Follow the Vets’ Film Trail through our region.

Once again our region has been chosen to feature as the backdrop to heritage filming. Bradford and Yorkshire are key areas chosen for some great television and film productions. The most recent is the remake of the popular classic All Creatures Great and Small , based on the hilarious and uplifting best seller books by James Herriot about the novice vet from Glasgow who settles into a veterinary practice in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930s.

The current village of Darrowby is essentially Grassington and Mrs Pumphrey’s  palatial home is Broughton Hall Estate near Skipton but Bradford District makes its appearance in the use of the wonderful Worth Valley railway line, Oakworth and Keighley Worth Valley stations for all things rail related.

Of course Bradford District is no stranger to filming from films such as Room at the Top and Billy Liar of the 1950s/60s to Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, the Railway Children and Peaky Blinders. The list is a long one and starting earlier through the decades. Bradford’s City Hall, its centre, and local towns and villages have become firm location favourites for heritage sites and atmospheric shoots. Heritage buildings like Little Germany’s former 19th century wool merchant district have been used for a Hindi horror movie in 2013, when the streets doubled as 1920s London,  and most recently for Gentleman Jack, Downton Abbey and the Netflix history of football in the North of England, The English Game.  The model village of Saltaire too is a popular venue for period streets, shop fronts and terraced housing and The English Game crew made full use of these as a film location. Also on football, let’s never forget the Ripping Yarns’ episode Golden Gordon (1979), also filmed locally, about the trials of footy fan Gordon Ottershaw in his support of the worst team of 1935, Barnestoneworth United, starring Michael Palin. The diversity of the townscape has also attracted Bollywood film makers, Bombay Stores was used for the film Karachi, a comedy drama, in 2015:

If you would like to follow some inspirational tours of award winning filming in our region check out the site for Filmed in Yorkshire:  and see where it takes you in our very own district. Why not plan your own trail, taking in your favourite films and TV series.

James Herriot’s Vet novels and non-fiction about the glorious dales are still available for loan in Bradford Libraries, just click and collect:

Books on cinema and film are also available for loan, such as Made in Yorkshire by Tony Earnshaw and Jim Moran that includes in-depth accounts of more than 30 films and looks at the history of filming in this beautiful county.

Of course no conclusion can be reached without a reminder of the National Science and Media Museum  and also that Bradford has been internationally recognised as the world’s first UNESCO City of Film, a permanent title,  and in part attained because of such popularity as a location hotspot. If you would like to find out more about this accolade, what it means to you and your area and also subscribe to a newsletter that will keep you right up to date with local films and filming please follow:

For the future, Bradford can look forward to the development of a diversity of film talent as a result of Screen Yorkshire’s successful initiative Beyond Brontës to help young people (18-24) from diverse backgrounds to establish careers in the creative industries. In June 2020, the first group of trainees successfully completed the scheme. The following link gives full details of the initiative and the kind of training and experience that the students gained. There is also a video link as well:

Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies

Nature Cure – Bradford Parks and Woodland

Another lockdown may loom but the Bradford District is blessed with some beautiful countryside, moorland walks and has parks and woodlands to stroll and commune with the natural world. Take a look at this excellent site listing all the grounds available in our area.

Each has its own history and development, click on the links provided to find out more about your own local area. There are photographs, useful location maps and information about new environmental policies and change as well as funding bids. Did you know that 6 of our parks have green flag awards and that 10 are listed on English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England including: Bowling Park, Lister Park, Peel Park and Horton Park?

