J. Horsfall (Joseph Horsfall) Turner.

Haworth -- past and present: a history of Haworth, Stanbury & Oxenhope online

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Nancy Garrs, and after a time another sister named Sarah,
who remained with the family for many years, and always
testified of Mr. Bronte that " he was one of the kindest men
that ever drew breath." There was nothing too good for his
family and servants. These were the two servants stigmatized
by Mrs. Gaskell as "wasteful," but were amply vindicated by
Mr. Bronte in 1857, when he uttered the just sentence,
"Mrs. Gaskell has made ns appear as bad as she could."

, Mr. Bronte had published four small volumes before he
left Thornton.

Cottat/e Poems, by the Rev. Patrick Bronte, B.A.,
Minister of Hartshead-cum-Clifton, Yorkshire. Printed for
the Author, at Halifax, by P. K. Holden, 1811, and contains
an Epistle to the Rev. J. B. ; The Happy Cottagers ; The
Rainbow; Winter Night Meditations; Verses to a Lady on
her Birthday ; The Irish Cabin ; To the Rev. J. Gilpin ; The
Cottage Maid ; The Spider and the Fly ; Epistle to a Young
Clergyman ; Epistle to the Labouring Poor ; The Cottager's
Hymn. 136 pages.

The Rural Ministry: A Miscellany of Descriptive
Poems. Printed for the author by P. K. Holden, Halifax,
1818. Contents The Sabbath Bells; Kirkstall Abbey;
Extempore Verses; Lines to a Lady on her Birthday; An
Elegy; Reflections by Moonlight; Winter; Rural Happiness;
The Distress and Relief; The Christian's Farewell; The
Harper of Erin.

The Maid of Killarney: or Albion and Flora, a tale in
which ;ire interwoven cursory remarks on Religion and Politics.

84 Haworth:

Printed by T. Inkersley, Bradford, 1818. 166 pages.

The Cottaye in the Wood : or the Art of becoming rich
and happy; a tale, with poem. Inkersley, Bradford, 1818.

Mr. Bronte was in many respects no ordinary man. His
compositions have some characteristics in common with those of
his children, and at times display deep observation and vigor-
ous power of expression. The interest, however, which
attaches to his name arises mainly from his extraordinary
talented children.

On the 25th of February, 1820, the Brontes removed to
Haworth. For a fortnight they had stayed with the Misses
Firth, of Kipping, until the packing was completed. Their
quiet exit in the carts which conveyed the delicate wife and six
young children, and their household goods, was witnessed by
many with sincere regret. Soon after their arrival Mrs. Bronte
had an internal cancer, but she continued the same patient,
cheerful person ; very ill, suffering great pain, but seldom if
ever complaining; devotedly fond of her husband, who warmly
repaid her affection, and suffered no one else to take the night-
nursing. She died September 15th, 1821, " and the lives of
those quiet children must have become quieter and lonelier
still." Miss Branwell, an elder sister of Mrs. Bronte, came
from Cornwall to be housekeeper about a year afterwards.
This responsible post she filled in a satisfactory manner for
nearly twenty years. Her small fortune she shared between
the three sisters, but left the name of Branwell out of her will.
He had been her favourite ; she had generously shared in the
expense occasioned by his lessons at Leeds in oil painting, but
his reckless expenditure and dissolute habits had distressed
the good old lady.

Maria Bronte, the eldest child, died in May, 1825, aged
eleven; and the month following, Elizabeth, her sister, aged
ten, was laid in the same grave, near the communion rails, at
Haworth. Maria was " a grave, thoughtful and quiet girl.
She was delicate and small in appearance, which seemed to
give greater effect to her wonderful precocity of intellect.

