Our Year 8 English trip offered a new experience for us all and was one of the first tentative post lockdown trips for the school. We had a fabulous time thanks to wonderful weather and generous hosts at the Haworth Youth Hostel and Parsonage Museum.
As soon as we arrived in Haworth on day one, we marched up to the parsonage where the Bronte sisters lived with their father Patrick and eccentric brother Branwell, in the early nineteenth century. On the way up, we passed the iconic station where ‘The Railway Children’ was filmed.
The museum itself offered a fascinating insight into the extraordinary lives of these innovative literary stars. Their manuscripts, diaries, poems, toys, paintings and stories were all beautifully displayed and helped to illuminate the often complex, hard and occasionally tortured lives they led. The parsonage hovers above the crowded graveyard and the church that Patrick served for forty years. Two of the daughters are buried here, pre-deceasing their father. Tuberculosis had plagued the town and would take away at least two of the family. There was an eerie peace as we stood among the headstones, and this helped us understand why the Brontes’ writing is so deeply evocative and why the sisters often examined such dark themes.
The visit included a walk on the moor and an excellent lecture on the family and their writing. This helped the children gain a sense of the isolation and inspiration that helped to forge so much creativity. One could really imagine the daughters and their brother bouncing ideas off one another as they created imaginary worlds, wrote poetry and shared their writing. Patrick was clearly a benevolent father who quietly admired and supported the sisters’ ambitions. He also supported his wayward son Branwell who frequented the local taverns and tried to pursue a career as an artist. Patrick would nurse him and sleep in the same bed as his son before Branwell’s premature demise.
That evening we read and discussed a range of extracts from the sisters’ most famous novels. The children then worked collaboratively to create their own pieces in the Bronte style. They produced some encouraging work that often conveyed a certain gothic style.
Day two saw everyone heading determinedly up onto the moors, courtesy of a fabulous breakfast.
Bracing winds and clear blue skies welcomed us and the four mile round trip to the Bronte Waterfall and Bronte Bridge was something to be remembered. The wild untamed isolation could not be ignored and helped the children imagine the sisters on their rambles. Thus, by the time we returned to the cobblestoned town the children had a deep understanding of how the context of their lives informed the content and style of the Bronte novels.
A hot chocolate and cookie at the Cobblers and Clay tearooms rounded off a delightful two days and there was even time to buy a book at the local bookstores!
A huge thanks to Mr Mace, Ms Whawell and Mr Percival for their hard work and enthusiasm in ensuring the trip ran smoothly.