The Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth

We visited the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth a few weeks ago.

BRM sign P1010267

Bronte Parsonage Museum P1010266

BPM front P1010269

You can’t take photos inside the museum, so I bought the guide book and a booklet, The Brontës and Haworth to remind me of our visit and you can see some photos on the Brontë  Society website. It’s a fascinating house – a recreation of the Brontës home, as well as a museum displaying memorabilia, manuscripts, books and artworks. There is so much to see and all in a smaller house (with small rooms) than I had imagined.

I knew that the Brontës’ wrote their stories and poems in tiny notebooks (about the size of a credit card) in small handwriting but seeing the original manuscripts I was amazed at just how very small it is! And standing next to the display cabinet containing Charlotte Brontë’s dress she wore to set out for her honeymoon tour in Ireland I could see she wasn’t very tall – certainly less than 5ft.

The museum contains some of the Brontes’ paintings and drawings and Emily’s mahogany artist’s box – they really were talented in more than one field. I was intrigued by a large cupboard with 12 panels on the door, each panel containing a painting of one of the 12 apostles. I was even more fascinated by it and wished I’d been able to take a photograph of the cupboard, when later on whilst re-reading  Jane Eyre I came across this description of a cabinet in a room on the third storey of Thornfield Hall:

the doors of a great cabinet opposite – whose front, divided into twelve panels, bore in grim design, the heads of the twelve apostles, each enclosed in its separate panel as in a frame …

According as the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam hovered here or glanced there, it was no the bearded physician, Luke, that bent his brow; now St John’s long hair that waved; and anon the devilish face of Judas, that grew out of the panel, and seemed gathering life and threatening a revelation of the arch-traitor – of Satan himself – in his subordinates form.

I realised that this was the cupboard I had seen in the Museum! I’d stood in front of it for some while wondering what it was as there is nothing in the guide book about it.  Seeing it at night by candlelight must have been very different from standing in a museum looking at it in daylight! Since then I’ve been unable to find out much about this cupboard, apart from a post on the Stubbs Family History blog, which explains how the Museum acquired the cupboard. And you can see a photograph of it here.

I now intend to read more of Charlotte Brontë’s novels and Mrs Gaskell’s biography of her friend, The Life of Charlotte Brontë, first published in 1857 – Charlotte had died in 1855, aged 38.

I’d also like to read a more modern biography, maybe Charlotte Brontë: a Passionate Life by Lyndall Gordon or The Brontës by Juliet Barker about the family.

What would you recommend?

11 thoughts on “The Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth”

    1. I’ve been wanting to go there ever since I found out about it many years ago – and finally made it whilst we were staying with friends who live about an hour away. It was well worth the wait. I hope you manage to get there one day.

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  1. Fascinating family. Their mother, Maria, was from Penzance like myself. I wonder what she thought of Yorkshire, must have been quite a culture shock in those days.

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  2. My husband and I went to visit Haworth Parsonage just before we moved back to Canada. I was immensely moved by being in the house, and imagining them sitting there in the long dark winter nights, writing and talking and laughing. Their rooms were small, weren’t they? I was surprised. And that graveyard – how spooky and tragic that that is what caused her death in the end.

    I have both the Gaskell and the Barker book, though I haven’t read them yet (both started), so I can’t recommend any more books to you. They both look very good. I think seeing the Parsonage helps with understanding how they could come up with characters like Heathcliff and Jane Eyre. I really loved our visit there. Thanks for your post, it brought back some memories for me too!

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  3. This was fascinating to read, Margaret, thank you for sharing it with us! I can’t imagine writing a novel in a notebook that small. They must have had many headaches.

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  4. We went there a few years ago and we were allowed to take photos then, I wonder why they have changed the rules? I was also surprised by how small it is inside and by how many personal objects they had in the museum, such as spectacles and jewellery.

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  5. So glad you visited Haworth. I absolutely loved visiting there myself, and found the clothes and tiny books as fascinating as you did. Cool connection about the cupboard–I remember seeing it but didn’t remember it was mentioned in JE. I love Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte. I’ve heard that Juliet Barker’s bio is the best of the bunch–hope to read it myself soon. Jude Morgan’s The Taste of Sorrow (Charlotte and Emily in the U.S.) is a great fictional account of the Brontes.

    I love literary pilgrimages and this is one of the best.

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