Past and Present. 85

She-must have been her mother's companion and helpmate."
The illness of their mother, and the studies of the father,
necessitated that the children should be very quiet. When
between seven and eight Maria would read the newspaper, and
be able to report "debates in Parliament." "She was as
good as a mother to her sisters and brother. But there never
were such good children. I used to think them spiritless, they
were so different to any children I have ever seen. They were
good little creatures. Emily was the prettiest." Such was
the testimony of an old servant. Mr. Bronte taught his chil-
dren their lessons when young. Besides his attention to their
minds, he wished to make. them hardy, and indifferent to the
pleasures of eating and dress. He was a great walker, and
loved to stroll over the lone heights, where he occasionally saw
the eagles seize their prey. " He fearlessly took whatever
side in local or national politics appeared to him right." On
account of his opposition to the Luddites, he became unpopu-
lar (for a time) among the millworkers about Hartshead, and
then, as was necessary, began to carry a loaded pistol about
with him, a practice he continued through life. He had his
meals alone, and seemed either to hate company, or to love
solitude, or both. Afterwards he offended the mill-owners
because he took the part of the workpeople in a " strike."
Though seemingly misanthropic, he was extremely kind in his
personal contact with his people. They attributed his reserve
to a desire to mind his own business, and let other people do
the same. He had little company; indeed, only church-
wardens, and such as came on business, with an occasional
friendly visit from some neighbouring clergyman. The girls
had no companions with whom to associate, and hence their
attachment to each other became the stronger. Charlotte,
like Maria, was a precocious girl. The Duke of Wellington
was her hero. In July, 1824, Maria and Elizabeth entered
Cowan Bridge School the Lowood mentioned in " Jane
Eyre," but not to be taken as strict matter-of-fact. In Sep-
tember of the same year, Mr. Bronte took his next two

80 llan-orth :

daughters, Charlotte and Emily, to be admitted. Poor Maria,
the Helen Burns of " Jane Eyre," was dreadfully home sick,
and no wonder, considering the merciless tyranny of the Mi*s
Scatcherd of the story. Her cough hacked her more and more,
but the malicious spite of the teacher added considerably to
her unhappiness. Low fever broke out in the school. Maria
was taken ill, and Mr. Bronte was sent for. She was taken
home, and died a few days afterwards. Elizabeth was soon
after sent home, and as rapidly was cut down. Charlotte and
Emily had another term at Cowan Bridge, but returned home
in the autumn of 1825, on account of indisposition. Old
Tabby, so frequently mentioned in Mrs. Gaskell's book, became
servant about this time, and she afforded a new field to the
observant Charlotte. Tabby had a will of her own, and kept
the " bairns " within bounds. They were greatly attached to
her. She had lots of old tales to tell them, and dearly loved to
recount the gossip of the village. As they sat around the
ingle on wintry nights, telling tales of their own invention, or
listening to Tabby's stories of the fairies, they heard the old
clock strike seven with deep regret, for the rule must not be
broken, and they must retire. At fifteen years of age Char-
lotte had done a large amount of writing, in a hand so small
that it would require a magnifying glass to enable one to read
it with anything like ease.

I have seen one of the mimic magazines in Charlotte's
handwriting. It is about two inches long and one broad, and
(as may be expected) is highly prized by its possessor, the
Martha Brown whose name frequently appears in connection
with our notice of Miss Bronte.

In January, 1881, Charlotte had the happiness to become
associated with a kindly teacher, Miss Wooler, and gentle
schoolmates, at a pleasant house named Roe Head, near
Hartshead. Her progress here was great. She was very
near sighted, and seldom joined in play with her schoolmates.
Here she became acquainted with Miss Ellen Xussey (the
Caroline Helstone of Shirley), whose friendship lasted for life.

Past and Present. 87

She and Miss Wooler sign, as witnesses, the marriage certifi-
cate of Miss Bronte. In 1832 she left Roe Head, having
made considerable progress in the French language, as well as
mastered English. On the return home the sisters often
walked to Keighley to obtain from a library such works as Sir
Walter Scott's. Anne and Charlotte are described as " shy,"
but Emily as "reserved." In 1835 Charlotte became a
teacher at Roe Head, and Branwell (who had become too well
known at the riotings at the Black Bull) was to go to London
to become a famous artist, and Emily went (a*s a pupil with
Charlotte) to school. But Emily soon pined for Haworth
quietness, and she returned, not to leave it again except twice;
once, for six months, to be a teacher at Halifax, and for ten
months, a student at Brussels.

Miss Anne, gentle Annie, was also a pupil at Miss
Wooler's school, then removed to Dewsbury Moor.

Branwell's visit to London was relinquished. The hopes
of the father and sisters had been centred on him, but, alas !
they met with grievous disappointment. Whenever a travel-
ler stayed at the Black Bull, he was sent for as a " brilliant "
companion; and his nervous system was already shaken. In
1840 all the Brontes were at home, except Miss Anne.
Their great hope and aim now was to keep a school, but this
desire never came to a firm decision, as the aunt was averse to
it. The few moments that were not frittered away by Bram-
well, he employed in writing verse for the Leeds Mercury,

The following letter, written in 1840 by Miss Bronte, is
taken from Mrs. Gaskell's "Life."

