Through Cowan Bridge the Leeds and Kendal coach used to pass, and in the days when the Brontes were there it was busier than now, for not only did the stage coaches pass to and fro, but the pack-horses were constantly on the road, taking the wool from the outlying districts to Leeds and Bradford.
I always thought the period of the Cowan Bridge School was full of sad memories for Charlotte Bronte. So, I was surprised to read about these happy memories.
The little stream, with the huge stones in its bed, flowing past the old school, Charlotte Bronte described as her favourite spot when at Cowan Bridge. Along its banks she used to wander, frequently taking off her shoes and stockings and wading in its waters. Here she was free from intrusion, and could enjoy her broken day dreams. In later years she told Mary Taylor how she enjoyed this beautiful spot, sitting on a stone in the middle of the stream. Mary told her she should have gone fishing, but she replied that she had no inclination
Elizabeth Gaskell; "The Life of Charlotte Bronte" (1857)
A large sycamore tree overhangs the end cottage, and on the opposite side of the road is a small house, now known as Lowood Cottage. It was formerly the Rev. W. Cams- Wilson's stable and coach-house ; he was the founder of the Clergy Daughters' School, and known in Jane Eyre as the black marble clergyman Mr. Brocklehurst. In addition to being the manager of the school, he was vicar of two parishes, Tunstall and Whittington, which were a few miles apart.
Formerly the old part of the school consisted of one house, at one time the residence of an old Yorkshire family of the name of Picard. This building was purchased in 1824 by Mr. Carus- Wilson, who adapted it as a residence for the teachers of the school. At right angles to this he added a long building for a school-room and dormitories for the pupils.
It is a pity that Mrs. Gaskell and other writers have com mented only on Charlotte Bronte's description of Lowood in winter, for during her stay from August, 1824, to June, 1825, she had the benefit both of the autumn and the spring. The garden was always a source of attraction to her
" The garden was a wide enclosure, surrounded with walls so high as to exclude every glimpse of prospect ; a covered verandah ran down one side, and a broad walk bordered a middle space divided into scores of little beds : these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate, and each bed had an owner."
In these days, when it is considered quite a modern move ment to interest children in rural and suburban schools in gardening, it is well to remember that nearly ninety years ago the pupils at this school for clergymen's daughters were encouraged to keep a small plot of garden in good order, so that they might be interested in such work, and have their powers of observation improved.