The need for public parks began in the nineteenth century and the park movement was inspired by the need to get people taking ‘rational recreation’. Many people worked long hours in the mills in Bradford and the Temperance movement was keen to advance the healthy living option of fresh air and exercise as opposed to the pub.  With all the hours that people worked, there was little time for travelling to the most fun areas regionally or to the seaside so the development of local parks was a benefit to all. Birkenhead Park in Merseyside is generally thought to be the first publicly funded civic park. It was opened in April 1847 and was designed by Joseph Paxton of Crystal Palace fame. The following gives a short history of the public park:

The history of private and public gardens has also influenced plants and garden design in public parks and vice versa. The following links can help you to  trace influential developments and follow the plant hunters as they discovered plants such as the fern and find out about the origins of flowers and shrubs such as the rose and the rhododendron and new species. Don’t forget that Bradford’s own Lister Park has its own botanical garden as well as the Mughal garden and that Cliffe Castle in Keighley has just undergone restoration of its formal and ornamental gardens and glasshouses and has an aviary as well as parkland.

If you want to know more about current plant science and current studies, Kew also has online films and reports. and the Natural History museum site will help you to trace the natural history of the garden in their “try at home” sections:

Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies

The Brontës and their reading: what the Brontës read and their Home School experience

4 – Where did the Brontës get their books?

In part one of an examination of Brontë reading, we looked at some of the books that edified, influenced and comforted the Brontës throughout their lives. We touched on a couple of sources of books and journals, however, this is still a subject of some speculation, especially considering that the Brontës, even after publication, would never have had much spare money to subscribe widely to journals or to purchase many books.

Keighley and Haworth Mechanics’ Institutes

Both Juliet Barker and Bob Duckett, library historian, note that the parsonage library was small and of mainly classical subjects and natural history. Both give excellent accounts of book and journal sources. Both have successfully argued that the Brontë girls did not directly borrow works from Keighley’s Mechanics’ Institute, though it is likely that as a member himself, Patrick was familiar with its library (the Institute’s archive, including catalogues and annual reports, is available to view in Keighley Local Studies Library from c1835). However, Patrick was the first President of the Haworth Mechanics’ Institute and Charlotte was an active supporter.

Mechanics Institute

Circulating Libraries

It is generally agreed that Charlotte used the circulating libraries in Keighley, based on evidence from Mrs Gaskell and on Charlotte’s association with Thomas Hudson of High Street library and bookshop and Robert Aked in Low Street, printer and circulating library service. The latter also printed Haworth Church hymn sheets and printed Patrick’s works such as The Sign of the Times (1835). Both Patrick and Charlotte ordered books from John Greenwood’s of Haworth and by 1853, there were 5 booksellers in Keighley, 21 in Leeds and 8 in Halifax.

c1849 OS map

Local Families

Bob Duckett identifies local families such as the Greenwoods of Old Oxenhope who lent books to the Brontës. He has also written extensively about the Heatons and their library at Ponden Hall, often the stopping place for the Brontës on their walks, especially perhaps Emily who may have used some Heaton family history for Wuthering Heights. We do know that Charlotte and her sisters also visited the home of Dr John and Marianne Milligan. They lived in South Street. Mrs Milligan was from Haworth herself and married the Keighley surgeon and workhouse doctor to the Union (from 1838). Dr Milligan was a book collector and became vice president of the Mechanics’ Institute. He lectured on health and disease in manufacturing communities and the effect of poverty. Keighley Library now has a small collection of his former library.

A Curiosity for you

As there is much online on this topic, we would like to leave you amongst the bookshelves of Eshton Hall near Kildwick, the home of Frances Mary Richardson Currer (1785-1861), daughter of Rev. Henry R. Currer. Miss Currer was very wealthy, a bibliophile and a generous philanthropist and a member of Keighley’s Mechanics’ Institute. It is also speculated that she was at one time the anonymous benefactor of Patrick Brontë. She was patron of the Cowan Bridge School, also a neighbour of the Sidgwicks of Stonegappe where Charlotte was a governess in 1839. It is probable that she was the source of the name “Currer” Bell used by Charlotte as her pseudonym. Did any of the Brontës ever visit Eshton Hall’s magnificent library?