"Little Haworth has been all in a bustle about church-
rates, since you were here. We had a stirring meeting in the
schoolroom. Papa took the chair, and Mr. C. and Mr. W.
acted as his supporters, one on each side. There was
violent opposition, which set Mr. C.'s Irish blood in
a ferment, and if papa had not kept him quiet, partly
by persuasion and partly by compulsion, he would
have given the Dissenters 'their kale through the reek' a

88 Haworth:

Scotch proverb. He and Mr. W. both bottled up their wrath
for that time, but it was only to explode with redoubled force
at a future period. We had two sermons on Dissent and its
consequences, preached last Sunday one in the afternoon by
Mr. W., and one in the evening by Mr. C. All the Dissenters
were invited to come and hear, and they actually shut up their
chapels, and came in a body; of course the Church was
crowded. Mr. W. delivered a noble, eloquent, High-Church
Apostolical-Suc<iession discourse, in which he banged the Dis-
senters most fearlessly and unflinchingly. I thought they had
got enough for one while, but it was nothing to the dose that
was thrust down their throats in the evening. A keener,
cleverer, bolder, and more heart- stirring harangue than that
which Mr. C. delivered from Haworth pulpit, last Sunday
evening, I never heard. He did not rant ; he did not cant ;
he did not whine; he did not sniggle; he just got up and
spoke with the boldness of a man who was impressed with the
truth of what he was saying. His sermon lasted an hour, yet
I was sorry when it was done. I do not say that I agree
either with him, or with Mr. W., either in all or in half their
opinions. I consider them bigoted, intolerant, and wholly un-
justifiable on the ground of common sense. My conscience
will not let me be either a Puseyite or a Hookist ; mais, [but]
if I were a Dissenter, I would have taken the first opportunity
of kicking, or of horse-whipping both the gentlemen for their
stern, bitter attack on my religion and its teachers. Mr. W.
has given another lecture at the Keighley Mechanics' Insti-
tute, and papa has also given a lecture; both are spoken of
very highly in the newspapers, and it is mentioned as a matter
of wonder that such displa} r s of intellect should emanate from
the village of Haworth, ' situated among the bogs and moun-
tains, and, until very lately, supposed to be in a state of semi-
barbarism.' Such are the words of the newspaper."

It seems that Methodists and Baptists had refused to pay
the Church rates.

Soon after this, Branwell obtained a situation as a clerk


Past and Present. 89

on the Leeds and Manchester Railway.

Mr. Bronte, early, in 1842, took hia two daughters, Char-
lotte and Emily, to M. Heger's School, at Brusiels. Miaa
Bronte remarks in a letter, " I was twenty- six years old a week
or two since; and at this ripe time of life I am a school-girl."
They returned home on the death of Miss Branwell, but Miss
Bronte re-visited Brussels as a teacher of English, and
received German lessons in return. This was in January,

1843. In December, though sinking with oppression, a dis-
taste for her surroundings, and home sickness, she wrote to
Emily: "Tell me whether papa really wants me very much
to come home, and whether you do likewise. I have an idea
that I should be of no use there a sort of aged person upon
the parish. I pray, with heart and soul, that all may continue
well at Haworth; above all in our grey half- inhabited house.
God bless the walls thereof ! Safety, health, happiness, and
prosperity to you, papa, and Tabby. Amen."

Pleading the increasing blindness of her father, she left
M. Heger's establishment, and reached home January 2nd,

1844. The experiences of "Jane Eyre," "Shirley," and
" Villette " have been thus dearly bought. One seems to see
the life-blood of the agonized authoress coursing every line.

In the Summer of 1845 she deplored the condition of her
father. " He has now the greatest difficulty in either reading
or writing; and then he dreads the state of dependence to
which blindness will inevitably reduce him. He fears that he
will be nothing in his parish. Still he is never peevish;
never impatient; only anxious and dejected." Added to this,
her sympathies were estranged from his assistants. "At this
blessed moment, we have no less than three of them [curates]
in Haworth parish and there is not one to mend another.
The other day, they all three, accompanied by Mr. S., dropped,
or rather rushed, in unexpectedly to tea. It was Monday
(baking day), and I was hot and tired; still, if they had be-
haved quietly and decently, I would have served them out their
tea in peace; but they began glorifying themselves, and

90 Haworth :

abusing Dissenters in such a manner, that my temper lost its
balance, and I pronounced a few sentences sharply and rapidly,
which struck them all dumb. Papa was greatly horrified also,
but I don't regret it."

