I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

vrijdag 28 februari 2014

Bancrofts from Yorkshire and Top Withens

I received an e-mail from Jarlath Bancroft from the weblog
He told me that he posted a story about George Riley Bancroft and his farming at Top Withens
 Thank you Jarlath for sending me your story
It is so nice to learn more about Top Withens and the people who were living and working there.......
 And......it is great to know someone who is actually living in the neighbourhood of Haworth
George Riley Bancroft was born on 4th November 1911 at Intake Laithe Farm at Oldfield near Oakworth, Keighley, the home of his mother's Riley ancestors. He came from a long line of local farming stock, on both sides of his ancestry. His parents John and Mary [nee Riley], and his paternal grandparents had  farmed at Hoyle Farm near Haworth, and then moved to the nearby farm called 'Sowdens', when George was a young boy. His mother Mary Riley's family had farmed at Intake Laithe, in the nearby hamlet of Oldfield, since the 1780's.

George’s family also started breeding sheep during the 1914-18 war, and the family took on a lease from Keighley Corporation to graze their stock on the moors surrounding the 'TopWithens' farmhouse, which was made world famous because of its link to the Bronte Sisters book  'Wuthering Hights'. He remembered it as

“Good land, but t' Corporation’s policy were to let it go back …we hadn’t to repair ony walls, it was just land fo' keepin' sheep”.

When George’s father took on the lease at first, the agreement was

“ Fifty sheep, at a rent the equivalent of £7.50 a year…we may have kept a few more, but restrictions were imposed because just after t' war there 'ad been gross overstocking by some local men”

The Bancroft family originally took on leases for all three Withens farms, Top, Middle and Lower, and George remembered that the Middle and Lower Withens were demolished, but Top Withens, which even in those days was a popular tourist site with visitors, was left standing

“ for t’ Bronte fans…When I took t' tenancy of it, it were getting middlin’ dilapidated.... well it had got vandals in at it, and you can’t beat them. So I asked 'em what they wanted to do abat it…it was'nt safe, and I didn’t want to be responsible for onyone getting killed. They said they would take that property out of t’agreement, and they’d be responsible for that…but, well it’s more or less tummelled dahn now….and it 'ad bin a grand little place.”

He remembers a time 60 years ago, when Top Withens had a peat house, where the stock of winter fuel was kept and also remembers visiting the place lots of times when the last tenant, Ernest Roddy, a tall affable man lived there. Ernest had been gassed during the war, and fresh air was a necessity, so the authorities set him up at Top Withens where he was a poultry farmer, keeping hens. He had previously been a French polisher in Haworth, as well as a postman, and hawker of yeast, and every Tuesday he visited all the outlying farms selling his yeast because home bread-baking was the norm in those days. His yeast was sold for one penny an ounce and George remembered

“when he 'ad landed home after tramping miles over t'moorland, he wouldn’t be worth robbin'… He would be there for five or six years and left in 1926. He 'ad a pony and cart to go to and from Stanbury and Haworth, and kept a lot of white leghorn hens, and when he returned to Top Withens, an’ got in sight of it, those hens saw him coming and flew darn to meet him”
When asked if he’d had any bad winters up at Top Withens, he laughed and replied:
“ Aye, we had one o' two bad winters…the worst spell o' weather was in't early part of 1947. It began at t’latter end o’ January, but before then it were a reight keen frost for two or three weeks. Soon after Christmas it’d start. It started coming from over yon moortop , and when it does that, it’s north-east , you can expect summat. It niver gave ower till April. An' even in July there were t' remains ow a snow drift up aboon Ponden Kirk. It were sudden...we weren’t expecting it...not so bad. You couldn’t round your sheep up…you couldn’t get theer! There’s been loads a'snow where there’s been more snow than then, but t’north-east wind niver let up. You could see t'snow being blown ower t'fields. Down t’middle of t' field there was very little snow, but under t’walls and main road…well it were hopeless!.”
George was always fond of sheepdogs, and one of his more unusual sheepdog tales was of the time one June day when he decided to clip some sheep up at Top Withens, and went up there by horse and cart, with his dog [Ben] riding along side him. He noticed some sheep had strayed onto Haworth Moor, so spent about an hour rounding them up with Ben. When all the sheep had been clipped, he loaded the wool onto the cart, and Ben jumped on, as they made their way back to the farm at Stanbury. Ben untypically did not jump down from the cart when they got home, but just lay there. George thought “Begger you!”, left him and went in for some tea. Afterwards, the dog was still sat on the cart and George therefore knew “ summat were up…after running on t’ling for an hour, every one of his feet were red raw…chopped i’bits” ['Ling' is the name for the rough heather which grows on the moor] 
One day he left a small flock of sheep grazing at Top Withens, and lost them. "Good God where can they have gotten to"…then he saw the kitchen door at a nearby farm was open, and the sheep had gone inside. He therefore marched into the kitchen, round the large kitchen table, rounded them up and out the door with a bright “Mornin” to the speechless farmer’s wife. 
George married Hannah Whittaker, daughter of Whitley Whitaker in 1933, and they had four children, two sons and two daughters. bancroftsfromyorkshire/george-bancroft-farming-life

I found another old picture of Top Withens.

