You mean one can stay there?
I'm an Arthur Bell Nicholls fan. It seems to me not just anyone could get a Bronte to the alter. I think it took a special person. It is singular that those who honor Charlotte Bronte, the author who taught us not to discount a plain governess, often forget the lesson when it comes to the plain curate she chose for her husband. I think Charlotte's judgment can be trusted in this matter.
After Charlotte's tragic death in 1855, Arthur looked after Haworth parish and his father in law, Patrick Bronte until Patrick's own passing in 1861. Arthur was not rewarded the Haworth living. So he returned home to Banager and to his Aunt Harriette who had raised him.
Years before Harriette Bell had lived at Cuba Court, the site of the Royal School where her husband, Dr. Bell was headmaster. This large house was where Arthur and Charlotte stayed when they visited on their honeymoon in 1854.
In 1861 Aunt Bell resided at Hill House, near St Paul's church with her daughter, Arthur's cousin, Mary Anna. That is where Arthur joined them.
Indeed I did not know until I visited Banager that Hill House was once the parsonage to St. Paul's. So after Patrick Bronte's death, Arthur went from living in a Parsonage to another Parsonage and as a married man, Arthur always lived with an in-law.
Hill House, is now a B and B called Charlotte's Way. The name is in deference to its Bronte connection. The house is situated in the Irish midlands with the River Shannon near by. It could not be more in the middle of the emerald isle and as an American, it's almost a puzzle where to fly in. We choose Shannon because it is 30 miles closer to Banagher than Dublin.
At first I looked at buses to complete our journey, train to the Banagher stopped long ago. But there was only one bus daily and it took four hours to arrive in Banagher. In addition, one had to ask the driver especially to go on to Banagher, otherwise the bus would begin its return trip before reaching the town.
I couldn't see a four hour bus ride after a transatlantic flight, so we opted to hire a car and driver to met us at Shannon. It was a pleasure to sit back and watch the Irish country side roll by. I have to say as we drew closer and the name " Banagher " began to appear on road sings, our excitement mounted. In an hour's time we were there.
It was awe inspiring. The house is beautiful and wonderfully kept. We were greeted by Mr. John Daly, the owner's father as she, Nicola, was still at work. He showed us to the honeymoon suite. It was once Hill House 's attic and where Arthur stored many of his Bronte mementos. I imagine Arthur would visit here from time to time and here we were.
Today it has been beautifully made over into an inviting en suite with a jacuzzi tub! Its large skylight gives one a view over the Irish Midlands that goes on seemingly for miles. It was called the Hill House after all.
We soon met Nicola's mother, who kindly offered to make us coffee and toast! Later, we met Nicola herself. Her welcome could not have been warmer. Charlotte's Way is an excellent B and B, with all the professional points one expects and yet it is also a real Irish home. Remarkable.
We immediately became devotes of the ever glowing turf fire in the living room. B and B patrons are usually off elsewhere after breakfast. But we loved just sitting before the turf fire in the home where Arthur lived with his memories for 45 years.
Nicola herself has a deep passion for the house, its history and for those who were there before. I saw photos of how the house was when she bought it 12 years ago. A ruinous shell. You would never know looking about today. It seems original. Interestingly Nicola's mother was a housekeeper here years ago and Nicola played here as a child. So both would know better than most how the house was before the abject ruin.
When the house went up for sale, Nicola jumped at it. As you speak to her about the house, one gets a lesson in the Irish love of the land. These feelings are core. One has to know the young Irish clergyman Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls, arriving in Haworth, was without " brass" (money) or property back home. If he had it, he would be seeing to it rather than looking for a post in England.
It is also of note a few years after Arthur's marriage to Mary Anna, Aunt Bell gave her son-in-law Hill House and its property. Arthur finally had something of his own to care for. Of course Aunt Bell's trust in Arthur was rewarded, just as Charlotte's and Patrick's trust was before.
Haworth is Bronte country and Banagher is Bell country. No wonder Charlotte was enthusiastic about her " new relations ". Among Aunt Bell's nine biological children were two doctors, two clergymen and one of the doctors was also a colonel in the British Army. In Haworth it was thought Arthur was over stepping his place by seeking Charlotte in marriage. But in Banagher, Charlotte found herself socially improved by being married to gentry!
The B and B Charlotte's Way would be very worthy of one's custom even without its historic associations. Besides the charming house, comfortable rooms, and its beautiful setting, the B and B advertises a "full Irish breakfast" Indeed. Nicola has her own chickens to supply the wonderful eggs and our warmed plates also had delicious sausage and ham. Generous resupply of coffee, toast and Nicola's own homemade soda bread are just for the asking ( and she does come round to ask! ). Plus there is cereal, yogurt and juice to enjoy as you wait while Nicola expertly cooks your eggs etc.
You won't leave the table hungry! The Irish believe in filling you up! lol. While eating in Banager itself, we asked for one portion of chips ( fries ) to share and were staggered at the mound brought to our table! Irish chips are wonderful btw. That's another thing they take serious, lol There are excellent pubs known for their music and food down the hill from the house, plus the marina on the river.
Of course visiting Arthur's grave was a major draw to us. He is at rest a short way at St. Paul's, Church of Ireland. The church is small but still very imposing with its beautiful tower and east facing window un the top of the hill. One cannot see Arthur and the Bell's graves from the road, a large tree blocks the view ( the plot is behind the church to the left if you stand at the iron gate ). We learned St Paul's graveyard was open all the time! I had thought it was available only on Sunday. I had made sure our visit included Sunday for this propose. When we found out we could visit the graves anytime, we were out like a shot. It's a minute walk to St Paul.
It was astonishing to finally stand at Arthur's and Mary Anna's grave. Locals tell me the stones were much brighter 30 years ago. They are almost unreadable now. We visited the graveyard every day, just as we went to the Parsonage every day were were in Haworth. Why not? What a privilege to finally be in such places.
Married couples sharing a grave seems to have been a Bell family tradition. In the four graves above, Aunt Bell ( 2nd grave from the left ) is a surrounded by her 3 clergymen sons, both biological and adopted, and their wives. Arthur and Mary Anna rest on the farthest grave on the right.
On Sunday, we also went to St Paul before noon to attend the weekly service. It got close to noon without a sign of life, but just before the hour stuck, a car pulled in. It was a lay minster and his teenage children. I have to say they could not have been more gracious and welcoming. It interested them why we Americans were there. We ran into that a good bit in the town ...friendly wonder over what brought us to Banagher. I don't think they see very many Yanks! We explained we were Bronte fans and were visiting Charlotte's husband's home and grave.
Inside the St. Paul's was like a time machine, it has lovely old style oak box pews and gorgeous stained windows. There is a beautiful marble tribute to Aunt Bell's third son, Arthur Bell, the army colonel and doctor. He died in India of cholera in 1869, leaving behind a wife and three children. The tribute was funded by his fellow officers.
We know of the sadness in the Bronte history, but Aunt Bell had much grief to endure herself. She outlived all her 6 sons and one of her three daughters.
After the service, I understood more the type of worship both Rev Bronte and Arthur Bell Nicholls presided over and the strong role of the gospel in it . We brought flowers in town to lay at the graves. It was very special to finally come to Banager, to St Paul's, to Arthur's grave and to Charlotte's Way.