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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Red House Celebration

Kirklees Brontë Group invites everyone to come and join them at Red House Museum - in the restored cart sheds - to celebrate Christmas and the two hundredth  anniversary of Patrick Brontë's  marriage. The date is Saturday 15 December from 1.15 - 3.15pm. Descendants of his sister Sarah have been invited, and mulled wine will be available. You will be able to view the seasonally decorated house, and there will be a Santa for the children.

Books and toys will be on sale to help raise funds to publish a book about former Red House residents and their visitors. These include the last family to reside at Red House before it became a museum - Lord Shaws.  Some Brontë family recipes will be included.  Money raised from the sale of the book will go to Holly Bank school (formerly Roe Head) in Mirfield, and Friends of Red House Museum in Gomersal. (From Imelda Marsden)
Red House Opening Hours:

From 1 October to 28 February new winter opening hours apply:
Tuesday to Thursday 11am to 4pm;
Saturday to Sunday 12noon to 4pm.
Monday and Friday: Museum closed.

Admission to Red House:
Adult: £2.50
Child: £1.00
Family: £6.00 (two adults and up to four children)
Kirklees Passport holders: 50% discount.

Annual ticket for Red House and Oakwell Hall
Adult: £6.00
Child: £2.50
Family: £14.50 (two adults and up to four children)
Kirklees Passport holders: 50% discount

Visiting groups should pre-book.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Planning Committee meeting

Chris Went, Heritage & Conservation Officer, writes: 

On Tuesday, 13 November Sally McDonald (Brontë Society Chair) and I met in Halifax to attend the committee meeting which would decide on the planning application to repower Ovenden Moor windfarm.

This repowering, unlike the proposal to erect a wind test mast on Thornton Moor, has not generated any concerted opposition.  There is no local group dedicated to stopping this development and although the group which opposes the Thornton Moor proposals was supportive, with individuals lodging objections with Calderdale Council, Ovenden is not their battleground.  Opposition from Calderdale residents was patchy and it was surprising that the local newspaper, the Halifax Courier, carried so few articles about the development.  At the committee meeting, therefore, Sally and I, as representatives of the Brontë Society, seemed to represent the largest single aspect of opposition – the impact on visual amenity – and as a result, Sally agreed to speak for all the objectors present, including the respresentative of Luddenden Civic Society.

After the Planning Officer had presented the application, Sally was allowed five minutes to speak for the objectors.  Although so little time was allowed, Sally put reiterated the objections of the Brontë Society, and stressed the High Court ruling of Mrs Justice Lang which said that energy requirements should not take priority over consideration for the landscape.  No questions were asked, and she was followed by the councillor for Illingworth and Mixenden who supported the application.  Emma Clark, the agent for Yorkshire Wind Power then spoke for the application.  Questions put to her by the panel of councillors allowed her more than the allotted five minutes to put her views.

Although the panel members were supposed to debate, this item on the agenda was nothing more than four of the panel expressing support for the application on the grounds – contrary to Mrs Justice Lang’s Hemsby ruling - that Calderdale’s need to meet its green targets was more important than what was considered to be a slight negative impact on the landscape.  Two councillors did not speak but at the vote, supported the application so that agreement was unanimous.

Naturally we are very disappointed with the outcome, but understand that the application may be called in by the government for review by the Planning Inspectorate.  If there is an opportunity to make a representation to the Secretary of State we shall do so.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Windfarm decision - our disappointment

News Release
Bronte Society expresses disappointment at Ovenden Moor windfarm decision

The Brontë Society wishes to express its disappointment with the decision by Calderdale Council to grant planning permission to Yorkshire Wind Power for the repowering of the windfarm at Ovenden Moor.
We feel that this decision demonstrates a lack of consideration for a unique heritage landscape which has internationally renowned cultural associations.  It shows, also, an insensitive disregard for the negative impact upon the environment and upon the local economy of Haworth and the area known as Brontë Country.
The Society has received a huge level of interest and support from all over the world.  We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude and to give an assurance of our continued commitment to Haworth’s cultural and historical significance.
 13 November 2012
For further information please contact the Bronte Parsonage Museum on 01535 642323 /

Discovering the Brontës in Brussels

Helen MacEwan's book has finally been printed and the BS bookshop is now selling it. It’s advertised on the shop website under Miscellaneous books - click here to go to it.

Helen MacEwan writes:

A project I’ve been working on for some time, a book about the genesis and development of the Brussels Brontë Group (which started up in 2006) is finally completed; it has now been printed and copies are available. You can buy it in the English bookstores Waterstones and Sterling Books in Brussels, or from the Brontë Parsonage Museum shop. Click on the link above.

