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Monday, 30 July 2007

Well-dressed on Wednesday

Here's a reminder - on Wednesday next week (8 August) at 11am, 2pm and 4pm, History Wardrobe will bring Jane Eyre - The Well-Dressed Governess to the Parsonage.

Here is what they say about it:

The genteel, demure and modest fashions of the 1840s could sometimes clothe a woman of high intelligence and passionate intensity. Charlotte Brontë was one such woman. Her greatest fictional heroine - Jane Eyre - was another. Gillian Stapleton uses exquisite replica clothes and delightful original items to examine Jane's wardrobe in detail, following her fictional career from charity schoolgirl to governess then fairytale bride, exploring just how close the sartorial links between Jane and her creator really were.

Contact the Parsonage on 01535 640196 for the latest info

Sunday, 22 July 2007

A surprise walk to Brontë Falls

Brontë Society member Maddalena de Leo left temperatures of forty degrees in Ascea – Velia (not far from Salerno in Italy) for a visit to Haworth, where the temperature was a little less. As arranged earlier this year, she met up with Richard Wilcocks and has now sent the following account:

On 5 July last, the morning appointed for our meeting, I found myself at the Brontë Parsonage meeting with Richard Wilcocks, the recent editor of BS Gazette and until the end of June Chairman of the Council.

I and my daughter Francesca had arrived at Haworth the evening before and it was just the first day of our holiday, our disappointment being the wet, cloudy and cold weather all around us. What a pity not to be able to go to the moors that day!

Mr Wilcocks was waiting for me when I came out of the Parsonage Museum and, just after we met and greeted he proposed on the spot to leave for the so longed-for walk to the moors, maybe arriving at Brontë Falls and not Top Withins as he had originally planned. At first I and my daughter were very perplexed – rain and wind are not at all congenial to Mediterranean people and also windcheaters and umbrellas are usually a burden even in winter – but we both took courage and willingly followed our guide along the moor path he firmly took.

And it was really a blessed walk, with green all around and Yorkshire sheep here and there nibbling at the grass. Once beyond Middle Intake Farm my daughter and Mr Wilcocks started taking photos and he also showed us a purple long flower called a foxglove growing surprisingly solitary just there.

Finally after a long windy walk we arrived at Brontë Falls and the view was really breathtaking. The waters coming down from the hills met fluently, chasing each other, and a nice little stone bridge was there just to sit on to think about the Brontë sisters chatting and resting on the same spot almost two centuries ago. There was also a group of young students there and I was able to have a talk with their teachers.

After some time and a little rest the way back seemed shorter. Thank you Richard with all my heart! Without your insistence I would have never ventured into the moors because of that awful weather and without a guide during this sixth wet stay in Haworth. I surely would have lost a new chance to breathe my Brontës magic scent.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Vote for us now!

Vote Brontë Parsonage ‘Britain’s Best’ historical site with UKTV History!

This year, Brontë Parsonage is involved in UKTV History’s Britain’s Best campaign to find the nation’s favourite historic site. Hosted by Alan Titchmarsh, the campaign will involve two television series and a final programme presenting the winner as decided by you, the British public.

With voting drawing to a close, show your support for the Parsonage by voting online at, call 09011 31 2007 (calls cost 50p) or text BEST BRONTE PARSONAGE to 83222 (texts cost 50p plus standard network charges). You can also vote in person using the voting boxes at the Parsonage.

With just 1,500 votes we need your support and as someone who values the Parsonage we would ask that you take the time to vote for us. The website also gives you the opportunity to express why the Parsonage is important to you by writing your own review and/or uploading any images you may have of the Museum.

Watch Britain’s Best on UKTV History (Sky channel 537, Virgin TV 203 and Freeview 12) from 23 July to 27 August, and don’t miss the result on 17 September to see whether your support has paid off!

Alan Bentley

Still on the subject of voting........make sure you have voted for our Collections Manager Ann Dinsdale's handsome recent book The Brontës at Haworth. This is up for a new award which celebrates the very best of Yorkshire writing. The winner will be announced at the end of September at the Richmond Book Festival by local MP William Hague.