Branwell, who had for some time been engaged as tutor
at Green Hammerton, in the same family as Anne, was
summarily dismissed about this time. The home was now
miserable owing to his presence. When be could not obtain
opium, or intoxicating liquors at home, he resorted to stratagem
to supply his cravings. The sisters dreaded some act of
suicide. He suffered from attacks of delirium tremens, and
kept the family in agitation day and night. Mr. Bronte had
great difficulty in managing him on these occasions. Branwell,
when he came to his senses in the morning, would say :
" The poor old man and I have had a terrible night of it; he
does his best the poor old man! but it's all over with me."
The sisters, as a means of consolation and abstraction, fell to
their happy, child-like habits of composition. John Green-
wood supplied them with stationery. He gave the following
outline of his transactions with the sisters. "About 1848, I
began to do a little in the stationery line. Nothing of that
kind could be had nearer than Keighley before I began. They
used to buy a great deal of writing paper, and I used to
wonder whatever they did with so much. I sometimes thought
they contributed to the magazines. When I was out of stock,
I was always afraid of their coming ; they seemed so distressed
about it, if I had none."

In 1848 an influenza had prevailed amongst the villagers,
and amongst those who suffered was Miss Anne Bronte. Mr.
Bronte represented the unsanitary state at Haworth pretty
forcibly to the local authority, and after the requisite visits
from their officers, obtained a recommendation that all future
interments in the churchyard should be forbidden, a new
grave-yard opened on the hill-side, and means set on foot for
obtaining a water-supply to each house, instead of the weary,
hard- worked housewives having to cany every bucketful up

Past and Present. 91

the steep street. But he was baffled by the ratepayers.

Miss Bronte, in August, 1848, notes that the oldest
family in Haworth failed lately, and have quitted the neigh-
bourhood where their fathers resided before them for, it is said,
thirteen generations.

The next nine months was a season of bitter trial at the
parsonage. In September, Patrick Branwell succumbed, and
was buried in the family vault at the Church; in December,
Emily Jane's remains were laid in the same place; and in
May, 1849, the gentle Anne was buried at Scarborough,
whither Miss Bronte had taken her to try to recruit her health.
We join our regret with that of hundreds more that she was not
buried at Haworth. Miss Bronte and her friend Miss Nussey
were the two mourners at Scarborough.

About the close of 1849, the public were informed that
Currer Bell was none other than Miss Bronte. A spirit dealer
at Liverpool, who was a native of Haworth, jumped at the
conclusion, and published it in a Liverpool paper.

Miss Bronte shortly after this became personally ac-
quainted with Miss Martineau, Mr. Thackeray, Lord Carlisle,
Lord Houghton, Sir J. Shuttleworth, Mrs. Gaskell, and other
noted writers. But at no place was the enthusiasm greater
than at Haworth. The announcement of Miss Bronte's
authorship was a day that I have heard people of Haworth
speak of as one of public rejoicings. We will let Miss Bronte

narrate how the news fell on her startled ears. " Mr.

having finished ' Jane Eyre,' is now crying out for the other

book. Mr. has finished ' Shirley,' he is delighted with

it. John *s wife seriously thought him gone wrong in

the head, as she heard him giving vent to roars of laughter
as ho sat alone, clapping and stamping on the floor. He
would read all the scenes about the curates aloud to papa.
Martha came in yesterday, puffing and blowing, and much
excited. ' I've heard sich news !' she began. ' What about?'
' Please, ma'am, you've been and written two books the
grandest books that ever was seen. My father has heard it at

92 Haworth:

Halifax, and Mr. G T and Mr. G and Mr. M

at Bradford ; they are going to have a meeting at the Mechan-
ics' Institute to settle about ordering them.' "

Visitors hegan to pour into Haworth in 1850. Sir James
Shuttleworth, Lord John Manners, Mr. Smythe (sou of Lord
Strangford), Mr. Thackeray, the first Bishop of Ripon, and
many others.

About the close of 1852, Miss Bronte had an offer of
marriage (the fourth offer, I believe), which she declined, and
as a result the person, Mr. Nicholls, who had held the office of


assistant curate eight years, resigned his situation. A testi-
monial of respect from the parishioners was presented to him
at a public meeting. However, after his removal they became
engaged, and it was arranged that as soon as the curate who
succeeded him had met with another engagement, Mr. Nicholls
should resume the curacy. After one or two awkward hitches,
the marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev. Sutcliffe
Sowden, of Hebden Bridge, at Haworth Church.