In the course of writing it I interviewed and spoke to many people in the group, and the book is about their discovery of the Brontës in Brussels as well as mine. So it’s something of a group project.

The book is called Down the Belliard Steps: Discovering the Brontës in Brussels

Charlotte and Emily Brontë’s stay in Brussels in 1842-43 to improve their French was to prove a momentous one for Charlotte in particular. She fell in love with her French teacher, Constantin Heger, and her experiences in the Belgian capital inspired two of her four novels, Villette and The Professor. Yet the Brontës’ Brussels episode remains the least-known of their lives.

When Helen MacEwan moved to Brussels in 2004 she discovered that not many people there seemed to know much about the Brontës’ time in the city. She herself had a lot to find out about their life in the Pensionnat Heger at the bottom of the Belliard steps. In the process of doing so she met other people who were similarly fascinated by the story, and with them formed the Brussels branch of the Brontë Society.

For all these people, following in Charlotte and Emily's tracks in modern-day Brussels, and setting up a literary group, was a voyage of discovery. In the course of telling their story, Helen finds some odd parallels between the Brussels of their day and ours, and reflects on why the Brontës' time there is so fascinating.

Photo of Helen MacEwan by Cassandre Sturbois.
ISBN No 978-0-9573772-0-2      Paperback        146 pp

Monday, 12 November 2012

Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights

Jenna Holmes writes:
Andrea Arnold’s 2011 film adaptation of Wuthering Heights will be screened in Haworth on Friday 23 November, 7.30pm, at the West Lane Baptist Centre. The gritty film is a minimalist take on Emily Brontë’s novel which strips away the traditional conventions of a period drama. Featuring a cast of unknown actors, and depicting a mixed race Heathcliff for the first time on screen, the film’s cinematography by Robbie Ryan foregrounds the wild, brooding Yorkshire landscape and the soundtrack is taken purely from nature. With a limited cinema release last year, this is another chance to see the film on the big screen if you missed it the first time around! 

The screening is a collaboration between the Parsonage and Haworth Cinema. The film has been programmed to coincide with the landscape exhibition Ways to the Stone House, currently on display at the Parsonage. Haworth Cinema successfully turns Haworth’s Baptist church into a cinema twice every month to show a programme of new releases.

The novel has been adapted for film and television many times, including the 1939 Hollywood version starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, and the 1997 version when Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche took on the title roles. Andrea Arnold took a very different approach to the book, filming in North Yorkshire using hand held cameras, and casting mainly non-professional actors, including unknown Leeds actor James Howson who took the lead role of Heathcliff, and was the first black actor to play the part on screen.

Tickets are £3 on the door; no need to book in advance.  Certificate 15.

 Watch the trailer

Read this blog review

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Desecration of Brontë Bell Chapel

An organised gang of stone thieves is thought to be behind a robbery in Thornton near the historic Bell Chapel, which is connected with Brontë baptisms. About thirty yards  of heavy stone was ripped up - with a total monetary worth of just five hundred pounds. Three gravestones were included in the haul.

The gravestones are six feet by three feet each and six inches thick - which means that it would take four hefty men to lift each one.

“We’re shocked that the church has been desecrated. Some of the graves date back two hundred years. This has upset a lot of local people, it’s just awful,” Old Bell Chapel action group co-ordinator Steve Stanworth said.

Local people have put in twelve years of voluntary labour to restore the Brontë Bell Chapel, and feelings are running high. One stolen gravestone is dated 1790, and another was for John and Mary Pickles and five children, from the early nineteenth century. Another bears the names of Hannah and James Abbott and their 28-year-old daughter Mary. They died in 1828.

The police are appealing for information: the thefts took place between 9pm on Friday 19 October and 8am on Saturday 20 October. Anybody who knows anything about the incident should ring Crimestoppers - 0800 555 111                Click here to email this blog.

Link to BBC report is here.                          Photo: BBC

Read this story from the Huddersfield Daily Examiner about a gang of stone thieves, and this story from The Telegraph about metal thieves operating in Hornchurch, Essex.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

In Search of the Brontës in Brussels

Laura Rocklyn writes from New York:
Every time I have read the passage at the beginning of The Professor in which William Crimsworth summons up his memories of Brussels saying, “Belgium!  I repeat the word now as I sit alone near midnight.  It stirs my world of the past like a summons to resurrection,” (Professor 41), I have wanted to visit Belgium and the spots that Charlotte Brontë knew while living there.  This spring I finally realized that dream when I was able to stop in Brussels during a trip around Belgium with my mother.

As I began planning for my day in Brussels, I was astounded by how little information is available about the Brontë sights in modern-day Brussels, but, through the magic of the internet, I found a little book entitled Brussels for Pleasure that details thirteen walks around the city and included one called “Charlotte Brontë and the royal quarter.”  Many of the sights that I had wanted to visit from The Professor, Villette and from the letters Charlotte wrote during her time in Brussels were included in the walk.

