Spring clean heralds anniversary of Brontës’ arrival in Haworth

Pete Dilley holds a pencil drawing of Anne Bronte by Charlotte Bronte as he is reflected in a glass framed painting, as essential maintenance and conservation work is carried out at the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire
Pete Dilley holds a pencil drawing of Anne Bronte by Charlotte Bronte as he is reflected in a glass framed painting, as essential maintenance and conservation work is carried out at the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire
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It was the sort of clean-up for which Patrick Brontë was famous.

His old study at the parsonage in Haworth that became his home exactly 200 years ago, has been undergoing its annual round of maintenance while it is closed to the public.

When it reopens on February 4, it will house an exhibition on his life and legacy in the West Riding village he made his home.

The father of the authors Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë had been invited in 1819 to take over the curacy of Haworth, relocating from the village of Thornton, near Bradford.

He arrived to find an industrial mill town, its views of the moors interrupted by smoking chimneys, whose average life expectancy was just 25 years and where 41 per cent of children died before they were five.

“The conditions were comparable with the worst districts of London,” said Rebecca Yorke, of what is now the Parsonage Museum.

“The water supply came down from the hills and through the graveyard before it reached the taps.”

Rev Brontë campaigned tirelessly for sanitary and other social improvements for the local mill workers, and in 1850 persuaded the engineer and politician Benjamin Babbage to publish a report on conditions in the village – which he branded unclean and unsanitary.

The parsonage study contains many of Rev Brontë’s medical records, which he was expected to keep on behalf of those who could not afford doctors’ fees.

The spring-clean, which takes the whole of January, will also see new wallpaper hung in the study of Charlotte’s husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls, who had been one of Rev Brontë’s curates.

A replica of the paper he used at the time of his marriage to Charlotte in 1854 was traced to the New York public library around eight years ago and new rolls commissioned.

Rev Brontë spent the rest of his life in the Haworth parsonage, outliving his wife, Maria Branwell, by 40 years, as well as all six of his children.