Drinking the dead

First day of a new year and Mirinda wanted to rise early so we could go and visit the Bronte’s at Haworth (pronounced “How-eth”). It’s about 60 miles away so we were away by 8:30. Mirinda’s theory was that we would avoid the holiday crowds. Her theory proved pretty much correct as the roads were empty and other life forms, minimal. Finding Haworth was easy enough, finding the car park, not so obvious. We eventually managed to locate it and parked at the bottom, to walk up to the main street, an old, very steep, cobbled affair.

Our first port of call was the toilet – it was locked. The museum opened at 12 and it was only 11 so we searched for alternate relief. Mirinda tried abusing a publican but that didn’t work so I set off to find an open tea shop. There was one. Although Haworth must have about a hundred, only the one was open. An all day breakfast each and liquid refreshment, preceded by a delicious visit to the loos, set us up, ready for the trek back up to the museum.

The museum closes after today until the new season so it was today or not this trip!

An excellent place. In 1928, Sir James Roberts gave the parsonage to the Bronte Society. This is where the Bronte’s lived and the Society managed to furnish it out with some of their original stuff. Before this, the Bronte museum was very small and housed in a skinny little building on the high street which is now the TIC.

Haworth TIC

Anyway, we paid our fees, bought a guide book and started through the rooms. All pretty much as you’d expect from a parsonage – small rooms – but a big surprise when you realise that Mr Bronte and his son, Bramwell shared a bedroom for many years. Very odd. In Mr Bronte’s study is his magnifying glass. It is HUGE! The guy had a serious problem with his eyes.

It was in the parsonage that Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were written. In Charlotte’s room is a one of her dresses, housed in a glass box, which shows how tiny she was – her height is estimated to have been around 4 foot 9! Seeing her headless dress standing there was quite eerie, particularly with her life-like portrait by JH Thompson watching from above the fireplace. Although, it must be said that he painted it after she died & I assume it was not to scale as the big head would have looked very odd on the little mannequin. Also, I think her waist was smaller than Kylie’s! And she didn’t much look like Victoria Hamilton who I think made a wonderful Charlotte Bronte.

Interestingly, the servant’s room has a rather grim view over the churchyard, perhaps deliberately so she would not spend too much time at idle pleasure. Or perhaps an opportunity to stare into her own mortality during her (rare) off moments.

St George's churchyard

Speaking of which…a really gross yet strangely ironic fact: During the Bronte’s time (the mid 1850s), the mortality rate in Haworth was pretty bad. Living to the ripe old age of 30 was pretty good and 41% of children died before they reached the age of six! One of the reasons was to do with the graveyard, oddly enough. The fresh water for the village came down from the hill, passing through the churchyard and, subsequently through all the dead villagers. This did not make for the healthiest water supply but that didn’t stop everyone drinking it. And baths were a bit of a waste of time. There was also a lot of raw sewage running down the main street and piles of rubbish everywhere. Ah, the good old days…

After wandering all over the house and briefly visiting the shop for some postcards, I waited for the others for a bit then decided to head down to the church. The rain had started and the day was clouding over. The church, as you’d imagine, is just the other side of the churchyard. It is also very big, having been completely rebuilt in 1879. Apart from the tower, the Bronte’s wouldn’t recognise it.

There is a lot of alabaster in the church including a lovely font, pulpit and a reproduction of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. It gives the church a very European feel although, as usual in English churches, it’s dark and gloomy. Also there is some impressive stained glass, but the gloomy day and lack of light outside meant they weren’t shown at their best.

Alabaster

I made my way back up to the museum shop to meet the rest of our party, just in time to witness a horrendous thunder and lightning show, followed by a massive hailstorm. All pretty violent. I had a passing thought of pity for the couple who had set out for the Bronte walk through the moors about ten minutes before. We sheltered before dashing back down to the church and then, as the weather improved, made our way back down to the car park, crunching through the ice.

The trip back took an interesting turn when we left the main road and wound around back lanes, eventually making our way back to where we left the main road. Mirinda suddenly asked what pub I’d like to stop at. As the car had paused outside The Sailor, I suggested The Sailor. Bob parked and we went in for a pint of Black Sheep.

I slept for most of the rest of the trip home except for a brief moment when I opened my eyes to say “That’s York” and Mirinda said “Just ignore it“. Given my knowledge of (the pubs of) York, I managed to guide them back to the road out of town before drifting back to sleep.

Back at Forge View, we settled down to watch the new version of Wind in the Willows before unsuccessfully having fish and chips for tea – the shop had shut. Instead we had a make do din-dins of cheese on toast and cereal. Apart from the soggy bread it was very nice.

Naturally, I’ve yet to mention the shower. The pressure and the temperature are both terrific and the room is nice and big. Actually the pressure is a little TOO good. If you turn the power to full, the shower head starts hissing like a mad snake, whisking itself back and forth, soaking the bathroom. If you hold the head and aim it at your body it’s a bit like sand blasting. Still, gets the dirt off.

This entry was posted in Gary's Posts, Yorkshire 2006. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.