Ready-made voting cards are available in libraries and bookshops or you could visit The closing date is soon - 31 July.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Yorkshire Day at the Parsonage

The next event organised by the Friends of the Brontë Parsonage will be held on Sunday 29 July, the day that Haworth is celebrating Yorkshire Day. The Friends will be serving tea and home-made cakes in the small field next to the Parsonage from 10.30a.m. until 4.00p.m. There will also be a second-hand book stall, a plant stall and a craft stall selling items made by Museum staff.

So far this year the Friends have held a Ceilidh to celebrate Patrick Brontë's birthday and the Irish connection, sold tea and scones over two days at the Haworth 1940s event (the Parsonage remained open throughout the war years) and held a raffle at the Bronte Society AGM weekend in June.

In addition they have also served refreshments at various evenings organised as part of the Museum's Education Programme. It has been a busy six months and in this short space of time the Friends have raised over £1,000 for Museum projects, so please come along and support them.

Pat Berry

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

New Acquisitions

The Brontë Society has recently acquired three new items for the Museum Collection. They are:

A letter written to the Trustees for the Church Lands of Haworth, dated 1 February 1834, written by Charlotte Brontë and signed by her father. The letter concerns the rotation of the Trustees and the division of labour in collecting the rents. It was formerly owned by a descendant of James Greenwood of Haworth

The Society also purchased two letters which were auctioned at Christie’s on 3 July. They are Charlotte’s letter to W.S. Williams, written on 9 November 1849, and Patrick Brontë’s letter to George Taylor of Stanbury, dated 29 February 1844. Both letters were part of the huge collection of important historical letters amassed by Albin Schram, found in a filing cabinet in his laundry room.

Charlotte’s letter was written just days after the publication of Shirley, and expresses her disappointment on reading the first reviews. Charlotte was clearly missing the support and encouragement of her sisters Emily and Anne, who both died whilst she was writing the novel, leaving her vulnerable to the critics’ hurtful comments.

Patrick’s letter is a compassionate appeal written on behalf of Enoch Thomas, one of his churchwardens, said to be suffering a ‘very severe and great affliction’. He is clearly concerned about Thomas’s well-being and believes that ‘his friends ought to do for him all that lies within their power’. After attempting to interest George Taylor in Thomas’s plight, Mr Brontë goes on to enquire after Taylor’s own family. It is a letter which challenges the notion that the Brontës had little contact with the world outside their parsonage home, and that Patrick Brontëwas a selfish recluse who took little interest in the lives of his parishioners.

Details of the letter and a transcript will be published in the Society’s journal, Brontë Studies, and for those who are unable to visit the museum we are currently developing an online catalogue with virtual access to items in the Collection. It is our intention that this letter be appreciated by audiences beyond the locality of the Museum and access via the internet is one way in which this can be achieved.

All three letters will be displayed at the Parsonage over the coming months.

Ann Dinsdale
Collections Manager

Monday, 9 July 2007

Brontë - the name

This is my report on the 'What's in a name?' campaign which began just before Easter. To illustrate it, thunder clouds, because Bronte means thunder in Greek.

The aim of the letter sent to named managing directors of about forty companies in March (and subsequent phone calls) when I was still Chairman of the Brontë Society was not just to obtain donations and sponsorship but to put the Parsonage in the public eye just before Easter. A media release was sent out on 19 March 2007 which resulted in substantial articles in the local and national press, ten minutes on the Radio 4 programme You and Yours and two sessions of a similar length on the Radio Leeds Breakfast Show.

John Roberts wrote an article which was prominently placed (page 2) in the Yorkshire Post of 20 March. An article by Louise Jury in the Independent on 21 March was well-informed and accompanied by three illustrations. There was also a 'third leader' about the letter by Charles Nevin on the editorial page. On the same day, a very good article by Clive White (who rang several companies in the local area) was published in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Other articles appeared in the Keighley News and on various blogs and websites.

The You and Yours interview (lunchtime 26 March) resulted in a number of phone calls and emails, all sympathetic. The programme had used no less than four researchers to phone around for reactions from companies found on the Internet, which made me jealous. One reaction, from a Mr Robert Bolton from Bronte Whirlpools Ltd of Silsden, turned out to be typical – “I chose the name because the company is in Bronte Country. Otherwise we would have been Aqua something.”