Jeffreys map 1771


The Brontës. Juliet Barker (Phoenix, 1995)

‘Where did the Brontës get their books?’ Bob Duckett in Brontë Studies, Vol 32, Part 3, Nov. 2007 (Brontë Society, 2007)

‘The Rev. Patrick Brontë and the Keighley Mechanics’ Institute.’ Dr Ian Dewhirst. Brontë Society Transactions, Vol. 14. No. 5 (Part 75). 1965

Free online leaflets and fact sheets on the Brontë family are available at:

The most useful for this study are:

The Brontë Collection. Angela Speight (Keighley Local Studies Library, 2017)

Keighley & the Brontë Connection and Haworth & the Brontë Connection, both guides to resources in Keighley Local Studies Library. Gina Birdsall (Keighley Local Studies Library, 2017) These include details of further publications by renowned Brontë expert and author Ann Dinsdale, Prinicpal Curator, Haworth Parsonage and Steven Wood, author and specialist local historian on all things Haworth.

Newspapers and Magazines

Newspapers and magazines played a large part in the lives of the Brontës. The most predominant influence was that of Blackwood’s.

Blackwood’s Magazine.

Blackwood’s Magazine was a monthly journal published by William Blackwood of Edinburgh from 1817. It contained comment and satire on contemporary politics and literature with extensive and detailed reviews on new works of politics, travel, history and fiction. This magazine appears to have influenced them greatly and inspired their own works of imagination and illustration.

Newspapers and other journals

The Brontës could not afford many subscriptions. Patrick subscribed to Fraser’s, the Leeds Mercury and the Leeds Intelligencer and it was Rev. Jonas Driver of Haworth who leant the family Blackwoods and John Bull.

However, newspapers and journals were not just read by the Brontës but were, particularly for Branwell, a source of publication for his poetry and those of his local poet friends. As well as reading Bell’s Sporting Weekly, he sent poetry of to the Bradford Herald, the Halifax Guardian, the Leeds Intelligencer and the Yorkshire Gazette. The latter was a York newspaper produced by the bookseller and stationer, Henry Bellerby who also ran a public library from his Stonegate shop from which Branwell also borrowed books (The Brontës, p464).

The Brontës may well have had access to the Keighley & Haworth Argus and The Keighley Visitor, as both were connected to a bookseller, Mr Thomas Duckett Hudson, and a printer, Mr Robert Aked, with a circulating library used by Charlotte. Whether or not the Brontë sisters generally read any of the journals in which their own poetry and novels were to be reviewed is not clear for this blog. Such reviews, however, appeared in the Athenaeum, the Critic, the Atlas, the Britannia, the Spectator and the Dublin University magazine. For information on other related journals look at Juliet Barker’s The Brontës and articles from the Brontë Studies published by the Brontë Society referenced at the end of this blog.

Local outdoor and indoor visits (or just online) during  relaxing lockdown

Haworth Parsonage and village.

If you have never visited this wonderful, still atmospheric place or not been for some time then you have missed out. Continually upgraded, with wonderful exhibitions and packed full of Brontë artefacts and manuscripts, it is quite breath-taking in its scope. Treat yourself and follow in the footsteps of the Brontës and the literary curious such as Virginia Woolf, Simon Armitage and Kate Bush. You will be informed and inspired. On a good day, take a picnic. It is Anne Brontë’s bicentenary in 2020 so look out for any continuing events/exhibitions about this brilliant writer who, uniquely for the time, tackled alcoholism and domestic abuse in marriage.

Scarborough the fair

Scarborough is a great Yorkshire seaside resort and has strong Brontë associations, being a favourite place of Anne Brontë as well as her final resting place. Follow this link for the history of the Brontë connection:

Other useful related links:

The Lakes and the Romantic poets

Mrs Gaskell in Manchester

John Ruskin in the Lakes and Sheffield: and


The bookish interests of the Brontës were wide ranging. They were acquainted through the sisters’ London contacts with some of the great literati of the early 19th Century, they were aware of the political concerns (the aftermath of the French revolution) and changes of this internationally and locally turbulent time (industrial changes and the Chartist movement), also influenced by their father Patrick’s work as vicar and his involvement with religious debate, parish health, welfare and education, not to mention Branwell’s own wide variety of local friendships, some literary , such as the Gargrave poet Robert Story, John James, local historian (History of Bradford) and Joseph B. Leyland, a Halifax sculptor who was lauded in London for his talent.

