Time Travel in Keighley on the Brontë Trail

Mission: to follow closely in the footsteps of the Brontë family

Location: Keighley town centre…? Keighley town centre

Time Lord: Nancy Garrs, servant to the Brontës. To regenerate later into Irene Lofthouse, popular local guide and author for all things history in the Bradford District

Information provider: Keighley Library Town Trails, first episode Brontë Footsteps in Keighley

Mode of travel: definitely legs not telephone boxes

On Saturday 3rd December, for the first time in history, an intrepid group of literary searchers set off on the Brontë Footsteps Trail around Keighley, led by Nancy Garrs, former Brontë servant. Their mission was to discover the Keighley people, places and buildings that had formerly provided the Brontës with entertainments, tuition, publications and national cultural updates in the development of science and the arts.  This was a first and all the information was gathered together from many secondary and primary sources held at Keighley’s own Carnegie Public Library.

The Trail was launched with an introduction by library staff and authors, Angela Speight and Gina Birdsall, who outlined why Keighley’s 19th/20th century’s rich history and rapid economic growth and burgeoning cultural development was to become the subject of a series of published Trails set in the town centre. They also noted the large numbers of connections between Keighley and the Brontës that authors have made in biographies and histories of the family that led to the creation of this, the very first town trail, and the first full recognition of Keighley’s contribution to the formative development of the Brontës in the 1820s and 1830s. Furthermore, all these references in books and articles and published diaries of the Brontës are to be found in Keighley Library’s own Brontë Library collection. The trail walk followed and we all, some of us it seems for the first time, really looked at Keighley town places and buildings.

Nancy must have had a lenient day of chores because she was full of energy and enthusiasm and brought some of her own extensive knowledge to the walk regarding the Brontës, their lives and times. It was a very entertaining trail through history and Nancy really did rival the best of the best of Dr Whos.

Nancy Garrs (Irene Lofthouse)

Temple Street Buildings Devonshire Arms Buildings on Church Green

However, the library tardis and a warm space eventually beckoned and we returned for tea and cake and a look at some of the library’s wonderful books and archives that make up the unique history of Keighley in relation to the Brontës, including the Brontë Library that is now the largest in the country outside that of Haworth Parsonage. Angela and Gina had also provided a more detailed fact/source sheet and bibliography for those who wanted to do further research.

We would like to thank all who joined us on the trail, Irene Lofthouse for her wonderful tour on the day, Steven Wood and Eddie Kelly, local historians who contributed their knowledge and expertise to the trail research. Finally, we would like to thank Dionne Hood, Bradford Libraries’ Development Officer for Reading and Stock, and Create Connect Make (especial thanks to Jean McEwan) for their wonderful support and offer to publish this cultural first in Keighley.

Here’s what Ann Dinsdale (Principal Curator, Brontë Parsonage) and Sharon Wright (journalist and author of The Mother of the Brontës thought about the trail booklet:

“The Brontë Trail not only flags up the wonderful resources available at Keighley Local Studies Archive, it shines a light on all the forgotten corners of Keighley which are associated with the Brontës’ lives. It allows you to follow in their footsteps around the town and includes details which are usually missing in biographies of the famous family.”  (Ann Dinsdale, Principal Curator, Brontë Parsonage)

“The Brontë Trail is a long-overdue guide to the family’s forgotten local links. The authors have mined important and exciting knowledge from the local history goldmine at Keighley Library.” Journalist and Brontë biographer Sharon Wright.

Some Feedback for the new Brontë Trail

“That was such an interesting walk. I thought I knew quite a bit, but I learnt a lot as we walked. Thank you.”

“What a refreshing way to find out about the Brontës. Really enjoyed the presentation, and the leaflet with pictures is great to be able to retrace the steps.”

“I shall be able to impress my family with what I’ve learnt, and I’ll be going to visit the places on the map we didn’t get to.”

“Thank you for the walk, and discussion about the routes the Brontës used to come from Haworth. I’ve been trying to work out what Charlotte meant in a letter she wrote, and this has been really helpful.”

“Setts or cobbles? What did Brontës call them? Enjoyed the walk, and it created questions I’d not thought about. I hope there’ll be more walks like this.”

“Thank you for a fantastic walk and talk at the weekend about the Brontës in Keighley. It was so informative and really brought the research you’ve done to life. Congratulations to everyone involved in all of the process.”

“What a wonderful walk-talk- and exhibition – full of colour, humour and life and history. Congratulations to our guide.”

“Just enjoyed the Brontë Town Trail – wonderful! Thanks to Irene (Nancy Garrs) for such a spirited and lively tour. Thanks to Gina and Angela for such an interesting and informative booklet!”

For those of you interested in Nancy Garrs herself please follow these links:

https://bronteparsonage.blogspot.com/2022/06/nancy-garrs-headstone.html

For Irene Lofthouse, author and local history guide:

https://speakernet.co.uk/speaker/982/irene-lofthouse

Gina Birdsall and Angela Speight, Keighley Local Studies Library

One thought on “Time Travel in Keighley on the Brontë Trail

  1. I could not be happier to see the new time travel endeavours of the Keighley Local Studies into the world of the Brontës. Missing out on Nancy Garrs’ personal tour, I am very grateful that I could read about it and enjoy its highlights through the Local Studies site.
    Well done, y’all!!!!!!
    Miriam Adamson, long distance Brontë Society member

    Like

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