Haworth Village Panorama

Ever since discovering the Bronte sisters as a teenage student, I’ve loved their complex, well-observed tales of Yorkshire life. Like their legions of fans worldwide, I’ve devoured and revisited their literary masterpieces, unpicked Jane Eyre endlessly at book clubs and revelled in each new screen adaptation.    

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Discover the Yorkshire home of the Bronte Sisters

As a transplanted “Southerner” living in Yorkshire, it would have been rude not to explore the village the Bronte sisters called home, so I made an early morning pilgrimage to rural West Yorkshire, to the village of Haworth where the Bronte family lived from the 1820s to the 1850s.    

Visiting Haworth, the Home of the Bronte Sisters

After a week of record-breaking high temperatures in Yorkshire, the weather turned, and I awoke to a chilly, grey day. Driving through the undulating Yorkshire Dales early in the morning, low mists clung wetly to the hills, obliterating the hilltops and reminding me of the bleakness of the Yorkshire countryside in winter. Visions of Heathcliff striding across the moors in Wuthering Heights flashed through my mind as I drove.  

The Train to the Bronte Sisters House

On arrival in Haworth, I drove around and around narrow, winding streets for almost half an hour, but couldn’t find the Bronte Parsonage Museum car park! Frustrated, I reset the SatNav for Oxenhope and moments later, I stood on the platform of Oxenthorpe’s quaint station, clutching my £4.00 return ticket to Haworth Village.

A train whistle blew in the distance, and the sense of excited anticipation in the small crowd was palpable. A distant chuff-chuff-chuff sound heralded the approach of a steam train, before the shiny red engine hove into view.    

Steam Train "The White Rose" of the  Keighley & Worth Valley Railway - the perfect way to visit Haworth, home of the Bronte Sisters
Such a treat to take a trip on this beautiful steam train running on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway.

A dedicated group of volunteers and enthusiasts run the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, maintaining the steam engines, carriages and track. The railway is a credit to them and a joy to experience. The 1940s carriages and steam engines evoke a rush of nostalgia, perfect for visiting the very quaint village of Haworth.  

The Hill From Haworth Station to the Bronte Parsonage  

Nobody told me there would be a hill — a monstrous, steep, cobble-stoned one. As the train trundled off into the distance, I overheard a lively group of hikers ask for directions to the Bronte Parsonage. “Just follow the hill to the top,” the porter said with a smile. I know why he was smiling – walking up that hill is a proper workout!

The first part of the walk from Haworth station to Haworth village. Some seriously slippery cobbles and that hill just got steeper!
The first part of the walk from Haworth station to Haworth village. Some seriously slippery cobbles and that hill just got steeper!

Most of the people walking up the main street stopped to take photos of the achingly pretty houses, shops and coffee houses on the way. Or maybe they needed to draw breath.  

Check out the gradient on the hill - and the uber pretty house in Haworth Village - home of the Bronte Sisters
Check out the gradient on the hill – and the pretty houses on the way!

The Dark History of Haworth Village

Early in the 19th century, Haworth was a disease-ridden, impoverished and unsanitary place. Life expectancy was only 24, and all five of the Bronte sisters and their brother Branwell died before the age of 40.  

At least forty thousand people are buried in the graveyard opposite the Bronte Parsonage. As these graves were at the top of a hill, with inadequate drainage, runoff from the graveyard seeped into local wells and streams, infecting the supply of drinking water.

In 1859, Queen Victoria ordered the closure of the Haworth cemetery to new burials.  

Imagine the relief of escaping from the festering village to the fresh air of the Yorkshire Moors!  It’s not surprising that the surviving Bronte sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne enjoyed their bracing walks on the moors so much.

Top Withens in Bronte Country
Top Withens on the Yorkshire Moors

How to Visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum

The Parsonage is tucked away behind the church where the Bronte sisters worshipped and their father Patrick Bronte was the parson. It’s well signposted and easy to find.

In the 1920s, a generous benefactor bought the Parsonage and turned it into a museum which is an absolute treat for real fans of the Bronte sisters.

