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Monday 8 January 2024

The Calderdale Windfarm

The Calderdale Windfarm

Sixty-five turbines, each one of them forty metres taller than Blackpool Tower! All of them close by Top Withens. This is what is planned by Saudi-backed developers after the government’s dropping of its moratorium on large onshore windfarms. Read this report if you have not done so already – and get in touch with your reactions!

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Nancy Garrs - headstone


Thanks to a fundraising campaign by the charity connected to Bradford's famous Undercliffe Cemetery, a headstone was unveiled yesterday to Nancy Garrs (or Nancy De Garrs) over the pauper's grave where she was buried. She was one of the servants who were in the company of the Brontë children, and was at the Thornton Parsonage  soon after the birth of Charlotte which has led to her description as 'Charlotte's nurse'. She was twelve, possibly thirteen when she began her service in July 1816. A couple of years later, Patrick Branwell and Emily Jane arrived, and Nancy's younger sister Sarah joined her in service. They stayed until 1824. 

Her grandfather was French, and she was the daughter of a local cordwainer, Richard Degarrs, who was known as Dicky Garrs. Perhaps the 'de' was dropped because at the time Napoleon was the bogeyman in the British Isles. She married Pat Wainwright, who died, then John Malone, who worked in a Bradford wool warehouse. When he died, she ended up in the Bradford Workhouse, but it was not an unpleasant experience for her because she received preferential treatment, with her own room and relatively good food, because by this time the Brontës were famous, and the mythmaking had begun, not only because of the novels but because The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell, had been published in 1857. Visitors to Haworth and its environs sought out people like Nancy, who appears in Gaskell's part-fact, part-fiction biography as 'wasteful'. Nancy was so upset that she asked Patrick Brontë to put the record straight in a kind of testimonial letter which she had framed to hang on the wall. It reads:

Haworth, August, 1857. I leave to state to all whom it may concern that Nancy and Sarah Garrs, during the time they were in service, were kind to my children, honest, and not wasteful, but sufficiently careful in regard to food and all other things entrusted to their care. P. Brontë, A.B., Incumbent of Haworth

Until now, her grave has been unmarked. Now it is suitably marked in stone, and can be visited.

Watch this on YouTube, filmed in January -

Wednesday 18 May 2022

Brontë Society June weekend 2022?

 A number of people have been in touch, particularly members from North America, wondering whether there will be a meet-up in Haworth in the second week of June (Friday 10th/Saturday 11th). The June weekend was usually described as 'AGM weekend', but this year the AGM will be held in the autumn, as it was in 2021. There are no official events planned, but according to information in recent emails to this blog, some members will be meeting unofficially. It appears that Zoom contact, useful during the pandemic, can not substitute for in-the-flesh contact. Please get in touch if you have definite plans. 

Tuesday 15 March 2022

Angela Crow-Woods

 Richard Wilcocks writes:

Angela Crow-Woods, who died on 24 February at the age of 86, was until recent years a seemingly tireless member of the Brontë Society who organised events, performed, contributed articles and was known as an expert on Maria Branwell, the mother of the Brontës. Her book on the subject, Miss Branwell’s Companion was published in 2007 and was translated into Italian in the same year.

As 'Doreen Lostock'
Her professional name was simply Angela Crow. Her career on stage began when she played truant from school to play the part of Jane Eyre in a touring production, and when she was still a student at RADA, she won the Gilbert award for comedy, the Tree award for Drama and the Emile Littler award for Outstanding Talent. She was the lead in many theatre productions, and played Lily Smalls (the maid of the Beynons) in an early stage production of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood at the New Theatre in London and later at the open air theatre in Regent's Park for the Robert Atkins Company. High-profile television work which lasted for sixty years or so followed. This included Hancock’s Half Hour, Last of the Summer Wine, Grange Hill, Heartbeat and The Royal. She was Doreen Lostock in the early sixties in Coronation Street.