It’s sad to think that none of the Brontë siblings ever had the opportunity of a university education and it’s likely that all the sisters at one time or another would have echoed these words extracted from a letter written by Branwell to his close friend Joseph Leyland:

“I used to think that if I could have for a week the free range of the British Museum – the Library included – I could feel as though I were placed seven days in paradise, …” (The Brontës, p. 230)

NOTE:  Keighley Local Studies Library is currently closed so we apologise for the limited references for this introduction. In his article referenced below, Bob Duckett lists other in- depth studies of the books read by the Brontë family.


The Mother of the Brontës. When Maria Met Patrick, Sharon Wright (Pen and Sword History, 2019)

The Brontës. Juliet Barker (Phoenix, 1995)

Classics of Brontë Scholarship. Selected & introduced by Charles Lemon (The Brontë Society, 1991), various studies included

Portrait of a Governess, disconnected, poor and plain. Brontë Parsonage Museum (The Brontë Society, 1991), brochure

Why not join the Brontë Society and get your own copies of Brontë Studies with up to the minute scholarship and discussion on all things Brontë:




Gina Birdsall and Angela Speight, Keighley Local Studies Library

Treasure of the week. No. 33: The wild man of Cottingley : the wandering life of Jack Lob

‘A Sketch of the Life and Vagaries of ‘Jack Lob’ of Cottingley, near Bingley; a wandering beggar’, pages 10-16 in Interesting Interludes in the Singular Life of William Sharp, alias ‘Old Three Laps’. Printed by Thomas Harrison of Bingley, c. 1856. (Reference: JND 116/4)


The life of Jack Lob was a continual struggle for existence; want of instruction, deprived of his parents when young, and isolated from the working classes by his own indolence and partial insanity, he wandered from one place to another wherever he could pick up a penny of a crust of bread. In the cold nights of winter, in frost and in snow, he crept into old barns, mistrals, pig styes, under hay stacks, and into hedge row bottoms, with an empty stomach and scanty clothing.

John Robinson, better known by the name of Jack Lob, was born at Coppy Coppice, near Cottingley. His father was a soldier but died when John was young. “He was rather short, his physiognomy exhibiting a want of intelligence, having the appearance of an Ourang Outang or wild man of the woods.”

His friends persuaded him to take work in the various coal pits, where he could find employment as a drawer up of coals, but his long habits of vagrancy and mendacity led him to fall back again to his old course of begging, for he said he liked liberty with all its privations better than labour.

He was once confined, as he called it, in the Bastile, or Thackley Workhouse, where his wants were amply supplied but one night escaped though the closet seat. Efforts were made to find him and bring him back, but he managed to evade the vigilance of the parish officers.

Some exploits of this wandering and homeless man are recounted in this tract, giving us, today, something of the flavour of a problem still with us. On his death, local landowner, William Ferrand, without being asked. generously made up what was necessary.


The Brontës and their reading: what the Brontës read and their Home School experience

3: Tutor –Governess –Schoolmistress

All the girls were sent to school at different times to be educated for governesses and Branwell himself took on some more detailed study of the Classics when he decided to become a tutor. The following standard work for governesses during the nineteenth century was included in the small Brontë library: Miss Richmal Mangnall’s Historical and Miscellaneous Questions for the use of young people (1813 edition). It included various questions and answers, arranged like a quiz book. This apparently continued to be used in the education of young women until the turn of the twentieth century.

The education for a governess was not so extensive as that received by boys but Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to improve their French and German in order to plan for opening their own school and expanded their knowledge of European history, drawing and music and foreign literature such as the works of the French author Victor Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

Religion and the Natural World

Each child owned at least one Bible and a Book of Common Prayer. They also attended Church services and Sunday school. Patrick had always emphasized the importance of reading the Bible. Juliet Barker also speculates that Aunt Branwell may have had some “Methodist Magazines” full of miracles and apparitions (The Brontës p.146). Later all the children would take their turn as teachers in the new (1832) Sunday school at Haworth. As adults all the siblings struggled with their faith at different times in their lives and this was a period of lively religious debate, even in Haworth and Keighley.