The Bronte Parsonage Museum, tucked away in the village in West Yorkshire associated with the Bronte sisters

Every year, around eighty thousand fans of the Bronte sisters make the pilgrimage to the Bronte house, wanting to see the environment that inspired masterpieces including Wuthering Heights, Villette and Jane Eyre.

Mere moments from bleak, windswept moorland, the plain Yorkshire stone parsonage sits atop the village, next to the church of St Michael and All Angels and the gloomy graveyard. The stark frontage of the house, thick stone floors and draughty windows made me shiver, even on a summer’s day. It’s quite a forbidding place.  

The Bronte Parsonage. Home of the Bronte Sisters | GreyGlobetrotters.com
The bleak and brooding Bronte Parsonage

While modest in size, the rather dark and gloomy rooms speak volumes of how the Bronte family lived. See the perfectly preserved elegant writing desks where the sisters penned their novels and poetry, and the sofa where Charlotte Bronte died.  

The room and desk where literary masterpieces Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall were written by Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte
The room and desk Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte wrote the literary masterpieces Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Life was harsh for the Bronte sisters. Their father was not wealthy, their mother Maria died when they were very young, and there was little money to pay servants. Household chores fell to the sisters. In those times, neither brother nor father would be expected to do “women’s work”!  

Upstairs, the tragic story of this literary family unfolds further.

Branwell Bronte

Patrick and Maria Bronte had just one son, Branwell, who was home tutored by his father. A tortured soul, he descended into drug addiction and alcoholism, before dying from tuberculosis at the age of 31.

His small room is dark and gloomy, littered with portraits, scribbles, half-finished sketches and discarded clothes. All it needed was a few pizza boxes and pairs of trainers, and it could have been a modern teenage boy’s man cave.  

The Bronte Sisters

The Bronte girls suffered a far worse fate, as they were sent away to school. In early 1824, Maria and Elizabeth went first, aged just eleven and nine years old. The two younger Bronte sisters, Charlotte and Emily joined them later that year.

The Bronte Sisters’ School

The Clergy Daughter’s School at Cowan Bridge was a vile, cold and unsanitary place with appalling food. Charlotte Bronte was inspired to write Jane Eyre after the cruelty she and her young sisters suffered at Cowan Bridge, which she used as a model for Lowood School.

Death of the Bronte Sisters

Only months after arriving at school, Maria became seriously ill, and the school sent her home. Sadly, she died a little later from tuberculosis. Within months, Elizabeth also succumbed to the same terrible disease, known at the time as “consumption”.

Sisters Emily and Anne also died from tuberculosis. Anne Bronte died and was buried alone in Scarborough, but all of the other Bronte sisters and Branwell are buried alongside their mother in the family crypt, moments from the Parsonage.  

Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte was the only one of the Bronte sisters to marry. Her bedroom is full of trinkets and memorabilia from her life, including her writing slope and her watercolours.

One display reveals a tiny pair of thin cotton shoes that would have been no barrier against the cold floors of the Parsonage. There’s also a plain cotton dress worn by Charlotte on her honeymoon.

Charlotte Bronte's room, with a dress from her honeymoon trousseau | GreyGlobetrotters.com
Charlotte Bronte’s room, with a dress from her honeymoon trousseau
The tragic death of the last of the Bronte Sisters

Only a year after her marriage and while in the early stages of pregnancy, Charlotte Bronte died from tuberculosis, aged just 38.  

Parson Bronte’s Room

Patrick Bronte’s room must have been a sad and lonely place. Imagine living on in the house where your wife and five of your six children died!  

Patrick Bronte's bedroom at the Bronte Parsonage | GreyGlobetrotters.com. Places to see in Yorkshire
Imagine having to warm your bed every night with that warming-pan!

The house is a treasure trove for Bronte fans. There are lots of original paintings and drawings too, some by Branwell, others by the accomplished sisters themselves. I loved Charlotte Bronte’s watercolours of flowers which reminded me of the “Country Diary of an Edwardian lady”.  

Beyond Haworth

Top Withens

According to local lore, the desolate ruin high up on bleak moorland at Top Withens was Emily Bronte’s inspiration for the Earnshaw’s farmhouse in Wuthering Heights. The landscape today is very different to how it was two hundred years ago. Then, Yorkshire was in the throes of the Industrial Revolution, and ugly coal mines, mills, belching chimneys and workers cottages scarred the horizon.