She often contributed as an organiser and a performer at the Brontë Society’s traditional June weekends, often described as ‘AGM weekends’. These were attended by delegates from all over the world. To give examples, in June, 2007, Angela organised and compered a popular session of readings from the Brontës. This was mentioned in the blog report from Brussels delegate Selina Busch: 

In the same year, Angela was in Milan to meet Italian friends and to launch her book. Franca Gollini Tiezzi wrote about it here:


As part of the 2008 June weekend, Angela organised a day of events in Thornton (where she lived) which included readings from Charlotte Brontë’s letters by herself and Professor Robert Barnard: 

In 2011, the Brontë Society organised an excursion to Lothersdale, primarily to take a look at the outside of Stonegappe, the mansion which once belonged to the Sidgwick family, where Charlotte Brontë was an unhappy governess in the summer of 1839. The main part of the excursion was in the church at Kildwick, where I joined Angela in a dramatic ‘recollection’ of the events of that year. Chris Went contributed this account:

In September 2014, Angela was responsible for another event in Thornton, this time centred on Emily’s Café, which is in the Brontë birthplace. Poet Simon Zonenblick showed a preview of his video about Branwell Brontë:

And Charlotte Brontë’s birthday was celebrated at the 2016 Mirfield Arts Festival thanks to Angela:

These are just a few of many examples which show the energy of a member who was a personal friend to many, and an inspiration for the entire membership.

Thursday 20 January 2022

Dudley Green

 Richard Wilcocks writes:

Dudley Green      Photo by Richard Wilcocks

Dudley Green,
a stalwart of the Brontë Society, died on Thursday, 16 December 2021. He was 85, and had retired to the Charterhouse in London after leaving his home in Clitheroe, Lancashire. His funeral takes place at the chapel there (nearest tube Barbican) at 3pm next Tuesday, 25 January 2022. There may be (tbc) a thanksgiving service at St Martin in the Fields nearer Easter.

Dudley was a member of the Brontë Society Council (now replaced by Trustees), elected by members many times between 1991 and 2003. From 1992 to 1995 he chaired it. This was mainly before my time on Council - I was first elected in 1998 - but I soon saw him as a respected elder statesman who was full of welcome advice and information on how things ran and how things should be done. This was not always Brontë-related.

For some remote reason, my first conversation with him must have turned to the Romans (he was a retired Classics teacher), and I clearly remember that he informed me that the Roman army's javelin, the pilum, was thrown at the beginning of a battle before swords were drawn, and that it was designed to break. This was to prevent it from being thrown back.  He was extremely knowledgeable about cricket, and was rather disappointed that I was not, despite living near the famous stadium in Headingley, and was fascinated by mountain climbing. After I had told him that I had just returned from climbing in the Lake District, he informed me about a book he had written about George Mallory, who may or may not have reached the summit of Everest in 1924. The book is Because It's There: The Life of George Mallory. 

He was particularly interested in Patrick Brontë's life, and sometimes remarked on the inaccurate way he is portrayed in Elizabeth Gaskell's 1857 biography The Life of Charlotte Brontë, which is still taken as gospel in some quarters rather than Juliet Barker's encyclopaedic The Brontës (1994). In 2005, his The Letters of Rev. Patrick Brontë became the most complete published collection. It helps rehabilitate Patrick's reputation, showing him to be a tolerant and attentive father. Further rehabilitation came with the book by which he will be remembered in future, published in 2010: Patrick Brontë: Father of Genius. This contains a foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which must have greatly pleased the author, a life-long practising Anglican.

Dudley Green's memorial service (Choral Eucharist) was live streamed from St Martin-in-the-Fields at 1pm on Wednesday 16 March 2022. 

It is on YouTube at

Also on YouTube is the Choral Evensong at Blackburn Cathedral on Sunday 15 May 2022 which was a memorial to him. The address from his brother Stephen can be heard about four minutes in -

Isabel Stirk writes: 

I was so glad that I was able to see the memorial service in memory of Dudley Green. What a great tribute it was with the wonderful singing, the moving readings and hymns and the heart-felt eulogy. It was clear that he had been an established past of St Martin-in- the- Fields and had become close to the heart of the community there. It was obvious from the Reverend Dr Wells' address that Dudley had lived a full life with many interests and his close attention to detail was how he had lived that life.