The Radio Leeds broadcasts resulted in phone calls to the station, one or two jokey but all of them sympathetic. The presenter mentioned that she had been impressed by the Parsonage Museum during visits there, and there was talk of the fact that it might be a good place to visit over Easter.

The companies which received the letters were sifted from a long list after a check (by a volunteer named Ruth Wilson at the Parsonage!) that they were still in business and that they were reasonably large. Many of them received follow-up phone calls from myself. Some replies were cautious or evasive (eg “I’ll ring back when I have discussed this with my partner/head office etc”), some were surprised (“What letter?”) and some were very friendly. Here is a selection:

Rita Marsden from Brontë Weaving Shed in Haworth (visited personally) said that she was sending the letter on to head office in Edinburgh but that she was “interested in collaboration”.

Miriam Spollen from Brontë Bridal in Dublin was very friendly, and would like to visit the Parsonage (she comes over to Harrogate frequently). She promised a cheque and said she would get back to me in the autumn.

Julie Eyre from Brontë Business Networks of Solihull said she chose Brontë because of her own name and because she used to live in Oakworth. She sent her best wishes but added that hers is a start-up company and unable to give donations at the moment. However, the company would be willing to give advice on websites.

Mrs Clare Pickles of Brontë Country Cottages “will ring back after I have discussed it with my husband”.

Mr H.S. Sohal of Brontë Countrywear Ltd (Manchester) “will ring back after I have discussed it with fellow directors”.

John Matthewman of Brontë Tweeds rang to invite me to tour his mill in Tingley, which I did. It has not changed much for a hundred years and produces mainly tartan blankets and lambswool scarves of high quality. Apparently the same products can be labelled 'Brontë' or 'Highland'.

“It’s to emphasise that they are British,” he explained. “We are one of the few working mills left around here. We have so much competition from India and China.” He is unable to donate money but told me about a deal he has with the National Trust. He can supply items like scarves “at cost price” for resale. This information has been relayed to Parsonage shop manager Sean Killian, who will pay a visit.

Stephen Leach from Brontë Engineering Technologies also invited me to visit his company in Bradford, which specialises in valves for desalination plants. He was very sympathetic, has visited the Parsonage, and spent much of the visit telling me about the uselessness of Bradford Council. He has asked for his company website (currently under construction) to be linked to the Parsonage website and the Parsonage Blog, and said that he will send a cheque.

Alan Hardie of Patterson Arran Ltd of Livingston, Scotland (Brontë Biscuits, Café Brontë) sent a letter saying that there were “opportunities to work with you” but claimed to have “limited funds”, so no donation.

Sir James Aykroyd Bt (of Birstwith Hall, Harrogate) sent a letter saying that he had bought Brontë Liqueur and related trademarks some time ago “but due to other interests have so far done nothing to commercialise the product”. He pointed out that Sir James Roberts was his grandmother’s father, and that he can do little to help us at the moment – but he attached a cheque for fifty pounds. He said that should Brontë Liqueur be reintroduced he would be happy to include in the selling price a small contribution to the Society for each bottle sold. He wished us good luck in our fund raising efforts. In a subsequent phone call he repeated what he had put in the letter. He was invited to visit the Parsonage.

Incidentally I did not stand for re-election as Chairman of the Brontë Society at the last meeting of Council. I can no longer spare the time because my small business (publications and design) is expanding.

Richard Wilcocks

Below, a reminder of the original letter:


Copy of the original letter below:

Dear (name of Managing Director)

I am writing to you for the simple reason that your company uses the name Brontë in its title. I am guessing that this was chosen because it confers a certain prestige upon you, associating you in the public’s imagination with the Brontë family and perhaps the Brontë Parsonage Museum as well. Bronte is both the name of a town in Sicily and the Greek word for thunder, and it was chosen by the Reverend Patrick Brontë (with the addition of the diaeresis) as a new version of his family name of Brunty early in the Nineteenth Century, mainly because of its associations with Lord Nelson, a national hero at the time.

I hope that «Company_Name» is currently prospering. I am wondering whether you have recently visited the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, which is run by the Brontë Society. If you have, you will know that the home of the Brontë family, the Georgian house where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë wrote the books which made them world famous, is lovingly preserved by a dedicated staff in spite of a tight budget.