The fabulous view from the ruins at Top Withens. Many believe this was the inspiration for the Earnshaw's farmhouse in Wuthering Heights | GreyGlobetrotters.com
The fabulous view from the ruins at Top Withens. Many believe this was the inspiration for the Earnshaw’s farmhouse in Wuthering Heights.

Today, nature has reclaimed this wild and windswept land. All that remains is the well-worn track to Howarth from Top Withens; the same path that mill workers would have taken to church. The hard, inhospitable countryside lies silent now, except for the haunting cry of curlews, the bleating of sheep, and the creak and rustle of trees.  

Bronte Waterfall

This favourite spot of the Bronte sisters is just a few miles from the village of Howarth. It’s a pleasant walk, then a bit of a scramble up to see the small, but pretty waterfall. It’s somewhere for walking shoes, not sandals.

I couldn’t help thinking how hard the climb would have been for the Bronte sisters who would have walked to the waterfall in a long skirt!
The Bronte Waterfall. Not the biggest or most exciting waterfall ever, but it was a favourite haunt of the Bronte sisters | GreyGlobetrotters.com
Not the biggest or most exciting waterfall ever, but it was a favourite haunt of the Bronte sisters

Oxenhope

The tiny village of Oxenhope has Bronte links too. Charlotte Bronte fell for her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, but Patrick did not approve of the match. The two lovers met secretly on the path to Oxenhope!      

For more information about the Bronte sisters and their family, check out the Bronte Society website here.

Modern Howarth

Today Howarth is a thriving hotspot for tourists, lured by the Brontë heritage. On Main Street, you’ll see the Villette Coffee House and Brontë Tea Rooms. Even the “Bronte bus” that trundles back and forth to Oxenhope is called Charlotte!  

In 2002, Howarth won the prestigious accolade of World’s First Fairtrade Village.  

Pro Tip: Some of the shops and places to eat in Howarth only take payment in cash, because the WIFI in the area is poor. Make sure you visit an ATM before you head for the shops or for something to eat!

Main Street, Haworth. The home of the Bronte Sisters | GreyGlobetrotters.com
Would you ever get bored with that picture postcard view?

Where to Eat in Howarth

We had afternoon tea at the utterly fabulous 10 the Coffee House, run by Claire Barton and her welcoming team. Located at the bottom end of Main Street, the coffee shop is cosy and stylish, with plenty of room to relax. It’s a proper, leisurely experience, and a real treat after that hill! What a find!

10 the Coffee House is THE place to eat in Howarth, Yorkshire | GreyGlobetrotters.com
THE place to eat in Haworth!

We had half-and-half sandwiches – two dainty fingers of smoked salmon on brown and two of the most scrumptious egg mayonnaise fingers on the softest white bread (naughty but oh so nice). Plus a pot of Darjeeling from the extensive tea and coffee menu. And of course, there was cake!

Delicious sandwiches at 10 the Coffee House, Haworth, Yorkshire | GreyGlobetrotters.com
The sandwiches were bursting with flavour

I love to bake, but Claire’s cakes are out of this world! If you visit, you have to try the soft strawberry and cream sponge or the tart, tangy lime cake. Yummy. I’m not sure I’d fill up on Claire’s cakes before attempting the climb up the hill to the Bronte Parsonage though.

Pro Tip: Can’t decide which cake to have? Ask for half and half portions! Two delicious cakes to try, in half-sized slices. Inspired!

10 the Coffee House, Haworth, Yorkshire | GreyGlobetrotters.com
The cakes were so delicious!

Shopping in the Footsteps of the Bronte Sisters

Shops in Haworth are independent, quirky, and worthy of a good browse! I adored The Cabinet Of Curiosities which is a fabulous place to snoop around and explore. In the time of the Bronte’s, this was the apothecary’s store, and the shopfront is little changed from that time.