We at the Brontë Society had benefited from this trait as anything Dudley did for the Society, whether it was giving a lecture, leading a walk, or chairing a meeting, was done with great care and attention. The Reverend Evens said he remembered Dudley at services sitting near the back at the right hand side. I will remember him in St Michael and All Angels Church in Haworth at the annual thanksgiving services for the Brontë family. Here he would be greeting fellow members in his cheerful, friendly way, reading a lesson in his clear voice and singing the hymns with great gusto.

Dudley was held in high regard in the Brontë Society. He was always friendly, welcoming and always willing to share his great knowledge of the Brontë family. At the service his brother showed the great love they had shared and I feel that he will miss Dudley very much. I am sure, however, that he will take comfort from the words in one of the hymns sung this afternoon: 'He knows he at the end shall life inherit.'

 Margaret McCarthy writes:

It was a lovely memorial service for Dudley at St-Martin-in-the-Fields, London where Dudley was a regular worshiper and had joined other parishioners in reading and discussion groups. The Revd Richard Carter and Revd Sam Wells both spoke of Dudley who they knew well; Revd Sam Wells using the word ‘doughty’ to describe him. 

His brother Stephen spoke lovingly of Dudley and when I mentioned that I had been on the Brontë Society Council with his brother Stephen said that Dudley, while living at Carterhouse, had been banned from saying the name Brontë in the common room and would be fined if he did so. 

Stephen has arranged a memorial for Dudley at Blackburn Cathedral on May 15 at 4pm which he hopes will be attended by many Bronte members


Sunday 16 January 2022

Red House (former) Museum in Gomersal - update

 Red House to become holiday lets

The latest attempt to connect 'commercial interests' with the interests of people described as 'literary fans' are reported on in the Dewsbury Reporter of 8 December. Here is the link:

Apparently, not-too-large marriages are anticipated...

This is an update to the previous article from last May.

Saturday 19 June 2021

Was Charlotte Brontë a Blurter?


Was Charlotte Brontë a Blurter? The evidence from Shirley 

contributed by Krista Ovist

Illustration for Shirley by
Thomas Heath Robinson (1869 - 1954)

In Chapter 12 of Shirley (1849), Charlotte Brontë stages an intellectual yet intimate conversation between her two heroines, Shirley Keeldar and Caroline Helstone.  Towards the close of this conversation it transpires that Caroline, who cherishes what she believes to be an unrequited love for Robert Moore, once asked him for a lock of his hair.  In telling Shirley about this incident, Caroline reveals that every time she remembers it she suffers an attack of renewed humiliation.  ‘It was my doing,’ she self-accuses, 

one of those silly deeds it distresses the heart and sets the face on fire to think of; one of those small but sharp recollections that return, lacerating your self-respect like tiny penknives, and forcing from your lips, as you sit alone, sudden, insane-sounding interjections.

If you’re not subject to such ‘insane-sounding interjections’ yourself, you might easily breeze past these lines without pause for thought.  But if you’re prone to this kind of private verbal seizure, your inner ears perk up.  Your pulse quickens with self-recognition.  You stop reading mid-page and assume a rapt gaze as the colossal, self-mollifying thought wallops you: Charlotte Brontë was a blurter too.  How else could she have described so precisely what this bizarre behaviour is like?

For most of my adult life, I’ve been a secret blurter.  It happens when I’m engaged in some solitary mindless activity: filling the bath, blow-drying my hair, washing the dishes, folding the laundry.  Absurd words or phrases pop out of my mouth, many of them unprintable, others just dumb:

‘I want Rabbits!’  Do I?  I wonder what for.

‘Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits!’

‘Rabbity bunnies!’

‘I love you!’

‘I hate you!’

‘I’m so tired!’

‘Go away!’

‘Go the f**king H*ll away!’

‘Shut up! shut up! shut up!’

Mornings, in the kitchen, while ironing a shirt for my husband (who’s safely out of ear-shot in the shower), I glance at the clock on the cooker and announce ‘It’s eight-o-five.’

Sometimes it’s just a silly sound, like a low-frequency vital sign: ‘Boopity-boo’.

I figured out long ago that the vocalization, whatever comes out, is meant to shout down a rising recollection of something that makes me uncomfortable.  But most of the time these automatic iterations arrive ahead of any conscious thought; they swat the air before any memory has a chance to get there.  They are a symptom of anxiety and are exacerbated by social interaction.  Any social life I engage in – a transaction in a shop, a coffee hour after Sunday worship, even a meeting of the venerable and benevolent Brontë Society, London and South East Group – can trigger a spasm of nonsensical blathering as aftermath.

