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Haworth

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Haworth (pronounced "How-worth") is a village in the county of West Yorkshire in the north of England; it's nowadays part of the city of Bradford. It's famous as the place where the Brontë sisters grew up and wrote their novels . . . and all too soon died. As a result, Haworth and its surroundings draw in millions of visitors each year: you'll even see signage in Japanese.

The modern village of Haworth has grown up in the valley near the railway and A629 main road. The historic core of it, or "Brontë village", is atop the west flank of the valley.

Haworth lies at the heart of Brontë Country - the tourist phrase for those locations associated with the three sisters. They're scattered across a broad swathe of northern England; only those close to Haworth are described on this page.

Understand

Patrick Brunty (1777-1861) was born in County Down; he studied at Cambridge and entered the English Anglican priesthood. Probably because his brother was an Irish rebel on the run, he changed his surname to Brontë (say "Bron-tay"), which sounded much posher. He married and had a family of six, initially in the village of Thornton near Bradford. In 1820 the family moved to Haworth where Patrick was appointed curate.

Haworth is perched on the Pennine moors above the steep valley of the River Worth. In 1820 it was a desperately poor, unhealthy place, lacking sanitation or a safe water supply. His young wife Maria died soon after they arrived and his sister-in-law Elizabeth Branwell moved up from Penzance to help look after the children. But the two older children, Maria and Elizabeth, died aged 11 from tuberculosis. That left Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, Emily Jane, and Anne. The sisters were keen writers, though their first (joint) publication in 1846 famously only sold three copies. 1847 was the breakthrough year, with Charlotte's Jane Eyre, Emily's Wuthering Heights, and Anne's Agnes Gray all published under male pseudonyms. "Outrageous violence and immorality . . . surely the work of a man with a depraved mind": with reviews like this, no wonder the public flocked to buy the novels.

The sisters were suddenly famous, and continued to write, but tuberculosis rapidly claimed all of them: Emily aged 30, Anne aged 29, Charlotte aged 38, and their brother Branwell aged 31. Their father outlived them by many years.

The Brontë tourist industry was already in full swing even in Patrick's lifetime and it has prospered since, and become global. The spelling has become a social signifier: any local business called "Bronte" (without the diaeresis or trema over the "e") is saying it's budget, no pretensions. Any that gives it the Full Brontë seeks an aspirational audience that Patrick would have warmed to. The diaeresis is not the same as the German umlaut, as any of the family could earnestly explain.

Get in

The local transport hub is Keighley 5 miles north, where the narrow Worth Valley joins the broad Aire Valley, with good road and rail links to Leeds and Bradford.

By rail: the branch-line from Keighley is the private, heritage Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, with trains often steam-hauled. The line runs to Haworth (15 mins) and Oxenhope, with 4-6 services, usually daily June-Aug and weekends the rest of the year. You need to check the online timetable to see all the service permutations, and which trains are steam. The station is down in the valley with a one-mile walk up Bridgehouse Lane to the old village centre.

By bus: Transdev buses B1, B2 & B3 run from Keighley bus station every 20 mins, taking 15 mins to Haworth railway station. They continue from there to Oakworth, Oxenholme and Hebden Bridge.

By car: most routes follow the Aire Valley to Keighley then turn south. However from the west (eg Manchester), follow M65 then A6068 past Colne, then branch right onto Lancashire Moor Road across the hills for a short-cut to Haworth. The Parsonage museum has its own car-park (3 hours £1.80). The main general car-park is Evans, in the village centre off West Lane: they're very quick to wheel-clamp if you're overdue. There's also a council-run park at Spinners Way off Sun St: turn left at the top of Bridgehouse Lane then first right.

Get around

Haworth is small enough to get about on foot, and is well-signposted, but the old centre is steep and cobbled, with a climb to reach it from the railway station.