Originally known as "Top of th'Withens", Top Withens was probably built in the second half of the 16th century by George Bentley (or his relatives). At the time of the Brontës, it was inhabited by Jonas Sunderland and his wife Ann Crabtree (from 1811) and then their son, Jonas, with Mary Feather (from 1833). It was last inhabited by Ernest Roddy in 1926. locations/top-withens

donderdag 27 februari 2014

Collar of Keeper

Bronte Parsonage Museum

Keeper was at least partially a bull-mastiff, and has also been claimed by commentators to have had a bulldog or labrador strain. He was certainly a very large dog - his collar is shown in the image below, next to that of Flossy, who was a spaniel.

Charlotte, who had never been close to the house dogs as much as Anne and Emily, developed a close bond with them after her sisters’ deaths. She wrote to her publisher William Smith Williams after she returned to the Parsonage following Anne’s death at Scarborough: “The ecstasy of these poor animals when I came in was something singular – at former returns from brief absences they always welcomed me warmly – but not in that strange, heart-touching way – I am ce...rtain they thought that, as I was returned, my sisters were not far behind – but here my Sisters will come no more. Keeper may visit Emily’s little bedroom – as he still does day by day – and Flossy may look wistfully round for Anne – they will never see them again – nor shall I”.

(N.B. I came across this quote when I was researching our current exhibition ‘The Brontës and Animals’. It made me cry. I thought I’d share it with you – Mari, Curatorial Intern).

Bronte Parsonage shop



Come and visit us! We have re-opened and are looking forward to welcoming you! Our admissions and shop refurbishment is complete and here's a taster for you!

maandag 24 februari 2014

The Visionary

SILENT is the house: all are laid asleep:
One alone looks out o'er the snow-wreaths deep,
Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze
That whirls the wildering drift, and bends the groaning trees.

Cheerful is the hearth, soft the matted floor;
Not one shivering gust creeps through pane or door;
The little lamp burns straight, its rays shoot strong and far:
I trim it well, to be the wanderer's guiding-star.

Frown, my haughty sire! chide, my angry dame!
Set your slaves to spy; threaten me with shame:
But neither sire nor dame, nor prying serf shall know,
What angel nightly tracks that waste of frozen snow.

What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
What loves me, no word of mine shall e'er betray,
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay

Burn, then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear--
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air:
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.

Emily Bronte

From the Treasure Trove
Keeper, Flossy and Tiger. Watercolour by Emily, 1843. This is the only known watercolour of Tiger, who Emily mentions in her diary paper of 30th/31st July 1845.

""We have got Flossy, got and lost Tiger - lost the hawk Hero, which with the geese was given away, and is doubtless dead, for when I came back from Brussels I inquired on all hands and could hear nothing of him. Tiger died early last year - Keeper and Flossy are well, also the canary acquired four years since.""
Read more: mick-armitage/emily-anne/diary1845

The Parlour

The Parlour



Charlotte Bronte

Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably, when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage; presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of the people, - about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age. The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W---- found that it was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay us a visit in the spring... ------------------- "She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied nimini-pimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it. ----------------------She thought much of her duty, and had loftier and clearer notions of it than most people, and held fast to them with more success. It was done, it seems to me, with much more difficulty than people have of stronger nerves, and better fortunes. All her life was but labour and pain; and she never threw down the burden for the sake of present pleasure. I don't know what use you can make of all I have said. I have written it with the strong desire to obtain appreciation for her. Yet, what does it matter? She herself appealed to the world's judgement for her use of some of the faculties she had, - not the best, - but still the only ones she could turn to strangers' benefit. They heartily, greedily enjoyed the fruits of her labours, and then found out she was much to be blamed for possessing such faculties. Why ask for a judgement on her from such a world?" elizabeth gaskell/charlotte bronte

Poem: No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life -- that in me has rest,
As I -- Undying Life -- have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou -- Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte

Family tree

The Bronte Family

Grandparents - paternal
Hugh Brunty was born 1755 and died circa 1808. He married Eleanor McClory, known as Alice in 1776.

Grandparents - maternal
Thomas Branwell (born 1746 died 5th April 1808) was married in 1768 to Anne Carne (baptised 27th April 1744 and died 19th December 1809).

Father was Patrick Bronte, the eldest of 10 children born to Hugh Brunty and Eleanor (Alice) McClory. He was born 17th March 1777 and died on 7th June 1861. Mother was Maria Branwell, who was born on 15th April 1783 and died on 15th September 1821.

Maria had a sister, Elizabeth who was known as Aunt Branwell. She was born in 1776 and died on 29th October 1842.

Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell on 29th December 1812.

The Bronte Children
Patrick and Maria Bronte had six children.
The first child was Maria, who was born in 1814 and died on 6th June 1825.
The second daughter, Elizabeth was born on 8th February 1815 and died shortly after Maria on 15th June 1825. Charlotte was the third daughter, born on 21st April 1816.

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (born 1818) on 29th June 1854. Charlotte died on 31st March 1855. Arthur lived until 2nd December 1906.

The first and only son born to Patrick and Maria was Patrick Branwell, who was born on 26th June 1817 and died on 24th September 1848.

Emily Jane, the fourth daughter was born on 30th July 1818 and died on 19th December 1848.

The sixth and last child was Anne, born on 17th January 1820 who died on 28th May 1849.

Top Withens in the snow.

Top Withens in the snow.



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