There is a programme of special events at the museum which runs throughout the year, which includes special exhibitions, talks, day-schools, courses, children’s holiday workshops, film, theatre and musical performances. Its education programme is ‘inspired’ according to the Judges’ Citation for winners of the prestigious Sandford Award.

The Brontë Society possesses one of the most important collections of Brontë items in the world, housed in the Parsonage, an invaluable resource for the many researchers seeking to shed further light on the Brontë writings, the Brontë family and the social, political and economic history of the Brontë times. Thus, there will always be a demand on the Society’s financial resources as newly-discovered and existing Brontëana come on to the market. There is also a considerable cost in the professional care, conservation, storage and management of the Society’s existing collection.

The Brontë Society gets no direct government assistance, so it is reliant on the generosity of its supporters and visitors to the museum. This is where you come in, because I believe that you could help. I am inviting you to make a donation to us, which would be gratefully received and publicly acknowledged.

Your company could sponsor an appropriate artefact, a special event, an exhibition, a children’s workshop…….the list is long. Or, you could contribute to our Acquisitions Fund, with a focus on a particular item. Your company’s name would feature in our publicity.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me by letter or email, or by ringing me directly on . I would be very happy to meet you personally to discuss how you could help us.

Best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Two letters for the Parsonage

Good news! The Parsonage was able to buy the two Brontë-related letters which were auctioned at Christie’s yesterday as part of the Albin Schram collection which has been featuring in the national news.

The first is a letter from Charlotte to William Smith Williams written in November 1849, in which she flays the critics of Shirley. An extract from the letter is in Margaret Smith's collection, but the entire letter is unpublished. The Parsonage attempted to buy the letter in 1999 but missed out - so it is even more satisfying to have got it now at a good hammer price - £18,500.

The second letter is from Patrick: “In this letter, Mr Brontë writes to George Taylor, one of the trustees of Haworth Church, on behalf of Enoch Thomas, one of his churchwardens. He is clearly concerned about Thomas’s well-being and believes that ‘his friends ought to do for him all that lies within their power’. After attempting to interest George Taylor in Thomas’s plight, Mr Brontë goes on to enquire after Taylor’s own family.

"It is a letter which challenges the notion that the Brontës had little contact with the world outside their parsonage home, and that Patrick Brontë was a selfish recluse who took little interest in the lives of his parishioners.”

Again the letter was missed out on in 1999, but has now been purchased for a very reasonable £2600

Alan Bentley

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Well-dressed in August

Throughout August, the Parsonage will be hosting a summer season of family activities to ensure children of all ages have something exciting to do in the school holidays, whilst learning a thing or two about the lives of the Brontë family.

Events take place on consecutive Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays commencing 7 August and ending on 30 August 2007. These will include exploring history through artefacts, re-enactions and arts and crafts workshops.

New this year will be an audio dramatization of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë leading on from the display at the Museum, and a Brontë trail for families to follow accompanied by tour guides who will tell the story of life in and around the Parsonage.

Note down the date for a new costumed performance of Jane Eyre, the well dressed Governess on Wednesday 8 August at 11.00am, 2.00pm and 4.00pm which will explore the life of Jane Eyre through the clothes that she wore.

The summer season is always popular, with children and parents from across the UK making the trip to the Parsonage. Children will get the chance to dress up, write with quill pens and make bags and shoes whilst adults are entertained by Museum staff - in particular Andrew McCarthy - staging the hilarious Branwell’s About on the front lawn.

The Museum is open from 10.00 am to 5.30 pm and all activities are free upon admission.


Tuesdays - 11.30am - Guided Walk
12.30 pm - Branwell’s About
1.30 pm - Tabby’s Tour
2.30 pm - Guided Walk
3.30 pm - Branwell’s About

Wednesdays - Hands on History – Dress up, write with quill pens and take part in activities whilst handling a collection of artefacts exploring history and life in the Parsonage

Wed 8 August - Jane Eyre, the well dressed Governess

Thursdays - 11.00 am - 1.00 pm & 2.00pm - 4.00 pm
Arts and Crafts for all the family

Diane Kay

For general information please contact the Brontë Parsonage Museum on
+44 1535 642323 or visit