The Old Apothecary, Haworth, West Yorkshire now the Cabinet of Curiosities | GreyGlobetrotters.com
The Old Apothecary which the Bronte sisters would have visited

If you have a sweet tooth, Mrs Beighton’s Sweet Shop is a traditional sweet shop that will tempt you in, and the smell of chocolate is sure to lure any chocoholic into the supremely indulgent chocolate shop ….And Chocolate of Haworth.

Places to Stay in Haworth Village

The Old Registry is right in the middle of the village on the famous cobbled Main Street. You’ll find top-quality service here; some rooms even have four-poster beds and whirlpool baths. There’s also an imaginative Yorkshire menu, using excellent, local produce and a very acceptable wine list.

The Rookery Nook and Brontë Parsonage is located opposite the Bronte’s church. You couldn’t get closer to the real Bronte experience than this beautiful, quaint little apartment, which has a 10/10 rating on TripAdvisor!

Accessibility

Haworth doesn’t feel very suitable for visitors with accessibility needs. Here’s why:

  • The walk up from Haworth Station to the village and onward to the Bronte Sisters home is steep and cobble-stoned. In wet conditions, the cobbles are very slippery!
  • The Bronte Parsonage is lovely to visit, but it’s an old property with lots of stairs and no ramps or wheelchair access

Places to Visit Near to the Bronte Sisters House

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How to visit the historic Bronte Sisters Village, Haworth, Yorkshire

Are you a Bronte fan too? Which is your favourite Bronte sister or favourite book? Maybe you’ve been to Haworth? As always, I’d love to know your thoughts.

About Author

Coralie is a Brit living in North Yorkshire. When she's not writing, she's either out exploring, planning a new trip, tasting street food or relaxing with a cold G&T. With 40+ years of adventurous travel to almost 40 countries (so far), she knows there's still much to see and remains an adventure-seeker at heart. Follow her on social media and keep up with her adventures and awesome travel tips.

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17 Comments

  1. I loved this article! I think I’ve read all of the books by the Bronte sisters including a biography of the sisters, so I knew about the deadbeat brother and the horrible boarding school.

    The photos are gorgeous!

    Very inspiring and informative!

    1. Hi Julie
      I’m so happy you enjoyed the post and that you’re a Bronte fan too. Thanks for your kind words about the photos -it’s a real case of practice makes perfect, so I keep working on it – I’m thrilled you enjoyed them.
      Best
      Coralie x

  2. I’m a huge fan of period novels and this was an absolute delight to read from the perspective of a fellow fan! Have to add this to the bucketlist 🙂

    1. Hi Gabby. It’s great to meet another fan of period novels! The Bronte Parsonage was such a privilege to visit – to be in the rooms where those novels were written 200 years ago gave me chills. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and hope you do get to visit.
      Coralie x

  3. I don’t think I’ve read the Bronte sisters even though I’m an English lit grad (whoops, need to have a look at them and change that!!) but I really enjoyed reading your post – the pictures are lovely! Everything seems so peaceful and quiet, exactly how you’d imagine the Yorkshire countryside the be like. I’m based in Manchester so it’s not even that far from where I live – might have to make a little trip down soon 😀

    1. Oh Nele you’ve missed out if you’ve never read Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights! My favourite though is Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall – it was definitely before its time, as a story of a single mother.
      I hope you do get the chance to visit Haworth. I think you’ll enjoy it 😀
      Thanks for your kind words too.

  4. Wow I love this article, and the photos and beautifully written descriptions make me want to visit this place so much! How gorgeous! I’m from NZ and live in Indonesia, so these very English-looking buildings and the moors and even the weather are so foreign to me and really capture my imagination!

  5. I had no idea all of this history of the Bronte sisters was located in Yorkshire. Jane Eyre is such an incredible classic! It’s so sad that they all had such difficult lives and all died at 40! However, the scenery at Top Withens is incredibly gorgeous!

  6. Oh my god, all those places with these cobblestone alleys are so romantic – just like the novels by those famous sisters. I enjoy very much visiting places that were frequented by writers – so this would be just perfect for me.

    1. Thank you! Haworth is a real treat to visit – it simply oozes with history and you can just imagine what it was like there for the Bronte sisters!

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