Living as they did virtually on the moors, it is not surprising that the Brontë family had access to books on the natural world and apart from the classics and religion, the books in Patrick’s library were largely on natural history. They had several books that were illustrated by Thomas Bewick, such as the History of British Birds and probably his illustrated editions of Fables for Children (The Brontës, p. 150). Another popular book at the time was also Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne. They would also possibly have had access to local herbal remedies, botanical and natural folklore and folktales through their servants and local village contacts.

Bewick’s History of British Birds (British Library)

Gina Birdsall and Angela Speight

The Brontës and their reading: A lockdown look at what the Brontës read and their Home School experience

When the Brontë children were not busy writing and illustrating their own stories and histories, they were all receiving home education at the hands of Patrick and Aunt Elizabeth. In this second article in our series, we take a look at the early years of the Brontë home school experience.

2: Home School – early days

According to Juliet Barker, Patrick used various copies of the Bible and Prayer Books as a tool for instructing his children in the classics. Branwell received the most dedicated instruction generally but his sisters attended some of his lessons including ancient history. There was also the use of English verse versions of Virgil by John Dryden. Emily translated Virgil’s Aeneid from Latin and later Anne knew enough to teach both Latin and Greek as a governess.

Anne Bronte

Standard texts for education included Oliver Goldsmith’s History of England, J. Goldsmith’s A Grammar of General Geography and Thomas Salmon’s New Geographical and Historical Grammar. A book popular in all such households of the time was Hannah More’s Moral Sketches. Other favoured books of the time used by them were John Milton’s Paradise Lost and John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (a couple of other lively recommendations for the young grumblers in your lockdown household). Patrick also had his Cambridge classic texts of Homer and Horace.

All the children would receive some education in history and modern languages such as French and German and shared a great interest in Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. Other works familiar to the children were the novels of Walter Scott and the Romantic poets such as Lord Byron, also of course, Shakespeare and such books as Swift’s Gullivers’ Travels and The Arabian Nights.

Adult Fare: holidays, unemployment and leisure reading


All the Brontës reflected the contemporary interest and love for poetry. It is known that Charlotte knew much by heart including verses in French. Writing to her friend Ellen Nussey in 1834, Charlotte advised her to read William Shakespeare, John Milton, Oliver Goldsmith, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth and Robert Southey, amongst others. In fact, both Charlotte and Branwell wrote to poets of the day, Charlotte to Robert Southey, then Poet Laureate, from whom she got mixed feedback and Branwell to Wordsworth and Hartley Coleridge, receiving a letter of encouragement from the latter. Emily enjoyed the work of the Scottish poet David Moir whose poetry was published in Blackwood’s Magazine under the pseudonym “Delta” (The Brontës p.274).

Robert Southey letter to Charlotte (British Library)

Robert Southey (Poetry

Search the poets:


The Brontës, including Patrick, were influenced by Sir Walter Scott, Patrick had his own copy of the Lay of the Last Minstrel. Anne and Emily were particular fans. As early as 9 years old, Emily borrowed the scenery of Scott’s novels for Gondal and made him the chief man of her play ‘Tales of the Islanders’ (The Brontës p146).

Juliet Barker recounts (p.634) the receipt of a parcel of 20 books from Smith, Elder &Co for Charlotte including Hazlitt’s Essays, Charles Lamb’s Letters, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Meinhold’s Amber Witch. There were also books on feminine issues: Julia Kavanagh’s Women in France during the Eighteenth Century, Alexander Scott’s Suggestions on Female Education, Woman’s Friendship and Woman and her Master.  Jane Austen, however, was never a favourite of Charlotte’s.

