Haworth Parsonage: Home of the Brontë sisters, where they wrote classics of English Literature

Katerina Bulovska
Brontë Parsonage. The former home of the Brontës, just off the High Street in Haworth. Author: DS Pugh. CC BY-SA 2.0

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are among the most popular authors of British Victorian literature. They lived most of their lives in Haworth, a charming, cobblestone village in West Yorkshire in a humble parsonage, where the sisters wrote their classics of English Literature. In the dining room of the house, initially known as Glebe House, the Brontë sisters would gather in the evenings to discuss their characters and events in their books, usually while walking around the table. Their famous novels, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë were all written in this house.

The Brontë sisters were daughters of an Irish clergyman, Patrick Brontë, who was appointed Curate of Haworth in 1820 when the family moved from Thornton and remained in Haworth until 1861. The village, where they lived and wrote, had a deep influence on the sisters’ writing. It is believed Emily found inspiration for Heathcliff’s dwelling in what is today a ruined farmhouse on Top Withens. Also, she was so fascinated by the moorland surroundings of her village that she included the landscape in her only novel Wuthering Heights.

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Since 1928, the Brontë sisters’ house has been turned into a museum, which is owned and managed by the Brontë Society. It was redecorated in order to achieve a more authentic 1850s look. In the house, there are many items on display that belonged to the Brontës and the rooms are all furnished with pieces from the Victorian Era.

The Brontë Parsonage, now a museum, in Haworth, Yorkshire, England. The former family home of the Brontë sisters – Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. Author: DeFacto. CC BY-SA 4.0

Since 2015, the original dining table at which Charlotte, Emily, and Anne wrote their novels is once again in the dining room after being purchased by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. After the early death of Emily at the age of 30 and Anne at the age of 29, a family servant in the house used to recall how sad she felt while Charlotte Brontë was walking around the table by herself.

Brontë Parsonage. The former home of the Brontës, just off the High Street in Haworth. Author: DS Pugh. CC BY-SA 2.0

The dining room, besides being the place where the sisters created their masterpieces, is believed to be the room where Emily Brontë died, on the black sofa, claiming until the end that she wasn’t ill. The walls of the room are decorated with portraits: a copy of the pencil portrait of Charlotte Brontë, and a plaster medallion with a profile of Branwell, the only son of the Brontë family.

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The dining room; Brontë Parsonage Museum. Author: Chris Neale. CC BY 2.0

When the family moved in, Charlotte made some changes to the interior design of the house. She left the mahogany furnishing as it had been before, but concentrated more on decorating the house. For instance, despite her father’s dislike for the curtains, she still completed the rooms by hanging them.

Anne Brontë’s writing desk. Author: summonedbyfells. CC BY 2.0

Haworth Parsonage was constructed in 1778 -1779 at the top of the village, similar to many farmhouses and looking towards the church where Patrick Brontë was the minister. His successor the Reverend John Wade built the gable wing as an addition to the house, where the private library is today. The two-story house consists of four rooms on each floor, with a large parlor made by the Brontës, Mr. Brontë’s study, kitchen, store-room, servants’ quarters, and bedrooms.

A postcard purchased from the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Author: summonedbyfells. CC BY 2.0

Their mother, Maria Brontë, died of cancer when the girls were still young, so her sister, Aunt Branwell as they called her, helped in taking care of them. After her death in 1842, Emily adopted the role of housekeeper and spent much of the time in the kitchen.

Haworth parsonage soon after Patrick Brontë’s death

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Charlotte’s room is among the bedrooms on the first floor. Originally it was her parent’s bedroom, but after the death of Mrs. Brontë, her Aunt Branwell used the room.  Around 1854, Charlotte married Reverend Arthur Bell Nicholls and they shared the room. On 31st March 1855, Charlotte Brontë died in that bedroom at the age of 38.

Brontë Museum. Author: Jay Sands. CC BY 3.0

Branwell Brontë also died in the house, aged 31, in Mr. Brontë’s bedroom. As his health declined from a combination of tuberculosis and alcohol withdrawal, he stayed in his father’s bedroom. Branwell’s eerie drawings of the death coming to get him are now on display in Haworth Parsonage.

Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë, by their brother Branwell (c. 1834). He painted himself among his sisters but later removed the image so as not to clutter the picture.

Patrick Brontë outlived all of his children and died at the parsonage on 7th June 1861 aged 84. Today, Haworth Parsonage Museum is visited by many book lovers from around the world. It is a moving experience, showing the private lives of the Brontës, the sisters that wrote some of best-known novels in the history of English literature.