If there is a place synonymous with the Brontë family, it is, of course, the village of Haworth in West Yorkshire. Haworth was the home of the family from 1821 when Patrick, Maria, and their six children made the journey from nearby Thornton so that Patrick could take up his new position as Perpetual Curate of Haworth, Stanbury and Oxenhope. The parsonage, which overlooked St. Michael and All Angels’ Church, remained the Brontë family home until 1861 when Patrick, after witnessing the deaths of his entire family over the decades, finally passed from this world to join them.
Today thousands of visitors make what has now become something of a literary pilgrimage to not only the home of the Brontës, but also to the final resting place of this remarkable family in St. Michael and All Angels’ Church. Inside are numerous tributes to various departed residents of Haworth and figures in the Brontë story, including one to Maria’s sister, Elizabeth Branwell, who helped Patrick to raise his children after her tragic death, and also to popular, charming, but doomed curate, William Weightman. The church the Brontës worshipped in was demolished and replaced with a new building which was erected between 1879 and 1881. Above the site of the Brontë family vault is a memorial which marks the spot of their burial. The text reads:
“The Brontë family vault is situated below this pillar, near to the place where the Brontë’s pew stood in the old church. The following members of the family were buried here. Maria and Patrick. Maria, Elizabeth, Branwell, Emily Jane, Charlotte”.
However, there is one family member who is not buried in the vault, and who, curiously, does not even get a mention on the tablet which marks the resting place of her entire family. The missing Brontë is Anne, the youngest of the bunch who rests alone many miles away on the coast of Scarborough. Although not buried with her relatives, she at least deserved a mention. Their stories, personal histories, and writings are all so tightly and uniquely intertwined with one another, and although everyone has a “favourite” Brontë, you really can’t have one without the others. In omitting Anne’s name from this memorial, Anne has been cast into the role as “the other Brontë”. It’s true that she gets a mention on another memorial erected in the church, but she is also missed off one which is dedicated to her sisters Charlotte and Emily due to their published works. Anne is still very much “other” even in the place she called home.
What of Anne’s literary legacy then, and her own resting place in Scarborough? Over the past few years, a new era has dawned in Anne’s history, and “the other Brontë” has finally stepped out of the shadows. Interestingly, although Haworth is synonymous with the family as a whole, it is Scarborough which is inextricably linked with Anne’s life, death, and legacy. Why is this? There appear to be disguised mentions of Scarborough in her published works, and Anne had visited Scarborough on numerous occasions, and there is a sense she was happy there, and possibly even free from the restrictions of everyday life as she gazed across the water.
It’s the place she chose to see out her final days; I think Anne always knew the severity of her final illness but submitted to various treatments for the sake of her father and surviving sibling, Charlotte. I think Anne chose to return to Scarborough not in the promise of physical recovery and life, but of spiritual recovery and to see a place she had fond memories of one final time. Anne died on 28th May 1849 aged just 29 and rather than transport her sister’s body back to Haworth, Charlotte chose to “lay the flower where it had fallen” in the fresh air, out in the open, in the churchyard which overlooks the sea. I always felt a little sad in the past that Anne was separated from her family but I think she would have approved of Charlotte’s choice. During my visit last weekend with the sun shining, a clear blue sky, and a view of the sea, I think Anne got the best deal.
Fortunately, the incorrect details on her initial, and now sadly crumbling, gravestone have been rectified with a new, flat stone which is dedicated solely to Anne. There is a sense that Anne is at home in Scarborough, and for those who have championed her works for many years and for those just discovering them, a visit to the coastal town brings us a little bit closer to Anne. To speak of Anne is to speak of Scarborough rather than Haworth, and the youngest and overlooked Brontë has claimed a place of her own in the world, and also in the literary world. Further proof of this lies in the fact that in January 2020, a small exhibition opened which celebrated Anne’s bicentenary and her fierce, unflinching, and trailblazing novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It’s a remarkable project where artists and Brontëites were given the opportunity to submit a piece of work on a page from The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall which was in some way inspired by Anne and her work. The location? Woodend Creative Workspace in Scarborough.
It’s an astonishing project in a beautiful space which celebrates and champions Anne’s life and work in so many ways. And the predominant images? The Haworth moors and parsonage got a lot of focus but Scarborough and the sea is what seems to have inspired most people when thinking of Anne, just as it once inspired her.
There were far too many to take individual pictures of which is why I purchased the exhibition book which reproduces each artwork and provides a short piece written by the artist.
Brontë Mama and Papa accompanied Brontë Babe and thoroughly enjoyed it too.
And a bit of Bob came too, back to the place he loved to visit, just like Anne.
Here are a few of my favourites. Last time I said that, I got into trouble with a trolling blogger who took offence that I hadn’t listed them when I recommended some of my favourite bookish people. So here are some of my favourites.
It’s a lovely tribute to Anne and I’d really recommend trying to visit as although I believe it’s been extended into February, it really won’t be around for much longer. Yes, Haworth Parsonage have their own Anne 200 celebrations running throughout 2020 but there is something special about this one. Visiting Scarborough also gives you the chance to follow in Anne’s final footsteps and to visit her resting place. Scarborough is the place where Anne is, at last, the centre of attention when speaking about the Brontës and I’m sure she would be overwhelmed by such a positive response to her works, life, and philosophy.
In Loving Memory of Bob the Bichon (2007-2019)
A lover of life, the Brontës, and Scarborough who knows that I’m just going to write because I can’t help it.
By Nicola F. a.k.a. The Brontë Babe.
Thanks for reading. I’d love it if you stopped by The Journal of Juvenilia Studies where you can read my essay, “Autobiography, Wish-Fulfilment, and Juvenilia. The ‘Fractured Self’ in Charlotte Brontë’s Paracosmic Counterworld”.
Please do not copy, share, or use the images from this post without seeking permission first.