After her sisters’ deaths, on a visit to the Lakes with her later friend, Elizabeth Gaskell (they met in 1850), Charlotte reveals a liking for John Ruskin and Thomas Arnold and a loathing for Tennyson (The Brontës p. 652). She loved Harriet Martineau’s Deerbrook, however. Harriet Martineau wrote novels and books on political economy and became a correspondent of Charlotte’s before a major falling out later. Harriet went as far as giving Charlotte the gift of her recent book Eastern life, present and past, the copy is inscribed and is part of the Brontë collection at Keighley Local Studies Library.

Charlotte Brontë

Such wide-ranging interests would have been shared with, and by the sisters. There were also the influences of educated friends’ reading: such as Martha and Mary Taylor (who were the first to go to Brussels), Ellen Nussey and the sisters’ mutual association with the publisher George Smith of Smith, Elder & Co. and his involvement  with the London literati such as Charles Dickens and William Thackeray (Vanity Fair) for whom Charlotte was full of awe and admiration (The Brontës, p. 552) and whom she eventually met in a meeting arranged by George Smith.  There is an excellent radio drama on BBC iPlayer of Charlotte’s and Anne’s visit to London to the home of George Smith called Charlotte in Babylon. It’s in 4 parts: for Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott (also for the digital archive) Thomas de Quincey was another writer contacted by Branwell. An English essayist and critic, born in Manchester, he was a great admirer of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Wordsworth with whom he associated and at different times rented out the home of Wordsworth in Grasmere. He struggled as a writer but became famous later for Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.

Branwell Brontë

Gina Birdsall and Angela Speight, Keighley Local Studies

In our next article we will look at the education of the older Brontë children for tutor and governess roles.

A walk with Sidney Jackson #6

The Archaeology Group Bulletin gave its readers an opportunity to publish interesting historical structures or objects observed on country walks, and then to receive informed comment about them. I cannot think of an obvious forum for such interactions today. That is not to say there is not still considerable interest in local history. There is a Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society which, in more normal times, holds regular meetings at the Bradford Club. Some of its members undertake research of real value which is published in an excellent journal, The Bradford Antiquary, copies of which can be found in the Local Studies Library. Bradford U3A has groups devoted to Archaeology and Old Buildings, and there are area historical societies in several parts of the city. But where would you present an interesting farm building that you had just seen? In March 1965 a gentleman from Allerton sent Sidney Jackson some photographs of a barn he had examined at High Bradley, near Skipton. SJ redrew an illustration for the Bulletin, which seemingly couldn’t cope with photographic images. The building was identified as an ‘aisled barn’ and attention was drawn to the roof truss and supporting wooden pillars. The basic design consisting of a central ‘nave’ and two supporting aisles, a pattern that echoes the Roman basilica and was widely used for church design.

If you would like to examine an almost identical building I can strongly recommend the Grade 1 listed, seventeenth century, Great Barn at East Riddlesden Hall: I have included a recent photograph.

The barn is 120 feet long, 40 feet wide, and consists of eight bays. The external stone walls, pierced for lights especially at the gable ends, are load-bearing so this is not a timber-framed structure, although many wooden members are incorporated. The oak upright timbers support the roof trusses. They stand on stone bases since wooden posts buried in the soil inevitably rot within a century or so. The oak roof trusses are of the ‘king post’ type. The supporting timbers running lengthways along the roof are called purlins. The purlins engage on the ‘principle rafters’: the other roof members are ‘common rafters’. The rafters support stone slates which keep the barn weather-proof and mean that the pitch of the roof is kept relatively low, unlike a steeply pitched thatched roof. There is a solid stone and brick floor and two pairs of doorways with arched porches. Doors placed opposite one another in a barn indicate that it was once used for threshing. The through draught helping the separation of grains from the chaff. The stone surface was the threshing floor which needed to be kept clean. The aisles are fitted with cattle stalls so, like many northern barns, it was used both for crop storage and stock. In his original article Sidney Jackson rightly pointed out the value of such barns to those who appreciate fine carpentry.

