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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.