At Thornton and The Haworth Parsonage
 Thornton Parsonage (Brontė birth-place) 
Thornton Parsonage
 Maria Branwell (as a young woman)
Maria Branwell
Patrick Brontė (as a young man) 
Patrick Brontë

In 1811, Patrick Brontë was minister of Heartshead, near Dewsbury. It was while there he met Maria Branwell, who had recently moved up to Yorkshire from her home town of Penzance, Cornwall, to help her aunt with the domestic side of running a school. After a five months courtship the two were married at St. Oswald's Church, Guiseley (near Leeds); the ceremony taking place on 29 December 1812. Following the birth of their first two children, Maria and Elizabeth, Patrick was transferred to Thornton, and the family moved into the parsonage there in May 1815. It was in this building where their last (and most famous) four children were born: Charlotte on 21 April 1816, Patrick Branwell on 26 June 1817, Emily Jane on 30 July 1818, and Anne on 17 January 1820. (The 'Brontë birth-place' is now open to the public.)

Rev. William Morgan - he christened AnneThe Reverend William Morgan (pictured left) was Patrick's fellow curate back in Shropshire in 1809, and the two subsequently became life-long friends. Morgan married Maria Branwell's cousin, Jane Fennel, in a joint wedding with Patrick and Maria at St. Oswald's Church, Guiseley, in 1812 (mentioned above): each curate in turn married the 'other two'. The two brides, likewise, acted as each other's bridesmaids. Jane Fennel ultimately became Emily's godmother - and was the source of her middle name (Anne was named after her maternal grandmother and one of Patrick's sisters). William Morgan was later to perform the ministerial duties of christening Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne, and several years later still, he 'officiated' at Maria's (Mrs. Brontë) funeral: he also performed the funeral service of Patrick's three children, Maria, Elizabeth and Branwell. It is said that Dr Thomas Boultby in Charlotte's novel, Shirley, is modelled on this family friend. William Morgan died on 30 March 1858 - three years before Patrick.

Haworth - Early 1860s
Haworth (early 1860s)
Haworth Parsonage (1860s)
Haworth Parsonage - (1860s)

In 1820, Patrick was made perpetual curate of Haworth, and the Brontë family moved into the Parsonage there. This building became the Brontë family home for the rest of their lives, and it was in this house where Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall were written (the house has now become the 'Brontë Parsonage Museum'). The small dark figure stood close to the side of the Parsonage (picture on the right) has been rumoured to be Charlotte; but this is extremely unlikely as the picture was almost certainly taken in the 1860s - after all the Brontës had died. The picture on the left, however, was taken around 1860 - possibly while Patrick was still living there. On the right (in this picture) is the 'original' 'St. Michael and All Angels Church'. This church was re-built in 1879 (except the tower, which is the same) by Patrick's successor, John Wade. Immediately to the left of this, and adjoining the Sunday School, is the house were lived the Haworth sexton and Branwell's drinking companion John Brown. To the left of this is the Sunday School, the erection of which was commissioned by Patrick Brontë - Anne, Charlotte, Branwell and Emily all taught here at various times. On the extreme left is the Parsonage.

Nancy Garrs (servant)
Nancy Garrs (servant)
Martha Brown (servant)
Martha Brown (servant)

At Thornton, the Brontës employed two servants - Nancy (pictured above) and her sister Sarah Garrs. They moved with the Brontës to Haworth, and continued to serve the family until 1824. Nancy subsequently died in the Bradford workhouse aged 83 having outlived all the Brontës. After leaving their employment with the Brontës, the Garrs sisters were replaced by 54 year old Tabitha 'Tabby' Aykroyd, who stayed with the family for 30 years - dying only a few months before Charlotte in 1855. Tabby played a big part in influencing and raising the Brontë children, and the family stayed faithful to her when she became infirm with age: rather than dismiss her, they employed, in 1838, the Haworth sexton John Brown's 10 year old daughter - Martha Brown (pictured above) - to give her assistance. Initially, Martha only worked at the Parsonage on washdays, but later joined as a permanent servant. She remained there until the household was dispersed after Patrick's death in 1861, but continued to keep in touch with Charlotte's husband, and even visited him in Ireland. She died in 1880 aged 52.

Anne's Sampler (23 January 1830)
Anne's Sampler (23 January 1830)
Elizabeth Branwell (aged 23)
Elizabeth Branwell
("Aunt Branwell")

When Maria Brontë was terminally ill with cancer in 1821; her sister, Elizabeth Branwell, moved into the Parsonage to help run the household. She subsequently spent the rest of her life there raising the Brontë children - to whom she was known as 'Aunt Branwell'. She provided much of the children's education, including needlework and embroidery for the girls. This rarely seen portrait was sketched in 1799, when Elizabeth was 23 years old - and many years before Maria had even met Patrick Brontë. On the left is Anne's second sampler (embroidery) which she completed on 23 January - 6 days after her tenth birthday - under the supervision of her aunt. Many years later, Ellen Nussey declared that Anne was her aunt's favourite. Elizabeth Branwell died at the age of 66, on 29 October 1842, after a short, but agonising illness (believed to be a blockage of the bowel). The whole Brontë family were devastated; in particular Branwell, who, later that day, wrote to his friend Grundy:

'I am incoherent, I fear, but I have been waking two nights witnessing such agonising suffering as I would not wish my worst enemy to endure; and I have now lost the guide and director of all the happy days connected with my childhood.' 52

Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

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