was called Penistone Hill (lol). We continued the drive into Hawes, up and down the steepest hills you can imagine with our knuckles turning white on the steering wheel (Hertfordshire is very flat).
Our accommodation for night #2 was the Moorcock Inn, which is around 5 miles out of Hawes. The Moorcock Inn is a pub and bed & breakfast, which costs around £50 a night, including breakfast. We chose this B&B because we wanted to be near Wensleydale, and to be honest, it was the cheapest one we could find in the area.
- Free parking
- Free wifi
- Nice breakfast
- The toilet door was made of see through glass
- The hosts were not the friendliest
We drove to the high street in Hawes for dinner that evening. There were lots of pubs and fish & chip shops, but we chose the Wensleydale Pantry. I ordered a mushroom stroganoff, which was delicious, but I was once again struck down with food envy at Brunty’s delicious roast with Yorkshire puddings.
I have never felt more cosmopolitan than I did in Hawes. Not only was the Moorcock Inn in the middle of nowhere, it was also obviously the focal point of a tight knit community. I’m not the kind of person who ever feels out of place, despite any differences in home town, race, class or culture that may exist. While we didn’t have any problems per se, the reception at the Moorcock Inn felt frosty and I for one certainly felt very out of place. Despite the beautiful surroundings, I don’t think I would return to the Moorcock Inn in a hurry – there wasn’t a great deal to do around it and the atmosphere for me was uncomfortable.
Thanks for reading,