Excitement had me up early on my morning in Brussels and ready to set out to find all of the places I was looking for in the city. First on my list was the site of the Pensionnat Heger where Charlotte and Emily both studied, and where Charlotte spent time as a teacher.  I knew that the actual building had been demolished in 1909, but that the statue of General Belliard and the worn flight of steps described in Villette and in The Professor were still there to mark the spot.

After making good use of my rusty high school French to ask directions, we finally made our way as far as the Place Royale.  I felt an enormous rush of excitement when I saw the beautiful white buildings rising up before me -- “the magnificent street and square, with the grandest houses round” (Villette 55) that Lucy had hurried through in search of the inn that Graham had directed her to upon her arrival in Villette -- and I knew that I was close to the end of my search.  I followed the Rue Royale, with anticipation rising at every step, until the statue of General Belliard appeared on my left just as Graham had said it would in his directions to Lucy.  And there I, like William Crimsworth, “stood awhile to contemplate the statue of General Belliard and then I advanced to the top of the great staircase just beyond” (The Professor 45).  Sadly, the staircase is now covered with graffiti and the view at the bottom is of a disappointingly modern street, but it was still such a splendid feeling to be standing on that spot I had read about so many times!

Next, I crossed the street and went into the Parc de Bruxelles where Lucy ended up at the Assumption Day fete. We found the bandstand where she spotted Graham and Paulina, which Lucy describes as “ a Byzantine building – a sort of kiosk near the park’s center,” (Villette 425).  It was really thrilling for me to find this particular site because it was one of the spots I had been afraid would be too well-hidden for me to find in the somewhat overgrown and labyrinthine park with so little direction from the novel.

After exploring the park, I walked down the hill to the Cathedral of Saint Gudule where both Lucy in Villette and Charlotte in real life were moved to make confession.  I could not imagine the feelings of someone who was brought up in Haworth upon being confronted with the portentous grandeur of this cathedral.  On the cloudy day of my visit, I could easily see the aptness of the description in Villette, “It was an old solemn church, its pervading gloom not gilded but purpled by light shed through stained glass” (Villette 147).  In the side isles of the nave some of the beautiful antique carved Confessionals were still on display – three on each side of the nave.  A thrill at the thought of Charlotte’s experience in one of these Confessionals made me stop in my tracks and examine the ornate carvings of the Confessionals more closely.  I bought a small medallion of St. Gudule in the gift shop before we left as a reminder of the day and of the experience.

The next stop was Waterloo in honor of the victory won there by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, and father of Arthur Adrian Wellesley, who young Charlotte Brontë turned into the Duke of Zamorna as the hero of her Angrian tales.  I began at the Wellington museum, which has been created at the inn where the Duke spent the night before the battle in 1815.  In the room where the Duke of Wellington had staid, a waxwork figured of him has been placed as if working at his desk, and it was a strange thrill on a Brontë-themed trip to see the portrait behind him labeled “Arthur Wellesley.”

Next I went out to the battlefield itself where I scaled the Lion Mount to view the surrounding fields.  It was difficult to imagine that such a horrible, bloody event had taken place on that peaceful, green farmland.  It was also remarkable to contemplate the number of works of literature that have taken inspiration form the events that took place at that field on June 18, 1815.  Many of my favorite novels, from Thackeray’s Vanity Fair to Tolstoy’s War and Peace to Hugo’s Les Miserables, have pivotal scenes set during and around the Battle of Waterloo.

The quick visits I was able to make to each of these spots only made me want to return and explore them with more leisure, and to see if I could not unearth other well-hidden Brontë sites in Brussels.  The beauty and interest of the sites made them all well worth the visit, and I would highly recommend such a trip to any other Brontë enthusiast!

Brief Bibliography:
Blyth, Derek. Brussels for Pleasure: Thirteen Walks Through the Historic City. (London: Pallas Athene, 2003).
Brontë, Charlotte, The Professor. (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Classics, 1994).
Brontë, Charlotte, Villette. (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Classics, 1994).

Richard Wilcocks adds: The Brussels Brontë Blog can be found here.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Threat to Haworth's Green Belt Land?

Chris Went writes:
Concerns have been raised that part of the grazing land at Weaver’s Hill may again be under threat of development.  The land, which is part of the green belt, abuts the lane to Oxenhope which, associated with Charlotte Brontë’s meetings with Arthur Bell Nicholls, is known locally as Charlotte’s Path. 

Bradford Metropolitan District Council’s planning department has flagged the land as being potentially available for new housing as part of the Local Development Framework, but because it is green belt, any such use would only be permitted when all other possible sites had been exhausted.  Furthermore, land allocations under the LDF are still far from being finalised.

