Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


Haworth is a shrine and as with any shrine the holy of holies is set about with shops. None of the shops are proper shops. If Haworth has a Tesco it's somewhere out on the periphery. If it has a charity shop, ditto. The shops you'll see as you walk up or down the very steep, cobbled high street are all selling frippery- bygones and objets d'art and books and "homemade" jam. Alright, books aren't fripperies, but you get the picture.

It's a very pretty picture- especially on a sunny spring afternoon, but it's not what the Brontes saw. Fair enough, the buildings on the high street would mostly have been known to the Brontes- only they wouldn't have been selling Bronte memorabilia back the and what strikes us as quaintness would have struck them as fustiness and meanness. I imagine most of the low-ceilinged parlours would have housed the rackety-clackety machinery of the woolen trade.  Curiously enough, the two buildings most steeped in associations with the family are the ones that have changed the most. The parsonage- once a four-square Georgian box of a building- has had all sorts of newer extensions tacked on and the church- where daddy Patrick preached and everyone except Anne is buried- has been entirely rebuilt and is now a characterless, production-line, dimly-lit, late Victorian gothic shed.  The churchyard, which enfolds the parsonage on two sides, is still a heaving sea of stone slabs and toothy uprights but someone softened it in the late nineteenth century by planting trees- with the aim- as I read onsite- of "breaking up the bodies". It's calculated there must be 40,000 of them, bodies I mean, buried in layers in that very small space, some very close to the surface. In wet weather they used to manifest on the flagstones of the church as greasy puddles of rot.

Dickens has a hit at overstuffed churchyards in Bleak House. Imagine one of those horrors transposed to the top of a naked hill, with the wind blowing over it and that's where the Brontes lived.

The rood we'd planned to use was closed and we found ourselves approaching Haworth over the tops on a narrow strip of asphalt with cobbles underneath and ditches on either hand. You meet another car coming in the opposite direction and you breathe in hard. Wonderful views. The name of the road is Cold Edge Rd. Says it all, really.

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