At Thorp Green
Thorp Green Hall  (late 1800s)
Thorp Green Hall
Mrs. Lydia Robinson
Mrs. Lydia Robinson

Between 1840 and 1845, Anne worked as governess to the Robinson children at Thorp Green Hall - situated near York. In 1843 she obtained a post for her brother, Branwell: he was to become tutor to the young Edmund Robinson (jnr.) who had grown out of Anne's care. However, shortly after his arrival there, Mrs. Robinson enticed him into a secret relationship. The affair went on for two and a half years before it was discovered by her husband, Edmund Robinson (snr.) (Anne and Branwell's employer), and Branwell was summarily dismissed from his post. The portrait on the right is of the said 'Mrs. Robinson', who was later referred to by Charlotte's friend and biographer, Elizabeth Gaskell, as 'that bad woman who corrupted Branwell Brontë'. Edmund Robinson (snr.) died in 1846 at the age of 46: Lydia went on to re-marry, this time to a man 27 years her senior - and became 'Lady Scott': she died on 19 June 1859 aged 59.

Ann Marshall was Mrs. Robinson's personal maid and confidant. She worked at Thorp Green Hall throughout the time Anne and Branwell were there. Branwell later told his friend, John Brown (the Haworth sexton), that she had seen him 'do enough [with Mrs. Robinson] to hang him.'

Some sort of friendship must have developed between Anne and Ann, as the former gave the latter one of the paintings she had produced at Thorp Green - and this still remains with a descendant of Ann's family (see 'The Art of Anne Brontë' - from 'Main Page'). Ann Marshall died unmarried on 16 April 1847 at the age of 38.

Ann Marhsall - Mrs. Robinson's personal maid
Ann Marshall

'Flossy' - Anne's dog (by Emily Brontė)
'Flossy' - Anne's dog (by Emily Brontë)
In June 1843 Anne's charges at Thorp Green - the Robinson girls - gave her this spaniel dog as a gift. Anne named it 'Flossy', and brought it home to the Parsonage where it spent the rest of its life. The following summer Flossy had a pup, and this was given to Ellen Nussey as a gift: Ellen decided to name it 'Flossy' after its parent. This water-colour painting was produced in 1843 - soon after Flossy's arrival in the Brontë household: for many years it was attributed to Charlotte, but recent study into many aspects of the painting leave little doubt that it was actually by Emily. The dog outlived Anne by many years, dying in 1854 - 'without a pang . . . no dog ever had a happier life or an easier death' - reported Charlotte many years later.62

York Minster
York Minster
York Minster - South Transept
York Minster - south transept

This is York Minster, situated in the heart of the city of York. In the centre of the building (picture on the left) can be seen the south transept, and this is shown in close-up in the picture on the right. The figure of a person seen close to the entrance gives some idea of the building's colossal size. Anne fell in love with this building while paying many visits to York with the Robinsons. She chaperoned Emily to, and around it on their two-day excursion in June 1845 - shortly after she had quit her post at Thorp Green; and insisted on being escorted there by Charlotte and Ellen when they stayed in York for a day en-route to Scarborough in May 1849 - four days before she died (she was largely wheel-chair bound on this occasion). On that visit, greatly weakened by her illness, she gazed up in awe at the magnificent structure, and was moved to say "If finite power can do this what is the . . .", when emotion stayed her speech. She was quickly moved to a less exciting scene.63 

The George Hotel - Coney Street, York
The George Hotel - York
Site of the George Hotel, Coney Street. (1998)
The same location today

The picture on the left shows the George Hotel, situated on Coney Street (once known as 'Whip-ma-Whop-ma-Gate) in York: just right of picture-centre is the main entrance. The photograph on the right shows the same location today. Only the first floor bay-window, and the pillar located centrally beneath it (to the right-of-centre in the old picture - central in the new) remain today.64n  Coaches for Scarborough left from here, and this would be a familiar location to Anne from her Scarborough visits with the Robinsons. It was probably the place she and Emily stayed on their two day visit in 1845,65n  and was certainly where she stayed with Charlotte and Ellen en-route to Scarborough on that fateful, final journey.

The view along Coney St. York (1998)

Looking in a northward direction, this is the view along the bustling Coney Street (now a pedestrian precinct) not far from York's city centre. The site of the old George Hotel is on the extreme left in this picture, and the street clock ahead is anchored to the rear-end of St. Martin's church. York Minster is about a five minutes walk from here (in the direction shown, and over to the right).


The Brontės' school prospectus
The Brontës'
school prospectus
LEFT: This is one of the prospectuses Charlotte had distributed in July 1844 - advertising 'The Misses Brontë's Establishment' - the Brontës' own school that was to be situated at the Haworth Parsonage. The whole project was a flop as they failed to attract any pupils to the 'wilds' of Haworth.

RIGHT: On 28 April 1846 Branwell produced this sketch, titling it 'Our Lady of Grief': the lady appears to be mourning by a gravestone. Curiously, it was almost one month to the day later, that Lydia Robinson's husband, Edmund, died (26 May), and she was reported to be totally grief stricken. Some years later, Branwell's friend, F. A. Leyland, declared: "We need not entertain a doubt as to whom it is intended to represent."

'Our Lady of Grief' - by Branwell Brontė
'Our Lady of Grief'
by Branwell Brontë

Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

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