Recent newspaper reports suggest that the owner of the grazing land, whose application for development in 2008 was withdrawn, will shortly submit a revised application for planning permission for 120 homes.  Should this be successful, he would then launch a second phase of development involving a further 200 houses.

The Brontë Society fully supports Haworth’s prevalent view that green belt land must remain green.  Large numbers of new houses in this part of the village would have an extremely detrimental effect on its setting and would bring inappropriate development disturbingly close to the moorland fringes.    The local economy is founded on heritage tourism.  Anything which may undermine that economy must be examined closely and, if necessary, strongly rejected.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Removing the shroud of mystery

Professor Maddalena De Leo’s Italian novel Mai più in oscurità is now available in English. Its title is Removing the shroud of mystery and can be easily found and bought on the site: by typing the name of its author or the title of the book in the space on the right of the page.

The novel is about Maria Branwell’s life and marks the 200th anniversary of the Brontë parents’ wedding (1812-2012).  Professor De Leo says in her Preface:
The early death of the Brontës’ mother and her birth in Cornwall, a land rich in myths and Celtic legends has always fascinated me. As a long time Brontë scholar, I recently visited Cornwall and Penzance, the towns where she was born and lived as a girl. Staying in this fabled land opened up to me a wealth of information, curiosities, doubts and speculations on a character still enshrouded in mystery.

My resources information and my own imagination enabled me to render a true portrait of Maria Branwell’s early life. Beginning with the first biographical episode dating from, I pieced together a biographical sketch starting from February 1850. This was when Charlotte Brontë was given by her father a small parcel of letters addressed to him by his future wife Maria during their engagement.I thought that maybe Charlotte Brontë conceived the ideas for her juvenile literature through this. In the diary Maria might have recorded the most significant episodes of her life so as to leave something of herself to posterity.

In the appendix I have included the unabridged text of the authentic letters by Maria Branwell not published since 1914 when they appeared in Clement Shorter’s book. Through this work I hope I put this precious jewel in its rightful place in the Brontë mosaic.

Maddalena De Leo
Removing the shroud of mystery
ISBN 978-1-291-05861-1

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Theatre Review: ‘Brontë: A Portrait of Charlotte'

Laura Rocklyn writes from New York:
From the moment that the yearning music swelled to fill the space and the cloaked figure began her slow progression down the aisle towards the stage, the audience at the Off-Broadway Actors Temple Theatre was captivated.  The action of the play, Brontë: A Portrait of Charlotte, is set in June of 1849 as Charlotte returns home from her final trip to Scarborough with Anne.   Having just buried the last of her siblings, Charlotte is drawn to look back over her past life and share some reminiscences with the audience.

The text of play, by acclaimed playwright William Luce, is an elegant rendering of Charlotte Brontë based on her correspondence with school friend Ellen Nussey.  Although the play focused a little too heavily on Charlotte’s burgeoning relationship with Arthur Bell Nicholls, to the neglect of some other facets of her character that could have been explored, it did give a good overview of her life for audience members who may not have been familiar with the story behind the author of Jane Eyre.

Irish actress Maxine Linehan inhabited the role of Charlotte with compassion and grace.  The few points in the action when she would stop, put on her spectacles, sit down in a chair and simply begin a letter to 'Dear Nell' were some of the most poignant in the show.  All that was needed for Linehan to engage the audience was her sensitive presentation of Charlotte through the unadulterated words of her letters.

For further details on tickets:
The Actors Temple Theater is located at 339 West 47th Street.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Threat to Brontë Moors


E.On, trading as Yorkshire Wind Power Ltd, have now submitted an application for planning permission to repower Ovenden Moor Wind Farm.  The 23 turbines currently in use and visible from parts of Haworth and the moorlands will, if the application succeeds, be replaced by nine structures 115m high.  At such a height they would, potentially, be visible from as far afield as Harrogate, Wetherby and Tadcaster, places over 35km distant.  Seen from Top Withens, they would appear enormous, and would dominate the whole landscape. 

In accordance with the Brontë Society’s heritage and conservation policy, an objection to the application has been submitted to Calderdale Council, the full text of which is given below.

Planning & Regeneration Services
Calderdale Council
Town Hall
West Yorkshire

16th August 2012

 Dear Sirs,

re:  Planning application 12/00955/WDF
      Yorkshire Wind Power Ltd
       Repowering of wind farm including construction and operation of nine wind
       turbines (up to 115m to blade tip), construction of access tracks, crane
       hardstanding, temporary construction compound, underground cabling to
       network, new control building with substation and anemometer, to replace
       existing twenty three wind turbines, substation, control building and
       anemometer masts.
       Ovenden Moor Wind Farm Cold Edge Road Wainstalls Halifax Calderdale

The Brontë Society wishes to state its strong objection to the above proposal on the following grounds:-

1)     The damaging impact of the wind turbines on the character of the Worth Valley watershed, a culturally and historically unique landscape.
2)     The adverse effect on tourism and the local economy.

