It is an unpretentious mahogany drop-leaf table but its simplicity belies its impressive literary connections.
For this is the family dining table where the Bronte sisters, internationally revered for their contribution to English literature, sat down to share ideas and write some of their greatest works. Now it has been secured for the nation and is returning to its original home in Haworth.
The table, which bears the marks of use including ink blots, a large candle burn and a small “E” carved on to its surface and also featured in an 1837 diary paper sketch by Emily, showing herself and Anne writing at the table with all their papers scattered before them.
Now a £580,000 grant has secured the table where books such as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights were written. Without the grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), which exists to save the most outstanding parts of the country’s heritage, it would have been sold at public auction but thanks to the money it has now been secured by the Bronte Society.
Carole Souter, chief executive of the NHMF, said: “Novels which have enthralled millions of readers were imagined and written at this table and seeing it brings to life the creative process behind the famous works.
“NHMF trustees felt it important that it should be saved for the nation so that it can be displayed to the public in its original setting.”
The table, which was sold during the sale of the household effects of the Parsonage after the death of Patrick Bronte in 1861, will go on display at the Brontes’ former home, Haworth Parsonage. It was bought by a Mr 0gden for £1-11-0 and sold on to another family within which it has been handed down as an heirloom.
It will be displayed in its original position in the dining room at the parsonage where it can be viewed by the public from February 1, when the museum reopens.
Ann Dinsdale, collections manager at the Bronte Parsonage, said: “It is one of the most important literary artefacts of the 19th century and displaying it in the Parsonage dining room marks a wonderful commencement to our programme of activity marking the forthcoming bicentenaries of the births of the Bronte siblings.”
Heritage minister Ed Vaizey said the grant: “recognises the importance of keeping these literary artefacts on display and it’s wonderful that visitors to Brontes’ former home in Yorkshire will now be able to enjoy it in its original setting.”
The good news follow months of turmoil which has seen angry exchanges between society members and the sudden departures of its executive director and chairman.
Bronte Society president Bonnie Greer recently called for local people in Haworth to consider running for leadership roles in the literary group. She wants to see society members who live in the village to stand for election for voluntary posts on the society’s council.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund was set up in 1980 in memory of those who have given their lives for the UK, and has saved key pieces of heritage including the Mary Rose.