See

  • 1 Brontë Parsonage Museum, Church Street Haworth BD22 8DR, ☏ +44 1535 642323, fax: +44 1535 647131, ✉ info@bronte.org.uk. Daily Apr-Sept 10:00-17:30, Oct-Mar 10:00-17:00. The Parsonage is the house in which the three Brontë sisters grew up and composed their famous novels, while their father served as curate in the nearby Haworth church. Extensive collection of original Brontë manuscripts, and other memorabilia of their family life here. Adult £8.50, conc £6.50, child £4.
  • Haworth Church and Graveyard (St Michael & All Angels), 125 Main Street Haworth BD22 8DR. This is the Anglican church where Patrick Brontë was "Perpetual Curate" - because it was only a chapel, he shouldn't be called "vicar" or "rector". It was entirely rebuilt circa 1880 (some years after the family had died out) so, although it's an interesting late Victorian church, the only Brontë connection is the graveyard. The family vault contains most of them, though Anne is buried in Scarborough.

Other Brontë locations

Several locations associated with the family are close to Haworth; with a car you see them en route. For the more distant locations see Brontë Country: they include PadihamScarborough, and (believe it or not) Brussels.

  • Guiseley (say "guy-zly") is a suburb of Leeds, northwest of city centre near the airport. Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell were married in St Oswald's Church here in 1812. The church dates back to Norman times but was largely rebuilt in 1909. Near the church is a Saxon drinking well. Guiseley has given the world four famous names: the Brontës, the ancestors of the poet Longfellow, Harry Ramsden's fish & chips empire, and Sooty the glove puppet.
  • Thornton is a village west of Bradford, now a commuter town for the city, and five miles across the moors from Haworth. Patrick Brontë was curate of the "Bell Chapel" here from 1815, and the three sisters and brother Branwell were born at 74 Market Street. The remains of the chapel stand in the graveyard of the modern church that's been built alongside.
  • Birstall is a commuter town just south of the M62 near Leeds, nowadays part of Kirklees district. A mile north of it (follow A652) is Oakwell Hall, the basis for "Fieldhead" in Charlotte Brontë's novel Shirley. The Hall is an Elizabethan manor house set in extensive gardens and parkland. It was a girls' school when Charlotte visited, but the interior has since been restored to its 17th C appearance. It's open noon to 4 pm Sat & Sun, plus Tues-Thurs in school holidays. The Hall is the starting point of the Brontë Way, a 43-mile path which goes to Shelf, Haworth, Wycoller and Padiham. Also in Birstall (nowadays best known for its retail park and huge cinema) is the ancient Church of St Peter.
  • Stanbury is a little village 2 miles west of Haworth. Ponden Hall here in the Brontës' day was a 17th C farmhouse where the children came to play with the Heaton family, and use the huge family library. That farmhouse is said to have inspired "Thrushcross Grange" in Wuthering Heights, "Wuthering Heights" farmhouse itself, and "Wildfell Hall". The oldest part of the building has since been demolished but the 19th C extension survives: it's nowadays a B&B. Stanbury is the start of the walk to the "Brontë waterfall" and Top Withens farm, see "Do".
  • Wycoller is an even smaller village another 4 miles west of Stanbury, which means it's over the watershed and county boundary into Colne, Lancashire. Wycoller Hall dates back to the 16th C but was already falling into disrepair when the Brontës knew it. It's believed to have inspired "Ferndean Manor" in Charlotte's Jane Eyre. It's nowadays just a hollow ruin.

Do

  • Walk the moors. The best routes are a few miles west of Haworth. The town lies near the west edge of OS Landranger map 104 (Leeds & Bradford), so you'll also need map 103 (Blackburn and Burnley), covering the Pennine Way and Brontë Way. Top Withens Farm (Grid SD 981353) was the inspiration for Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, though just for its setting, not for the now-ruined farmhouse there. The nearest road access is at Stanbury: start by the waterfall and follow the well-marked trail west.
  • Ride the steam-hauled railway: see "Get in".