For the most part, I’ve rarely given my little secret much thought.  Then, a few years ago, I noticed a decided spike in the frequency of my blurts and one or two sudden innovations in my blurt repertoire.  So I went online and tried to find out what this curious verbal tic is.  Does it have a name?  Does it progress to weirder things?  How goofy am I?

To my surprise, I found no clear references to this phenomenon in any of the many mental health webpages through which I sifted.  There’s something called Tourettic Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  That’s when obsessive intrusive thoughts give rise to involuntary movements, noises, or utterances, as with Tourette Syndrome.  But, like Caroline, I blurt only when I know I’m alone or at least fairly secluded.  The words and phrases that escape me aren’t premeditated, but they’re not exactly involuntary either.  I seem to be able to control the impulse without thinking about it and know unconsciously when it’s safe to vociferate.

And there’s something called a ‘cringe attack’.  That seems close, as it’s a wave of mortification brought on by reliving an embarrassing moment.  But absurd verbal irruptions don’t appear to be diagnostic of such paroxysms.

I also learned about studies of so-called ‘involuntary autobiographical memories’ (or IAMs), but none of the researchers who write about these ‘mind pops’ seems interested in the wacky words they sometimes prompt.

The most helpful accounts I found came, not from medical authorities or clinical descriptions, but from ordinary users of online Q&A sites and social anxiety support groups.  The best thread began with a question originally posted on 22 July 2008 at and picked up by the general information hub*  A brave soul using the moniker ‘Alabaster’ wrote this now classic (to me) confessional query, under the heading ‘Compelled to blurt...’:

            What’s with my weird compulsion?

As far as I am aware, I am a mentally healthy, well-adjusted, and sane person with no disorders.  But I have a strange, fairly innocuous quirk which seems beyond my control and I’m curious about it...


When I think of/remember something embarrassing from my life, I compulsively make some kind of noise.  It seems to happen unconsciously, before my censor can catch it and stop myself (it even happens when I am in a quiet or inappropriate place).


It’s not especially loud, in fact it’s often under my breath.  The sound is usually just a quiet grunt, or a word/syllable or two.  If I remember an embarrassing conversation, I tend to blurt out a random word of the conversation (as in, I’m replaying the dialogue in my head but then, all of a sudden, one of the words pops out of my mouth).  If it happens while I’m reading, I tend to blurt out one or two of the words that happen to be under my eyes at the moment.

It usually only happens when I’m remembering something palpably embarrassing or humiliating from my life – not for mild everyday kind of stuff.  (Again, I had a fairly happy childhood and have nothing particularly traumatic in my past – I don’t think my embarrassing memories are any worse than the average Joe’s.)


So what is this, do I have some kind of low-grade Tourette’s syndrome?  Is there a name for this phenomenon?  Does it happen to others, or is it unique to me?

It is in honour of Alabaster that I call this phenomenon ‘blurting’; Alabaster named it first.  A hundred and thirty people responded to Alabaster, all elated to find that they were not alone and eager to relate their experiences and share their ‘wince words’, as one contributor (yclept ‘yclipse’) happily put it.  People’s repertoires were astonishingly similar to one another’s and to mine: predictably, there were the expletives, but also the strange declarations of undying love and/or hate, often directed at long forgotten ex-partners, but just as often offered up to no one in particular.  Here is a florilegium of my favourites: 

I do this too.  I say basically random words.  It was “Harley Davidson” for a long time, and “hula hoop” for a long time.  I'm mostly able to suppress it when there are people around, but not always.  (Posted by ‘lastobelus’)

Yep, I do this.  My word is “twelve.”  Or sometimes “Imagine twelve.”  But I only do it on my own.  I can stop myself.  (Posted by ‘creeky’)

For me it’s an exasperated “Ahh! Kill me!” followed by a slight giggle. (Posted by ‘tkolar’)

Mine are “givemeagun!”… and “ineedaknife”….  Lately, though, it’s been “Nobody!”  I know that this last one used to mean something, but I can’t even remember what.  (Posted by ‘Ian A.T.’)

