The Haworth Parsonage
 - Digitally re-mastered photograph -

Brontė Parsonage Museum - the original picture
The Haworth Parsonage (c. 1930)
Same picture - digitally re-mastered
Same picture - digitally re-mastered

The Haworth Parsonage was built in 1779. It became the Brontë family home in 1820 and remained so until Patrick Brontë's death in 1861. Between 1872-78, Patrick's successor, the Reverend John Wade, added a gable wing (seen on the right-hand side in the picture on the left). In 1928, the building was purchased, at a cost of £3,000, from the Church Trustees by Sir James Roberts, who then presented it to the Brontë Society to provide a home for their museum. The 'Brontë Parsonage Museum' was officially opened on 4 August of that year. The photograph on the left is suspected of being taken shortly after this time.
'Plan' of the Parsonage and grounds (1850)In this diagram of the Parsonage grounds, drawn in 1850, the house is marked in grey - and the 'back kitchen' (or scullery) can be clearly seen. Adjacent to the corner of this is the well (indicated) - source of all the household water. The (almost) rectangular patch marked directly above this well (on the map) was probably the 'small grass enclosure for the drying of clothes' described by Mrs. Gaskell. The map also clearly indicates that the entrance to the Parsonage from Church Lane was not adjacent to the front door, as it is today, but directly opposite the 'back door'.

There are three contemporary descriptions of the front garden. Firstly, Ellen Nussey wrote of '. . . the garden which was nearly all grass and possessed only a few stunted thorns and shrubs, and a few currant bushes which Emily and Anne treasured as their own bit of fruit garden'. In Anne and Emily's 1845 diary paper, Emily wrote 'Anne and I should have picked the blackcurrants if it had been fine and sunshiny'. Mrs. Gaskell gave a slightly more detailed description of the front garden: 'Underneath the windows is a narrow flower border, only the most hardy plants could be made to grow there. Within the stone wall, which keeps out the surrounding churchyard, are bushes of elder and lilac; the rest of the ground is occupied by a square grass plot and a gravel walk'. Mr. Brontë once declared 'I will never flag the garden walks . . . it would cost £5, look worse, be more slippery in frost, require washing, and produce weeds between the joinings'.

An American visitor in 1850 noted 'the garden on either side (of a flagged walk [is this an inaccurate statement, or did Mr. Brontë change his mind?] ) was filled with various common country plants and shrubs, but bore no trace of any care or attention'. A visitor after Charlotte's death was taken by Mr. Nicholls 'through a high walled yard at the back of the house around to the front through a small flower garden'. Reports from other visitors indicate 'that the Parsonage was well screened at both front and rear by a high wall and that little could be seen except the kitchen window. Emily was the "head gardener" and was much obliged for the flower seeds sent by Ellen Nussey of Sicilian pea and crimson cornflowers'. The high wall 'protected the privacy of the inhabitants' and it is noted that 'neither Charlotte nor Mr. Brontë liked "gazers"'.41

A small pocket book of Patrick's records that in 1847: 'I got the well cleaned by pump-sucker - and two men - for five shillings [25 pence]. The water was tinged yellow - by eight tin cans in a state of decomposition. It had not been cleaned for twenty years, before.' 42

The House

On the interior of the Parsonage, Juliet Barker writes:

Though the garden was neglected, the house was not. Mrs. Gaskell commented that [relating to her visit in 1853]

'Everything about the place tells of the most dainty order, the most exquisite cleanliness. The door-steps are spotless; the small old-fashioned window panes glitter like looking-glass. Inside and outside of that house cleanliness goes up into its essence, purity.'

By the time Mrs Gaskell visited, Charlotte, her father and their servants, Tabitha Aykroyd and Martha Brown, were the only inhabitants of the parsonage and substantial changes had been made to its fabric and decoration.

Ellen Nussey, visiting Haworth for the first time some twenty years earlier, also found the Parsonage scrupulously clean but considerably more austere. There were no curtains at the windows because, she said, of Patrick's fear of fire though internal wooden shutters more than adequately supplied their place.43

'There was not much carpet any where except in the Sitting room, and on the centre of the study floor. The hall floor and stairs were done with sand stone, always beautifully clean as everything about the house was, the walls were not papered but coloured in a pretty dove-coloured tint, hair-seated chairs and mahogany tables, book-shelves in the Study but not many of these elsewhere. Scant and bare indeed many will say, yet it was not a scantness that made itself felt . . .'

Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage
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