The Brontës and their reading: A lockdown look at what the Brontës read and their Home School experience

In this first article in our new series, we take a look at the books used and of the bookish backgrounds of the educators: Maria and Elizabeth Branwell (Mother and Aunt) and Patrick Brontë, Rev. of Haworth Parsonage.

1: Home Tutors

Maria (1783-1821) and Elizabeth Branwell

Born into a prosperous merchant family, prominent in the affairs of Penzance when Britain was a great sea power in the world, the two sisters did not lack education, access to books or knowledge of current affairs through newspapers, most important no doubt,  given the family’s close dependence on their developments abroad. Within Penzance society, the girls also became quite the socialites, mixing regularly in company before the close deaths of their parents and elder brother.

Amongst the books noted by Sharon Wright (Mother of the Brontes, 2019) are works of poetry, The Lady’s Magazine, gothic literature, such as the 1794 blockbuster, The Mysteries of Udolpho byAnn Radcliffe, also remarked upon by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey. They were also members of the Penzance Ladies’ Book Club which subscribed to magazines, reviews and the latest bestsellers. As Sharon Wright notes, when Maria met Patrick on a visit to Yorkshire, she was an educated gentlewoman with an independent income and good social connections.

Penzance history

Rev. Patrick Brontë

After humble, rural beginnings Patrick, with a single-minded devotion to learning, became very well educated with a charity scholarship to study Theology at St John’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1806. Such an education for the Church would have included a thorough grounding in the Classics, Greek and Latin histories such as Tacitus Agricol and poetry, e.g. Virgil’s Georgics. Such was his proficiency that Juliet Barker notes his prize books of Samuel Clarke’s 1729 edition of Homer’s Iliad and Richard Bentley’s 1728 edition of the works of Horace (The Brontës, p.10).

Rev. Patrick Brontë

If you have lacked an education in the classics which many of us have, Natalie Haynes on Radio 4 has done much to revive interest in them outside the public school system, check her enthusiastic and entertaining programmes now available on BBC iPlayer at: books related to Patrick in the library at St John’s

What they read

Your access to a classical education: with free access to works at historians of the eighteenth century

Folklore, myths and legends

Patrick, Maria and Elizabeth were all from backgrounds steeped in folk tales, myth and legends. Patrick coming from a rural Irish background and Maria and Elizabeth from a Cornish one, as Sharon Wright says, “ghosts and smugglers, legends and liturgy.” Emily Brontë, especially, also spent time working alongside the servants such as Tabby Aykroyd and they, rather like grandparents, would have had a fund of local knowledge on the Haworth area, local family stories and folklore.

Brontë images index at Keighley Local Studies Library

Look out for our next article which will feature the Brontë’s Home School.

Gina Birdsall and Angela Speight

Book Review: The Mother of The Brontës: When Maria met Patrick. By Sharon Wright

The Mother of The Brontës: When Maria met Patrick. By Sharon Wright. Pen-and-Sword Books, 2019. 182pp.

Maria, let us walk, and breathe, the morning air,
And hear the Cuckoo sing,
And every tuneful bird, that woos the gentle spring.

(‘Lines, Addressed to a Lady on her Birth-day’ by Patrick Brontë)

After the flush of books published recently on her children and husband celebrating their various anniversaries, it’s nice to see this full-length work on Maria Brontë (née Branwell). So often Maria remains in the shadows but now, in this excellent book by Bradford-born journalist and playwright, Sharon Wright, she features in her own right.

The book opens with a wide-ranging, absorbing, and impressively detailed account of Penzance in the late 18th century. This is followed by an account of Maria herself, her upbringing, her large and complex family, and their social, religious, military and political worlds. A picture emerges of a bright, independent and mature young lady, cultured, religious, and at home in a middle-class social scene.

Well charted is the chaos at Woodhouse Grove School at Apperley Bridge from where Maria’s aunt, Jane Fennell, pleaded for the help of her practical and level-headed niece. Here Maria was courted by the school’s examiner in classics, Patrick Brontë. There is a full account of the couple’s unusual wedding ceremony, including a description of the wedding clothes researched by dress historian Eleanor Houghton, and a lyrical account (imagined) of the wedding parties’ three-mile walk to Guiseley Parish Church.