The Worth Valley watershed includes those stretches of moorland and specific locations which are associated with the Brontë family and most particularly with the writings of Emily Brontë.  They are culturally and historically unique and they form an internationally recognised part of England’s heritage.  They also include sections of The Brontë Way and The Pennine Way.  The turbines currently in operation at Ovenden Moor are visible from many parts of the watershed and their visual impact is unfortunate and inappropriate.  However, the current proposal would introduce to the skyline man-made structures of such increased size that they could, potentially, be seen from as far away as Harrogate and Tadcaster.  Seen from all areas of the watershed moorlands they would appear as overwhelming features in the landscape and would diminish the perception of its scale and remoteness.  In an empty landscape even small turbines have a dominating effect and the movement of the blades draws the eye, making them impossible to ignore.  The far greater size of the proposed turbines would have a defining and hugely detrimental influence upon the character of the landscape and its setting.  The validity of this objection takes into account the judgement made by Mrs Justice Lang in May, 2012 in a case brought by SLP Energy regarding Hemsby, Norfork.  The judgement states that “concern about harm to the landscape was on balance more important that the national need for renewable energy”.

The area known as Brontë Country, which includes Haworth and its associated moorlands, was formerly a region whose economy was based mainly upon small-scale agriculture and textiles.  Since the demise of the textile industry the area has become increasingly reliant on the tourism generated by its literary and heritage associations.  The Brontës and their works have, over the last 160 years, inspired worldwide interest which has, more recently, been fuelled by film and television adaptations of their lives and their novels.  This interest has resulted in a flow of visitors to Haworth not merely from Britain but from all parts of the world.   They come to see for themselves something of the village and the countryside in which the Brontës lived and which influenced their work.  They come to see open, empty moorlands unaffected by dominant structures.  Any development which affects the foundations of this literary tourism inevitably affects the local economy.

 The current, inappropriate presence of wind turbines is known to have an adverse effect upon the visitor experience.  A letter to the Daily Telegraph in May 2012, stated “Sadly, anyone who now goes on the Brontë tourist trail will be greeted by wind turbines.  Brontë Country is no longer worth visiting.” (S. Mowbray)  The far greater impact of the current proposal has the potential to cause a decline in visitor numbers leading to decreased incomes from businesses which rely on this tourism and, indeed, the failure of businesses.  Claims that the repowering of Ovenden Moor wind farm will provide local jobs are unfounded as once the construction (by specialist teams) is complete, turbines are remotely monitored, and maintained by very few individuals.  Any jobs created would be minimal and mainly temporary.  The positive impact on the local economy would be negligible and of very little importance compared with the negative effect the proposal would have upon the tourist industry.

The Brontë Society submits that the pre-existence of turbines at Ovenden Moor should have no bearing on the decision of the Planning Committee in respect of the current proposal, and reiterates that, because of its scale and location, the repowering would result in material harm to the character and appearance of the Worth Valley watershed and to the local economy, such harm far outweighing any supposed benefits.

 As a charity it is not appropriate for us to mount a petition nor, in this case, would that be helpful as no matter how many signatures are collected, it would count only as a single objection.  We would ask that, if you wish to support the Society in this, you send your comments to Calderdale Council by post, email or online as follows, in all cases quoting planning application 12/00955/WDF.  The consultation period, during which comments will be accepted, ends on 7th September.

By post:

Planning & Regeneration Services
Calderdale Council
Town Hall
West Yorkshire

By email:


In order to comment online you must register and log in first.  Please ignore any notice on the website to the effect that comments are not being accepted at this time.  Calderdale Council have given an assurance that this is not the case.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Call for Papers

29 JANUARY 2013 - Call for papers: ‘Re-Visioning the Brontës’, University of Leeds conference in conjunction with the exhibitions, ‘Wildness Between the Lines’ and ‘Visions of Angria’

Recent adaptations and interpretations of the Brontës’ lives and works through film, art, literature and theatre raise questions about the continuing fascination with these literary figures, as well as highlighting the wider potential for artistic intervention or collaboration between artworks and audiences. Similarly, it is through innovative contemporary arts programmes that organisations like the Brontë Parsonage Museum and the Brontë Society seek to move beyond simple ‘caricatures’ of the family and encourage diverse audience engagement.

