My accommodation sat at the bottom of a steep hill, leading up to the historic village of Haworth, where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, grew up in their father’s parsonage. It was here they wrote their poetry, short stories and novels. At the top of the hill, I crossed the main road, passed under an arched stone-covered alleyway and entered a tiny town square and another era.
I’d had the idea, maybe because the Brontes’ stories are often set on the moors, that their father’s church, St. Michael’s and All Angels, was out of town a bit, but here it was, directly in front of me. Abutting the steps attached to the church wall was a pub, the Black Bull Inn, very handy if you feel the need for a quick one after services – or even before. It was one of the quaintest buildings I’d ever seen. Square, with latticed windows, it looked just like a doll’s house.
On the other side of the church was The Kings Arms and adjacent to that, The Old White Lion, so there was no lack of choice when it came to ‘bending the elbow’. Lights glowed from behind the windows of Rose and Co Apothecary, highlighting mahogany display cases filled with medicine bottles, ointments and lotions.
Shelves carried bath salts, soaps, candles and lace, all in 19th century packaging.
Terraced shops and houses marched from the square down a steep cobbled hill. The darkness of their bricks and stone was broken up by white-framed windows, many curtained in lace. Flower pots hung from wrought-iron railings and filled the space around doorways. The green hills and the clouded sky above them created a backdrop as the cottages reached the bottom.
The steps around the side of the church led to a graveyard, sheltered by trees, lush grass growing between the ancient gravestones.
I became aware of the parsonage, sitting serenely, separated from the graves by a swathe of lawn, like a theatrical backcloth, and something like an electric shock ran through me. This was the actual spot where Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre, the orphan made good, where Emily wrote Wuthering Heights, her gothic tale of obsessive love, and Anne, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, a story of domestic violence that shocked the readers of the time.
It was already closed so I left looking through it till the next morning and wandered back around the side of the church.
A plump woman waylaid me as I stepped down into the square.
‘Where are you from?’ she demanded.
‘I have friends in Australia, Adelaide, do you come from Adelaide?’
‘Have you been here before?’
‘I come here a lot. I’ve left my husband home this time.’ A picture flitted through my mind – a man, serene in the silence of his solitary house. ‘Are you here for the Brontes?’
‘Anne is buried in my home town, you know, Scarborough, she’s the only one not buried here.’ She stopped for a much-needed breath and noticed me looking longingly at the Black Bull Inn. I was desperate, partly for a look inside and partly for a drink, which, even though I’m not a great drinker (these days, anyway), it being late afternoon, I definitely thought I deserved.
‘Are you coming in?’ she said, ‘come on, come in.’
She marched away and I was drawn along (quite easily, I will admit), in her slipstream. I ordered a red wine and sat at a latticed window, gazing out at the town. As dusk settled, lights popped on from lanterns over porches and lamplight glowed softly through windows. I could have been in one of my childhood story books.
This is an extract from ‘Is This the Road to Stratford?’, the third book in my Planning to the ‘Nth’ travel series. The first, ‘The Edge of the World’, is now published as an Ebook through Amazon. To download a free sample or to buy the book, click here