Giggleswick historian WR Mitchell ponders on the strange but compelling story of Dr. William Cartman, his great-great grandfather on his mother’s side. He was headmaster of Ermysted’s Grammar School, Skipton, for over three decades and included the Bronte family among his friends. Cartman often took services at Haworth Church and dined with the Brontes at the Parsonage. He officiated at the funeral services for both Charlotte Bronte and her father.
William Cartman, the former head-master at Ermysted's Grammar School, Skipton, who was a friend of the Brontes
The friendship between Patrick Bronte and William Cartman dated from the time when Patrick was curate at Haworth and William had become curate at Bingley. A Lambeth Doctor of Divinity was awarded to him by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his powers as a preacher.
Cartman cherished his continuing Haworth connection. He often preached from the three-decker pulpit of Haworth Old Church after which he would join Patrick, a widower, and daughter Charlotte for a meal at the Parsonage.
A generous man, in January 1854 Cartman presented Bronte with “an ice apparatus” (a pair of heel spikes). In thanking Cartman for his gift, the pastor wrote that he valued the gift “as much for the sake of the donor as its own intrinsic worth. It will serve as another prop to Old Age”. Charlotte, in a missive to “Dear Papa”, expressed pleasure that “you continue in pretty good health” and that “Mr Cartman came to help you on Sunday.”
Tales about Cartman were relayed to me by Grannie Cartman, a dumpy, black-clad figure, by appearance not unlike Queen Victoria. My paternal grandfather, a devout Methodist who lived at Bradley, wrote sentimental articles about the Brontes, interspersing his observations with verses from hymns.
As a lad, I visited Haworth with my father at least once a year, usually in winter when the graveyard twixt church and parsonage was damp and mossy, the silence broken only by husky-voiced rooks.
Old Haworth had a sense of mystery that vanished with the clearance, from the bottom of the street, of what someone called “a hotch-potch of snickets and allotments”. It was part of a scheme to improve the traffic flow. A descendant of Jack Toothill, the village barber, told me he charged three farthings for a shave. Patrick Bronte was among his customers.
Photo: William Cartman, the former head-master at Ermysted's Grammar School, Skipton, who was a friend of the Bronte