Haworth

Haworth (pronounced “How-worth”) is a village in the county of West Yorkshire in the north of England; it’s nowadays part of the city of Bradford. It’s famous as the place where the Brontë sisters grew up and wrote their novels . . . and all too soon died. As a result, Haworth and its surroundings draw in millions of visitors each year: you’ll even see signage in Japanese.

Haworth Main Street at Christmas

The modern village of Haworth has grown up in the valley near the railway and A629 main road. The historic core of it, or “Brontë village”, is atop the west flank of the valley.

Haworth lies at the heart of Brontë Country – the tourist phrase for those locations associated with the three sisters. They’re scattered across a broad swathe of northern England; only those close to Haworth are described on this page.

. . . Haworth . . .

Patrick Brunty (1777-1861) was born in County Down; he studied at Cambridge and entered the English Anglican priesthood. Probably because his brother was an Irish rebel on the run, he changed his surname to Brontë (say “Bron-tay”), which sounded much posher. He married and had a family of six, initially in the village of Thornton near Bradford. In 1820 the family moved to Haworth where Patrick was appointed curate.

Haworth is perched on the Pennine moors above the steep valley of the River Worth. In 1820 it was a desperately poor, unhealthy place, lacking sanitation or a safe water supply. His young wife Maria died soon after they arrived and his sister-in-law Elizabeth Branwell moved up from Penzance to help look after the children. But the two older children, Maria and Elizabeth, died aged 11 from tuberculosis. That left Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, Emily Jane, and Anne. The sisters were keen writers, though their first (joint) publication in 1846 famously only sold three copies. 1847 was the breakthrough year, with Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and Anne’s Agnes Gray all published under male pseudonyms. “Outrageous violence and immorality . . . surely the work of a man with a depraved mind”: with reviews like this, no wonder the public flocked to buy the novels.

The sisters were suddenly famous, and continued to write, but tuberculosis rapidly claimed all of them: Emily aged 30, Anne aged 29, Charlotte aged 38, and their brother Branwell aged 31. Their father outlived them by many years.

The Brontë tourist industry was already in full swing even in Patrick’s lifetime and it has prospered since, and become global. The spelling has become a social signifier: any local business called “Bronte” (without the diaeresis or trema over the “e”) is saying it’s budget, no pretensions. Any that gives it the Full Brontë seeks an aspirational audience that Patrick would have warmed to. The diaeresis is not the same as the German umlaut, as any of the family could earnestly explain.

The local transport hub is Keighley 5 miles north, where the narrow Worth Valley joins the broad Aire Valley, with good road and rail links to Leeds and Bradford.

By rail: the branch-line from Keighley is the private, heritage Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, with trains often steam-hauled. The line runs to Haworth (15 mins) and Oxenhope, with 4-6 services, usually daily June-Aug and weekends the rest of the year. You need to check the online timetable to see all the service permutations, and which trains are steam. The station is down in the valley with a one-mile walk up Bridgehouse Lane to the old village centre.

By bus: Transdev buses B1, B2 & B3 run from Keighley bus station every 20 mins, taking 15 mins to Haworth railway station. They continue from there to Oakworth, Oxenholme and Hebden Bridge.

By car: most routes follow the Aire Valley to Keighley then turn south. However from the west (eg Manchester), follow M65 then A6068 past Colne, then branch right onto Lancashire Moor Road across the hills for a short-cut to Haworth. The Parsonage museum has its own car-park (3 hours £1.80). The main general car-park is Evans, in the village centre off West Lane: they’re very quick to wheel-clamp if you’re overdue. There’s also a council-run park at Spinners Way off Sun St: turn left at the top of Bridgehouse Lane then first right.

. . . Haworth . . .

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. . . Haworth . . .

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