This one day cross-disciplinary conference will explore the recent ‘re-visioning’ of the Brontës through critically examining artistic responses and interpretations of their work. The conference will address ways in which the legacy of the Brontës is exerting an influence in a range of creative fields, and across a variety of media.

A collaboration between the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, the conference is taking place to coincide with two exhibitions. The first, ‘Wildness Between the Lines’, at Leeds College of Art, brings together the work of a wide range of artists who have been influenced by the Brontës. ‘Visions of Angria’, at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, showcases Brontë material from the University of Leeds Special Collections, accompanied by illustrations from students at Leeds College of Art.

This theme lends itself to a broad field of research and practice. Submissions are welcomed from academics, artists, research students and professionals, and the format is not restricted to formal papers. Topics for discussion might include, but are not limited to:

The Brontës’ influence in contemporary culture
Creative adaptations or reinterpretations of the Brontës’ lives and works
Curatorial interpretations of the Brontës
The myth and legacy of the Brontës
Responses to exhibitions of Brontë material
Representations of the Brontës in literary biographies

Confirmed speakers include Jane Sellars (Curator of Art, Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate) and Professor Blake Morrison (Goldsmiths, University of London) in conversation with Dr Richard Brown (University of Leeds). Please email submissions, including a title, 400 word abstract and CV, to: by no later than Friday, 28 September 2012. Successful applicants will be notified by the 30 November 2012. Further questions are welcomed at this address.

Image: The life of Feild [sic] Marshal the Right Honourable Alexan[d]er Percy, autograph manuscript, 1835 by Patrick Branwell Brontë, University of Leeds Library Special Collections.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Thornton event

Margaret Berry writes:
St James's Church in Thornton is celebrating the  400th Anniversary of the Old Bell Chapel this year.  Following on from the Art Competition in June, the famous Yorkshire artist Ashley Jackson will demonstrate his painting techniques at the Chapel on 5 September at 10.30am.

Ashley Jackson rarely gives demonstrations, so this is a great opportunity to see him working. The event will last an hour and a half. Tickets  are £5, available from the Churchwarden,  Steve Stanworth:  
07786 02889

Friday, 6 July 2012

Sympathy for poor governesses

News Release:

New Charlotte Brontë letter at Parsonage Museum betrays her sympathy for poor governesses.

An important letter has returned to the Brontë Parsonage Museum, 150 years after Charlotte Brontë wrote it there.

Miss Mary Holmes was a struggling writer and musician originally from Gargrave, North Yorkshire, who wrote to Charlotte for advice on her book. She worked as music teacher to the daughters of novelist William Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair, and he had already kindly found someone to review the book in a national newspaper, as well as offering to help pay for it to be privately printed. Thackeray passed on Charlotte’s address so that Miss Holmes could send it to the now-famous Haworth author for some advice – they came from villages just 20 miles apart.

Charlotte’s response, dated 22 April 1852, and sent from the Parsonage in Haworth, was friendly and encouraging – which was not always the case: the author of Jane Eyre, by now a bestselling literary star, could be dismissive of fellow authors seeking advice. Either she was keen to do Thackeray a favour, though, or she spotted genuine talent in Miss Holmes’s work, for she wrote that the book: seems to [me] very clever and very learned. You erred in telling me to skip the first chapters; I am glad I disobeyed the injunction.

Miss Holmes has clearly mentioned in her letter to Charlotte that she has worked as a governess. Charlotte replies: You are right in supposing that I must feel a degree of interest in the details of a Governess-life. That life has on me the hold of actual experience; to all who live it – I cannot but incline with a certain sympathy; and any kind feeling they express for me – comes pleasantly and meets with grateful acceptance.

This is, of course, the same Charlotte, who, in 1839 wrote to her friend Ellen Nussey about life as a governess: I will only ask you to imagine the miseries of a reserved wretch like me - thrown at once into the midst of a large Family - proud as peacocks and wealthy as Jews.

Charlotte herself had not always had a favourable response when writing to the literary stars of the day for advice. The poet laureate Robert Southey famously wrote to her: ‘Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be’

Bronte Parsonage Museum Director Andrew McCarthy commented on the new acquisition:

In 1852 Charlotte was riding the crest of her success; life was very different from when she too had been a struggling governess. Of all the Brontës Charlotte was probably the most ambitious; a letter such as this gives a quick glimpse into what it meant for her to have achieved the fame she had sought for so long.

The letter was purchased from an auction at Bonham’s in London on 12 June 2012.