An edge is taken off the romance by the reminder of the troubled background of England in 1813. The French Wars were sucking the country dry, the industrial revolution was laying waste to traditional employment, and a series of poor harvests combined with high prices was causing widespread hunger among the poor. Maria must have welcomed it when the couple and their growing family moved to Thornton which had a cultured society somewhat akin to that enjoyed in Penzance.

The old Thornton was a sizeable village with the parsonage fronting a busy road. We learn from church records that the parsonage had a stand for a cow and a horse, not that Patrick could afford a horse, but some of his visitors could. An analysis of socialite Elizabeth Firth’s diary helps to chronicle visits made and books read by people in the area. Both Patrick and Maria found time to write and Maria’s sole surviving essay on the Advantages of Poverty, as with her letters, is reprinted in full; though with the annual arrival of babies plus young children to look after, Maria would have had little time for writing and socializing, even with the appointment of Nancy and Sarah Garrs as servants.

With the move to Haworth we are on more familiar ground. The disputes with the Haworth Church Land Trustees and Patrick’s early duties in front of a resentful congregation are well chronicled. ‘The inhabitants of the hilltop town were hard working, hard drinking and hard to impress’ writes our author. But Maria’s elegance, fashionable dress, and her ease with social elites did her husband proud. Though all too soon the sad, long, and painful death of Maria followed. The burden placed on Patrick with six young children and a large parish led to the summoning of Maria’s sister, Elizabeth, from Penzance, to help out.

Author Wright’s wide experience as a journalist on regional newspapers has paid handsome dividends as shown by her wide ranging research and easy writing style. She quotes from the Lady’s Magazine, featuring ‘gothic bluebooks’ and ‘shilling shockers’ which were  high on the publishing scene in the early 1800s. She paints a delightful picture of both Maria, and later, her daughter Charlotte, curled up in a chair reading this mutually-owned magazine, and probably enjoying the same stories. It was all a long way from Sunday School!

This is a fine book. It is no surprise that the publishers needed a reprint. The book does not merely chronicle the life and times of the mother of the Brontë children; it puts her centre stage as an influential life-enhancing individual who played a major part in the family’s life and their subsequent development and success.

Bob Duckett

Treasure of the week no. 32: Old three laps and the 47 -year bed sulk

Interesting Interludes in the Singular Life of William Sharp, alias ‘Old Three Laps’.

Published by Thomas Harrison of Queen Street, Bingley, c.1856. 16 pages. No author is given. (Reference: JND 116/5)

On Friday, April 7th, 1856, were consigned to their final resting place, the remains of one of the most eccentric individuals that ever lived. In fact, a parallel seems scarcely possible, of a man voluntarily going to bed in good health, and remaining there for a period of forty-nine years!

‘Old Three Laps’ lived at a place called ‘Worlds’ in Keighley. His nick-name derives from an incident when a tailor was making his father a new suit, but had not been given sufficient cloth. He was told to “make it with three laps or any way.” The acquired nick-name was passed onto his son.

William lived a normal life, making a living manufacturing worsted goods and shooting birds by Keighley Tarn. In due course he fell in love with Mary Smith, daughter of a neighbouring farmer, by whom he had a son. William and Mary planned to marry but their fathers quarrelled over money, William’s father being notably mean with his money – as with the tailor. At the planned wedding, Mary failed to appear. This shook William:

He became moping and melancholy, abandoned his business and the spoils of his gun, and finally betook himself to that bed to which he clung to resolutely during the remainder of a long life. … He never spoke to the person waiting upon him. The only sign of intelligence he exhibited were those common to the brute, by taking his food, and hiding himself from intruders by covering himself with the bed clothes.

Word of this eccentric behaviour spread and visitors were attracted to his home, peering through his bedroom window. William ‘Three Laps’ Sharp, died aged 79.