>>>Yorkshire: Brontë Country

Yorkshire: Brontë Country

It has been 200 years since Charlotte Brontë was born, but the moors of north England, like in any good romantic novel, are still sighing with love for her.
efore Julie Andrews gave music to the hills, Charlotte Brontë seduced them. She was born in Thornton, a small rural town in north England, on 21 April 1816, the third of six Brontë siblings, who preferred Lord Byron to domestic tasks. “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be”, poet Robert Southey told her in a letter. Ignoring him, she allowed herself to write a story that was “ordinary”, “vulgar” and “lacking delicacy”, according to critics of the time. Jane Eyre (1847) is, today, one of the most revered classics of English literature.
At Ponden Hall, you can see a reproduction of Catherine’s bed (the main female character in Wuthering Heights).

The Lake Poets’ inspiration

The Lake District in Cumbria is the largest national park in England. It was much appreciated by Charlotte Brontë in her day (and was where she met Elizabeth Gaskell, her biographer), and by Lake Poets like Robert Southey, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the first of the romantic poets.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me,” claims its protagonist. Now it is possible to glimpse its writer’s passionate personality and rebellious streak. The relationship between Mr Rochester, a wealthy landowner, and his daughter’s governess was based on her unrequited love for a married professor she met when studying in Brussels. Charlotte brought the story to Victorian England and, in Yorkshire, found the perfect pastoral and Gothic setting, comprising inclement mornings and rain that batters the windows. Also known as God’s Own County and the Garden of England, it is one of the largest green spaces in Europe.
Lowood, the cruel boarding school where Jane spends her childhood and part of her youth, was inspired by Cowan Bridge Clergy Daughters’ School (Lancashire). That is where Charlotte went in 1824, with her older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth. Both died of tuberculosis in 1825. The writer always blamed what happened on the terrible conditions they had lived in. The school was transferred to Casterton in 1833, but the building is still standing and there is a commemorative plaque in memory of them.
The Lake District National Park welcomes fifteen million visitors each year and is home to twelve of the largest lakes in England.
Photo: © Nick-Thorne
Norton Conyers is located six kilometres from the market town of Ripon (North Yorkshire). There were no expectations that this modest cottage would become a literary benchmark. Charlotte Brontë visited it in 1839 and based details of Thornfield Hall on its inside. However, its biggest contribution to the novel was the story of a woman who was confined to the attic 60 years earlier, which gave her the inspiration for the character of Rochester’s wife. Norton Conyers is open to visitors from March to August.
Besides visiting Haddon Hall, you can get married there. It has two ceremony rooms and gardens.
The heart of Brontë Country is Haworth, where Charlotte lived with her sisters: Emily, who wrote Wuthering Heights and Anne, author of Agnes Grey. The Brontë Parsonage Museum is the family’s house-museum, the home where the Brontës wrote their leading works. “Bright, sharp and ambitious” is how novelist Tracy Chevalier defines her, for the exhibition Charlotte Great and Small. Until December 2016, it will explore the contrast between her “constrained life and huge ambition.” The show includes personal items, such as books, shoes, dresses and even a love letter on loan from the British Library. A VIP tour will also allow entry to the library, which is normally closed to the public.
“Haworth expresses the Brontës; the Brontës express Haworth” said Virginia Woolf. This town’s fondness of the sisters was made obvious in 2012. Residents contributed money from their own pockets to restore the crypt of the church where Charlotte and Emily are buried. It is also worth visiting Ponden Hall, traditionally known as the Linton’s home in Wuthering Heights (under the name Thrushcross Grange). Today it is a Bed & Breakfast offering rooms inspired by the most famous sisters in romantic literature.

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