Mr. and Mrs. Nicholls made a tour in Ireland, and on
their return a tea and supper to about five hundred were given
in the schoolroom.

Mr. Nicholls had the offer of a good Hying soon after-
ward, but decided to remain at Haworth. In November, Mr.




































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94 Haicorth:

and Mrs. Nicholls took a long walk to see the waterfall at
Ponden Kirk, and she caught cold. Again, early in 1855,
her cold was increased hy lingering on the damp ground at
Gawthorpe, the seat of Sir J. K. Shuttle worth. Early on
Saturday morning, March 81st, the solemn tolling of Haworth
Church bell sent a thrill of anguish through the hearts of the
villagers Charlotte was no more. Old Tahby had died a few
months previously.

We have been led further and further into the story of
this melancholy yet fascinating history, and one is tempted to
recount the many unwritten reminiscences treasured up at
Haworth, and especially in the memory of Martha Brown, an
intelligent woman, who is still in the service of Mr. Nicholls,
at Banagher, but we must now turn more directly to the subject.

Notwithstanding some eccentricities, and severity of
manner, Mr. Bronte's character was greatly respected in the
neighbourhood, and he lived in concord with the numerous
Radicals and Dissenters of the township, although a Tory and
staunch Churchman himself.

In 1846, he became blind from a cataract in the eyes,
but, with that stoicism which ever distinguished his conduct,
he continued to fulfil the duties of the pulpit, and shortly
afterwards, having undergone an operation, he regained his
sight. " He conscientiously discharged all the duties of a
parish priest, by visiting and comforting the sick, superintend-
ing and directing the National and Sunday Schools, and
preaching at all times in sickness and in sorrow. Though
firm in his own religious opinions, he was tolerant of those of
others. Of true, but unostentatious piety, he despised that
sanctimonious affectation which consists in show rather than
reality." He died on the 7th day of June, 1861, aged 84.

By the authority of the Secretary of State, Mr. Bronte
was interred in the family vault. This authority was neces-
sary, as an order had been obtained, on Mr. Bronte's solicita-
tion, for closing the old burial ground. On the day of the
funeral, Haworth was full of mourners. The shops were

Past and Present. 95

closed, and business entirely suspended. The Rev. A. B.
Nicholls was the chief mourner. The Rev. Dr. Burnet, of
Bradford, and the Rev. Dr. Cartman, of Skipton, preceded the
coffin, which was borne from the parsonage to the church, and
thence to the grave, by six clergymen of the district, the
Incumbents of Cullingworth, Oakworth, Oxenhope, Morton,
Ingrow, and Hebden Bridge. Martha Brown, the house-
keeper, Mrs. Brown, and Mrs. Wainwright (Nancy Garrs),
with many visitors, followed the remains to the grave. The
day of mourning will long be remembered in Haworth.

In 1824, as recorded on a stone in the church, gates and
pillars were erected at the entrance to the yard. The names
of the Trustees and Minister are inscribed.

In 1832, the National School was built by subscription,
and a grant from the National Society. Miss Bronte was a
Sunday School Teacher here.

Mr. Bronte had, as assistants, the Rev. Wm. Hodgson,
to whom the Pastoral Aid Society granted an annuity of 50,
from 1836; the Rev. W. Weightman, M.A., of the University
of Durham, curate about two years, and the Rev. James
Stuart Cranmer, D.D., 1847, who was also Master of the
Grammar School. Mr. Weightman died September 6th, 1842,
aged 27 years, and was interred in the north aisle, where a
tablet was erected to his memory by the congregation, by
whom he was greatly respected. Mr. Bronte delivered his
funeral sermon from I. Cor., xv, 56-58, on the second of
October. It was printed by Mr. J. U. Walker, Halifax.

He also published "A Sermon preached in the Church
of Haworth, on Sunday, the 12th September, 1824, in refer-
ence to an Earthquake there, by the Rev. P. Bronte, Incum-
bent." This was an octavo, price sixpence, printed by T.
Inkersley, Bradford, 1824. Further particulars of this event
will be found subsequently. [Crow Hill Bog.]

The six bells now occupying the steeple were cast by
Mears, of London, in 1845. A board in the belfry states
that the " Peal of Bells was hung by William Wood; Joseph

96 Haworth :

Redman being Architect, and were opened and prizes given,
March 10th, 1846." " April 6th, 1849, change ringing, 6040

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Online LibraryJ. Horsfall (Joseph Horsfall) TurnerHaworth -- past and present: a history of Haworth, Stanbury & Oxenhope → online text (page 7 of 15)