Events

  • Haworth 1940s Weekend: next event is Sat 18 and Sun 19 May 2019.
  • Haworth Arts Festival: a week of music, comedy and other arts in late July. Dates for 2019 are not yet announced.
  • Scroggling the Holly: a modern pseudo-Victorian ceremony, gathering holly to decorate the town, and parading with brass bands in period costume. Previously in late Nov / early Dec, but it wasn't held in 2017, and it's not yet known if it will happen in 2018.
  • Haworth Steampunk Weekend is Fri 23 - Sun 25 Nov 2018.
  • Torchlight Procession is Sat 8 and Sun 9 Dec 2018.

Buy

Haworth has a great deal of shops selling a whole variety of books, souvenirs and collectables. While the inevitable tourist tack shops exist, there are also some shops of really good quality artefacts.

If you've never read the main Brontë novels, don't wait till you arrive in Haworth: order them online right now. They're not in copyright so a paperback should cost less than £2.

Eat

Main Street in the historic centre is geared to day-trippers, with a string of pubs and cafes offering lunchtime fare. There's less available in the evening, though Embers 81 Main Street is a proper sit-down restaurant, open Wed-Sun 6 - 11 pm. See also Haworth Old Hall under "Drink" and Old Sun Hotel under "Sleep".

Down in the main village is where locals eat, with a rash of places by the railway station and further north along Lees Lane. Usual range of Chinese, tandoori, pizza, kebabs and fish & chips. There is also a Spar small supermarket and off license.

If you're stuck, consider going into Keighley, with a number of eateries, pubs and clubs. Buses run every 20 minutes until 11 pm.

Drink

  • Black Bull, 119 Main Street BD22 8DP, ☏ +44 1535 642249. Branwell Brontë was the man who wasn't there. He was highly talented, painting the famous portrait of his 3 sisters that now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Initially he too was in the painting - then he painted himself out, so nowadays he's a ghostly outline. Whenever he was mysteriously absent from wherever he was supposed to be, quite often he was here. He boozed in lots of places but the Black Bull was his regular haunt, close to the apothecary where he could load up on laudanum ie opium. He never held much of a job, never found published fame, became a total embarrassment to his family, and died aged 31. His favourite drinking chair is preserved at the Black Bull and guess what? He's not there.
  • Haworth Old Hall, Sun Street BD22 8BP (at the foot of Main Street). Daily 12:00-20:45. Serves a variety of meals and real Ales.
  • The Fleece, 67 Main Street BD22 8DA. Serves local Timothy Taylor real ales. With B&B lodging.

Sleep

  • Bronte Caravan Park, off Halifax Road BD21 5QF (Riverside below A629), ☏ +44 1535 649222. A caravan park situated 2 miles south of Haworth, static and tourer pitches available.
  • 1 YHA Haworth, Longlands Hall, Lees Lane BD22 8RT (just east of station), ☏ +44 1535 642234. Check-in: 15:00-23:00, check-out: by 10:00. Victorian Gothic mansion with dorms and private rooms. Dorm £10, room from £25 ppn.
  • Lots of mid-range B&Bs including Bronte Hotel on Lees Lane, Rosebud Cottage near the station, Apothecary Guest House on Main Street, and Old Sun Hotel and Thyme Cottage on West Lane. Plus some half a dozen self-catering cottages.
  • Old White Lion, 6 West Lane BD22 8DU, is a 300-year old former coaching inn.
  • Old Registry Guest House, 2 Main St BD22 8DA, genteel antique-filled rooms.
  • Ashmount Country House, Mytholmes Lane BD22 8EZ, upmarket hotel with restaurant, 300 yards from Parsonage.

Go next

Haworth is close to:

  • Hebden Bridge is an attractive village accessible by bus or a fair walk over the moors. Trains run regularly from Hebden Bridge to Manchester. Photogenic Heptonstall is where poet Sylvia Plath is buried.
  • Skipton lies a few miles north, then you're into the Yorkshire Dales. Another route into the Dales crosses the moors to Addingham then passes Bolton Abbey into Wharfedale.
  • See also HalifaxHuddersfield, the World Heritage Site at Saltaire, Bradford and Leeds.



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