It will be displayed from early 2013.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Join the Friends of Red House Museum

Red House and Gardens in Gomersal is holding at an evening drinks reception on Wednesday July 11 for people interested in forming a Friends of Red House group.
The event at 6.30pm will start with drinks served in the beautiful and historic setting of the main house with costumed period characters on hand in the house and gardens to provide information about the history of Red House and the people who lived in and visited it.
There will be information about the kinds of activities a Friends group could get involved in, as well as information from Kirklees Museums and Galleries, Red House staff and members of the local community.
Cllr Jean Calvert, Cabinet member for Wellbeing and Communities, said: “This is a great opportunity for people to support their local museum by getting more involved and Red House and its gardens will benefit from their help.”
 Anyone interested in helping to form a Friends group is welcome to attend the event and should telephone 01274 335100 to reserve a place.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Bestselling novelist Victoria Hislop to visit Haworth

Bestselling novelist Victoria Hislop will be visiting Haworth next week to read from and discuss her work and latest novel, The Thread. The event takes place on the evening of Thursday 5 July at 7.30pm at the West Lane Baptist Centre in Haworth, and forms part of the Parsonage's contemporary arts programme.

Victoria Hislop’s first two novels, The Island and The Return, were Sunday Times number one bestsellers and have been translated into more than twenty languages. She won the Newcomer of the Year at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2007 and the Richard & Judy Summer Read competition. Her third novel, The Thread was published in November 2011. 

Victoria Hislop is a great admirer of the Brontës, especially Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and she has written the introduction for the White’s edition of the novel. She has previously described Wuthering Heights as “the book that changed me…it woke me up”.

Tickets for the event cost £6 and can be booked from the Brontë Parsonage Museum:

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ovenden Moor Wind Farm

At some point during late summer or early autumn, E.ON, the company which operates the wind farm on Ovenden Moor, will submit a planning application to Calderdale District Council for permission to repower the installation.  Their intention is to reduce the number of turbines from the current twenty-two to nine.  However, these nine turbines will be considerably larger than those currently visible from Haworth Moor.  At 115m they will have a significant detrimental  visual impact on the landscape.

E.ON are holding Open Days at Ovenden on Friday, 6 and Saturday, 7 July from 10am to 4.30pm when the public can visit the wind farm and see the plans for the repowering.  It will also be an opportunity to express opinions about the proposals.

A representative of the Brontë Society will be attending on one of the days to discuss the plans with E.ON.

Full details of the repowering proposals and the Open Days can be found at

Contact details for E.ON are as follows:-

By post:

Ovenden Moor Wind Farm
Westwood Business Park
Westwood Way
Coventry    CV4 8LG

By email:

By phone:

0800 096 1199

Andrew McCarthy

News Release:

Brontë Museum Director to take up new role in Bradford

It has been announced that Director at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Andrew McCarthy, will soon be leaving Haworth to take up a new position with Artworks Creative Communities in Bradford.

Andrew has been based at the Parsonage for fourteen years; as Education Officer, Audience Development Manager and Deputy Director, eventually being appointed museum Director in July 2008. He initially developed the museum’s education programme and was responsible for several large scale arts education projects in Haworth including The Wind on the Moors, involving four Bradford ‘link’ schools from diverse communities in the city, working with a librettist, composer and professional team of musicians to create a new opera based on the Brontës’ lives which was performed at St Michael & All Angels Church. 

Andrew was also responsible for initiating the museum’s contemporary arts programme which launched in 2006 with an exhibition of work by the British, Turner-prize nominated artist, Cornelia Parker, who was commissioned to create new work in response to the museum and its collection. The programme, which has received funding support from Arts Council England and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, has brought many well established writers and artists to Haworth in recent years, as well as giving opportunities to emerging, regional creative talent. The programme includes regular readings and events with visiting authors (including an annual Brontë Festival of Women’s Writing). There are also workshops, drop-in activities and special projects, aimed at encouraging visitors to respond to the museum through creative activity, and residencies with writers and artists working with community groups.

As Director, Andrew also delivered a phased programme of development at the museum which saw a major refurbishment of its main exhibition space, and a Heritage Lottery Funded project to re-case, redisplay and re-interpret the museum’s collection in the historic rooms of the house. This programme is due to be completed in January 2013 when the Parsonage will be redecorated following an extensive programme of decorative archaeological analysis aimed at reinstating a more authentic Brontë decorative scheme.

During his time as Director, the museum’s collection has grown significantly, visitor numbers have increased, and despite the challenging economic environment, the past three years have seen the museum deliver successive operating surpluses, after a long period of financial instability.

Andrew McCarthy has achieved a great deal during his time with the Bronte Society and will leave the Parsonage Museum and its public programmes in a position of strength going forward.   The Society wishes Andrew every success in his new post with Artworks.  Andrew is passionate about improving access to the arts and whilst he will be sorely missed we are delighted to think we might look forward to potential collaborations between the Bronte Parsonage Museum and Artworks in the future. 
Sally McDonald – Chairman of the Brontë Society

Andrew will be leaving Haworth in July to take up the role of Operations Director with Bradford based Artworks Creative Communities. Artworks, now based at the Delius Arts & Cultural Centre in Great Horton Road, was established in 1998 and has developed a significant regional reputation for innovative projects that use creativity as a force for change. Working with professional artists and in partnership with communities, organizations and businesses, Artworks develop and deliver exciting projects that use participation in the arts as a tool to inspire, connect and engage those who tend to be excluded from participation in culture and the arts.

