On Friday 17th November, a friend and I rolled sleepily out of bed and walked down to university, where we got on a minibus which would take us to Haworth, Yorkshire. It was a trip with the English society, because the main tourist attraction in Haworth is, of course, the Brontë Parsonage.
I’ll confess now that I’ve only actually read Jane Eyre, and the first time I didn’t even like it all that much (it improved on second reading, many years later). But the Brontë sisters are undoubtedly famous, so it was a good opportunity to take. The parsonage is a good couple of hours away from the Liverpool, so we didn’t get there until around midday. It was raining most of the way there, but by the time we eventually stopped, it was just a bit gloomy, weather-wise (the irony was not lost on us).
So our first stop was getting our tickets to the parsonage! The student tickets cost around £6 (I think the standard adult ticket was £7-8), and apparently they stay valid for a whole year. I don’t know when I’d get the opportunity to go back within a year, but it’s still cool.
We decided to go around the parsonage before finding something to eat. The house itself had quite a few rooms – it was modest, which I guess you would expect. This year the parsonage has been promoting the story of Branwell Brontë (the brother, if you’re not familiar… I wasn’t), but next year is the celebration of Emily Brontë’s 200th birthday, and the museum has something rather special in mind.
The above photo is one of what will be a unique, handwritten manuscript of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, in a tribute to her as the original manuscript is lost. Curated by Clare Towmey, visitors to the parsonage can take the opportunity to write one line each in the manuscript, and then it will be exhibited at the museum all of next year.
The session to write in the manuscript happened at 4pm on the Friday I went, and while our trip had split up into our various groups basically as soon as we got off the minibus, it was amusing to see all of us pool into the house at about ten to four, eager to take part. To tell the truth, it did feel very strange to sit in the Brontë house, writing in a Brontë manuscript. My line was “by my employer. Hareton would not open his fingers, so I”, but again, I haven’t actually read it so it doesn’t actually mean anything to me. Don’t worry, it’s on the to-read list…
In between our two trips to the house, I spent some time wandering up and down the high street, mostly just to take photographs. My Instagram is soon to be filled with them. It’s a very pretty place, and clearly takes pride in its Brontë legacy with the amount of references to it and merchandise sold to do with it.
More of our time, however, was spent in the graveyard behind the church by the parsonage. Now, my mum has always liked graveyards, as morbid as it may be, and I’ve never really understood it – but we thought we’d see if we could find the Brontë graves. We were very much unsuccessful, for reasons to be explained, but while we were there, loitering, a man approached us and asked if we would like to help wind up the church clock.
Figuring hey, why not – we had time to kill, after all – we agreed. Now, you know those doors on the sides of churches that look really small and old, and you walk past them and vaguely wonder if anyone ever actually uses them? It turns out, yes! The man opened the tiny door and led us up what has to have been the narrowest set of stone spiral stairs I have ever come across. They were so narrow that there was a rope hanging from top to bottom for the express purpose of semi-dragging yourself up so you didn’t tumble back down.
We emerged into a small room with a high ceiling, where the man lifted a long ladder and placed it against a balcony, where the clock mechanism is (as you can see below).
It was a few minutes to three at this point, so we hurried (albeit unsteadily) up the ladder so we could watch as the clock turned three and set the bells off. I’ll admit, it was actually really interesting to see the mechanism go. The man was telling us about the history of the clock tower, and how the clock mechanism had been working since the late 1800s, when it was installed.
Winding the clock turned out to mean winding three separate parts of the clock, one at a time. When you wind it (using some form of crank that attaches to the mechanism), the ropes pull up these ginormous weights – and I mean ginormous. The first one must have been over a metre long, almost a foot thick, and completely solid metal. The other two got progressively smaller, but winding them up was honestly a bit of a workout. The whole process took around 40 minutes.
We signed a book afterwards, which it appears people have been doing for quite a long time, to say that we’d been there – we were also showed the time when a member of Japanese royalty signed the book in 1999, and then on the next page, a few Japanese tourists did it and, according to the man, were thrilled to realise that the royalty had been there only a short while before them.
All in all, my day in Haworth was pretty great. I definitely didn’t expect to end up in a clock tower or writing in a Brontë manuscript! Plus, the trip would have been totally worth it for the photography opportunities anyway. And hey, maybe my mum’s right and good things do come from hanging out in graveyards.