Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Anne Brontë's Headstone

Apologies for not posting this statement (made on behalf of Brontë Society Council) last week - the email forwarding system was faulty, but has now been fixed. Your comments are, of course, welcome (Richard W)

The deterioration in the condition of Anne Brontës headstone, that many commented on in 2009, worsened through the long hard winter of 2009-10.  Concerned about the deterioration, only seven years after conservation work had been carried out on the headstone, the Brontë Society commissioned a second professional conservator to undertake a condition survey at the end of 2009.  That report agreed with the 2002 report that once the laminated surface of the stone has been penetrated, as has occurred on Annes stone, further erosion is inevitable and so long as the stone remains in its exposed salt-laden environment, even constant treatment will only slow the rate of physical loss.  This summer, the Brontë Society received a third professional opinion, this one from a senior church buildings officer with the Diocese of York, that confirmed that restoration in situ would be no more effective than was Canute against the tide.

Throughout this summer, the Brontë Society has been engaged in broad consultation with parties concerned about the future of Annes headstone.  These have included many of its own members, bloggers to the Brontë Parsonage Blog, local and tourist visitors to the grave, the Vicar of Scarborough, the St Marys Parochial Church Council and Diocesan officers.  Options presented included leaving the original headstone to decay where it stands, its replacement by a replica, and the removal of Annes body to Haworth.  The consensus that emerged from the consultations was so overwhelming that the Council of the Brontë Society voted unanimously at its meeting on 18 September to leave the original headstone to decay where it stands but to commission the cutting of an interpretive plaque to be installed at the headstones base.  The exact wording of the original stone would be engraved on the plaque together with some brief historical interpretation. The plaque would be of slate, slate being native, durable and as hospitable as is sandstone to the local flora such as lichens.  The Scarborough St Marys Parochial Church Council supports the installation of such a plaque and the necessary permission will be sough from the Diocese of York Consistory Court. If the Court consents, it is hoped that the slate plaque can be engraved and installed during 2011.

Stephen Whitehead
Brontë Society Trustee for Heritage & Conservation
28 September 2010

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