…earlier this year, everything I said in those moments had something to do with eyeballs.  As in, “oh my eyeball!”  Or “blowing up your eyeballs now.”  (Posted by ‘Coatlicue’)


Oh, wow.  I do this too all the time, especially in the past 5 years or so.  One phrase that seems to be stuck in my head is “I want to go home.”  I have no idea where it came from and I often say it... you know... at home.  This thread makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.  (Posted by ‘brundlefly’)


I am reading this with my jaw dropped in awe.  I laughed, I cried, I became aware.  Blurting is what I do mostly.  Sometimes I’ll shake the memory out or clench my hand.  But sometimes a word will just pop into my head and “chinchilla” is floating out there.  WTF??  I’m laughing so hard right now.  (Posted by ‘eddiebaby’) 

One contribution was especially relevant to the question here investigated – viz. was Charlotte Brontë a blurter?  A literary-minded poster known by the sobriquet ‘arcanecrowbar’ wrote:

An aside about this – a few years ago I was reading Dickens’ Bleak House for the first time.  Somewhere in that novel (sorry I have no way of finding the passage!) Dickens follows a minor character around for a while and gives an exact description of this phenomenon – the guy has a memory of an acutely embarrassing event and gets out of it by mumbling some nonsense phrase to himself.

I have to say I’ve ransacked Bleak House without finding any character I’d spot for a proper blurter.  Mr Guppy is certainly a painfully awkward soul, and Mr Jarndyce has his ‘growlery’ where he goes when he’s in a foul mood, and Dickens depicts the latter lapsing into sotto voce commentaries intelligible only to himself, but neither character is ever observed, in an unguarded moment alone, in the grip of a really good blurt fit.  Be that as it may (and I may have overlooked what arcanecrowbar had in mind), the important point is this: whereas it’s easy to imagine that Dickens, a noted social animal, wrote about human eccentricities based on close observation of others, it’s almost impossible to resist the inference that Charlotte Brontë gave Caroline Helstone this idiosyncrasy based on her own personal experience.  As with everything she knew about intimately, she worked it into her fiction.

This is my bold thesis, then: Caroline’s discourse in Chapter 12 of Shirley constitutes compelling warrant for concluding that Charlotte Brontë was a blurter.

But why end the wild speculation there?  This passage plants other fancies in my brain.  Dare we take the next step and conjecture that Charlotte Brontë once asked Constantine Heger for a lock of his hair and that, forever after, the recollection of this show of hopeless devotion sent her into throes of explosive blurts?  I think so.

We know that Charlotte, even though she found the courage to brave the wider world, was never comfortable outside her closest circle of family and friends.  Like most people with social anxiety, she probably imagined that she had behaved foolishly or said something stupid after nearly every human contact, and she probably blurted over the least encounter.  But her comportment over Heger must have afforded her a generous store of blurt-worthy memories.  Never mind what she may have said to him directly; if I had written some of those abject letters she sent him, I for one would blurt for all I’m worth every time the post hit the floor.

If it is extracting too much from this passage to suppose that the specific detail of having asked an object of romantic feeling for a lock of hair was drawn from life, then I submit that this detail is the fictionalization of some similar Heger-related indiscretion.  Such indiscretions, this passage tells us, tormented Charlotte Brontë and goaded her to outbursts that appalled her but probably also gave her fits of private giggles she shared with no one – no one, that is, except for readers likewise afflicted who find in Caroline’s words the confessions of a fellow-blurter.

So, what, I wonder, were Charlotte Brontë’s favourite wince words?



‘Imagine twelve!’? (Well, she did.)

‘I love Wellington!’?

Perhaps her blurts are legible in that strange exclamation – ‘Stuff! Phd!’ – in the Roe Head Journal entry beginning ‘I’m just going to write because I cannot help it’.

Or maybe her blurts were in French.

‘Je t’aime!’?

‘Je te deteste!’?

‘J'ai besoin d'un couteau!’?

‘Nous faisons exploser vos globes oculaires maintenant!’?

Some things we’ll just never know.

Illustration for Shirley by C.E. Brock (1870 - 1938)

Listen!... I think she's about to blurt.  

*As of 15 May 2021 this thread could still be accessed at