The Artworks Team is greatly looking forward to welcoming Andrew to his new post just in time to help us celebrate our one year anniversary of moving into the Delius Arts & Cultural Centre. Andrew’s dedication to the arts is evident through his work with the Bronte Parsonage Museum and the legacy he will leave there.
Estelle Cooper – Artworks Creative Communities

Contacts & Further Information:                             

Andrew McCarthy - Director, Brontë Parsonage Museum -  01535 640194/ 07445 883455 -

Friday, 15 June 2012

June Weekend - Excursion to Haddon Hall

IMS writes:
It was a fine Autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields: I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. Battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look.’

'Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so craggy, but yet quiet and lonely hills enough.’

The Monday excursion for Brontë Society members was to Haddon Hall, a building built of gritstone and limestone, on the banks of the River Wye in Derbyshire - one of the seats of the Duke of Rutland. The hall has been the setting for many films - one of the earliest based there was the 1924 film starring Mary Pickford - Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall. This film tells the romantic story of how Dorothy eloped with John Manners in 1563. The Manners family still hold the seat today. Haddon has played cameo roles in Pride and Prejudice and The Other Boleyn Girl  but it was the fact that the hall has been used for three Jane Eyre productions that occasioned a coach from Haworth to travel from motorway to motorway, pass the leaning steeple in Chesterfield and to pull into the car park just outside the town of Bakewell - famous for its puddings and tarts.

We were met by one of the guides who welcomed us to the Hall and who then led us through the narrow gate house and, after warning us of the very uneven ground all around, directed us towards the chapel.

‘We entered the quiet and humble temple’. All was still: The strangers had slipped in before us, they viewed the old time-stained marble tomb.’

Our very knowledgeable guide explained that film directors Fukunaga and Zefferelli and the BBC production which starred the suave Toby Stephens and the pulchritudinous Ruth Wilson had all used the inside of the chapel which, with a Norman pillar and font and Norman lancet windows, has some of the earliest masonry of the Hall. A marble copy effigy of the eighth Duke who died at the age of nine lies in the chapel and all around the walls are fresco-seccos from the early fifteenth century. Similarly, we were told, they had all used the fourteenth century kitchen which houses the only Tudor dresser in the world. Scorch marks on the timber partition walls show where candles and rushes were used for lighting.

‘The steps and banisters were of oak; the staircase window was high and latticed; both it and the long gallery looked as if they belonged to a church rather than a house.’

‘Traversing the long and matted gallery I descended the slippery steps of oak.’

We were taken into the Long Gallery which would have been used for exercise when the weather outside was inclement and the guide explained that the diamond shaped panes in the windows are set at different angles to maximise the use of the daylight. It was interesting to hear that when filming was taking place it was very cold in the Long Gallery- it being more or less impossible to heat- and the actors had to suck ice cubes so that their breath would not be seen on film.

It was burnt down just about harvest time. A dreadful calamity. The fire broke out at dead of night, and before the engines arrived from Millcote the building was one mass of flame. It was a terrible spectacle.’

Our guide recalled that when the BBC decided to use pyrotechnics, smoke machines, and lighted pokers in the windows to make the fire at Thornfield really realistic the local fire brigade - who had happily been warned in advance- received over one hundred calls.

‘And then they called to him that she was on the roof; where she was standing, waving her arms, above the battlements, and shouting.’

‘We saw him approach her; and then she yelled and gave a spring and the next minute she lay smashed on the pavement.’ 

We were taken outside and the part of the roof from where the stunt person playing Bertha jumped was pointed out to us. Apparently scaffolding had had to be erected and the person jumped the thirty feet on to an airbag. It looked as if it would have been quite an ordeal to jump from those battlements but at ten pounds a foot maybe it was worth it - however not for me!

No nook in the grounds more sheltered and more Eden-like; it was full of trees, it bloomed with flowers:’

We wandered in the beautiful gardens and looked down on the footbridge - seen in all the films- where Sir John Manners was waiting to whisk Dorothy away from the Hall all those years ago and we saw the meadow at the side of the river where in the BBC production Mr Rochester and Jane picnic.

It was a most enjoyable day spent at Haddon - I am sure I will not be the only one watching the DVD of the latest film version of  Jane Eyre once again and saying “I’ve been there!”