A mahogany drop-leaf table where the Bronte sisters sat to write some of their greatest works is back home in Haworth. Visitors to the Bronte Parsonage were able to see it back in its original setting today when the museum re-opened to the public after a short winter break with its collections refreshed. The artefact, where classics such as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Emily’s Wuthering Heights were written, returned to the parsonage on Thursday after leaving the Bronte's home in a sale that took place when Patrick Bronte died in 1861. It did return to the Parsonage on loan in 1997 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Jane Eyre, but thanks to a £580,000 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) - secured by the Bronte Society - the table has finally been returned permanently. Rebecca Yorke at the Bronte Parsonage Museum said: "It's return is really significant. it's one of the most important literary artefacts of the 19th century. "We know from diary papers the sisters would walk round the table when their father had gone to bed to read each other what they had written every day. When Emily died Ann and Charlotte continued the tradition and then when Anne died, Charlotte did it by herself. It was a very particular part of their routine.
"When it arrived last week it was a beautiful table but now it has been dressed with the sisters' writing things and cups and saucers in the dining room where it would have originally been, it looks absolutely stunning."
Today's first visitor through the doors was greeted with a free guide to the Museum in celebration of the table's homecoming. As well as the simple wooden table, visitors will also be able to explore other permanent collections - a current exhibition The Brontes and Animals and a new one called Heathcliff Adrift, which was specially commissioned and is part of the Museum's Contemporary Arts Programme this year. It is a collection of poetry by award-winning writer Benjamin Myers and follows the missing three years of Emily Bronte’s hero from Wuthering Heights, accompanied by a series of landscape photographs by Yorkshire photographer Nick Small. It looks at what could have happened to Heathcliff at that time when the industrial revolution was in its earliest days and the ragged landscape was under threat from the arrival of mechanisation. The exhibition opens on Saturday, February 7 and will run until June. The Brontes and Animals exhibition in the Bonnell Room will stay until March when it makes way for a brand new one giving a nod to the Bronte family's fascination with war and acknowledging the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Its curator will be Bronte scholar Emma Butcher. (Kathie Griffiths)