An Oxenhope man is on a mission to track down some of the real life locations which inspired the works of the Bronte sisters. Ian Howard, who began his research in earnest 12 months ago, received a major boost when his friend Josh Chapman provided him with the memoirs of his grandmother, Joanna Hutton, who was the first female curator of the Bronte Parsonage Museum in the 1960s.
Also included amongst the memoirs was an unpublished manuscript by a woman called Dorothy Van Ghent, who died in 1968. Mr Howard, who works as a landscape gardener, said Dorothy had been trying to locate the same locations he is hunting for. "It was really nice to find out that there was someone else who wasn't sticking to the better known story of which locations the Brontes had used," he said. "It showed that my own ideas weren't just a wild goose chase! "She is very specific about the places she thought the Brontes were referring to, and she was definitely onto something."
He said Josh Chapman's brother Oliver, who like Josh and Ian also lives in Oxenhope, would be making a documentary about the project. Mr Howard said: "Josh has been looking at Google images to spot likely locations on the moors. One of the interesting things about the Brontes was how they were inspired by local legends. "Their books are very cleverly written with a lot of layers of meaning." Oliver Chapman said his grandmother, who was the last person to actually live in the parsonage, had a fascinating story to tell. "She talks about rich Americans turning up at nine or ten o'clock at night wanting a tour of the parsonage," he said. "The Brontes were her vocation, and it was a subject she spoke very passionately about." He said his grandmother had talked about souvenir hunters damaging items in the parsonage, because they were so keen to grab and make off with fragments of this historic site. He said it had been revealing to find out how much opposition there had been in his grandmother's time to the idea of a female curator of the parsonage. He noted that some of this opposition had even come from other women. "The documentary is only in its initial phases so far," he said. "We'll start with a five-minute film and see how that goes. "It'll be very interesting, not least because this is about someone whose ideas about the Brontes are so different from the official version." (Miran Rahman)