Well, it was only a matter of time before we were back in Brontë country!
After a very early start, we found ourselves in the lovely little town of Morley, in the very well-kept and well-attended library. Our thanks go to Simon Zonenblick, who offered us the opportunity to take the readings there. Simon is currently working on a documentary film about Branwell Brontë’s time on the Manchester to Leeds railway at Sowerby Bridge and Luddenden Foot, so please keep your eye out for it! Visit the website here or follow @CaterpillarPoet on Twitter for updates.
The audience filtered in – a chatty, upbeat lot who helped themselves to tea and coffee and seemed very much up for a morning of entertainment! The event went swimmingly, and the ladies and gentlemen in attendance didn’t make it easy for us to leave afterwards, indulging Caroline’s penchant for being quizzed in Brontë trivia to the point where she had to be virtually dragged away when it was time to go! Interest certainly seemed to be piqued by the biographical side of the talk, and we enjoyed giving recommendations for various books on the Brontë family. Our sincerest thanks go to the staff of Morley library who rounded up such a superb crowd and really made us feel at home. It’s definitely not goodbye forever!
Alas, however, we did have to go, and our next destination was a famous one. We travelled along the Thornton Road to Haworth, retracing the route Caroline took on her 130 mile walk three months ago and doubtlessly the one taken by the young Brontës when they moved to the town in 1820. We were starving upon arrival, but that was easily and comprehensively fixed by a brief trip to Cobbles and Clay, the wonderful art cafe that hosted one of our readings in June. Tuscan Bean Stew, Bean Burritos and an absolutely divine warm sticky apple cake were very much enjoyed!
After that, we paid a visit to the always atmospheric and affecting Parsonage Museum, examined the original bullet holes blasted by Patrick “If I Hit Anyone In The Churchyard They’ll Already Be Dead” Brontë in his own church tower, and paid a quiet little visit to the memorial above the Brontë crypt. After all, it was quite a special day.
24th September, 1848, marked the sad day of Branwell Brontë’s death at the age of 31. 167 years later, we were on our way to read work by himself and his famous sisters at Ponden Hall, one of their favourite childhood haunts and the site of some of their happiest memories and most intense inspiration. It is likely to be one of the properties that inspired Emily’s Wuthering Heights as well as the probable template for Darkwall, an affluent home mentioned multiple times in the Brontë children’s Angrian saga.
The evening was beautiful and calm, and the house was warm and homely. We were safely shut away from the ghosts that many say wander its grounds. (We’ll be reading there on Halloween though – let’s see what happens then!) We were very pleased to see that the Collections Manager from the Brontë Parsonage, Ann Dinsdale, had come along to see what we were up to! Again, we really enjoyed performing the readings, but what turned a fun night into an excellent one was the exemplary spread laid out by Ponden resident and owner, Julie Akhurst. No fewer than FOUR cakes – including a traditional Victorian “seed cake” flavoured wonderfully with caraway, as well as scones, sandwiches and tea brewed the proper Yorkshire way graced the table and the guests tucked in heartily! However, the evening was not over, and Julie then took us on a tour of the ancient house. Utterly spoiled, we were treated to a glimpse of the famous “Box Bed” room from Wuthering Heights and the library that allowed the young Brontës to further develop their love of reading.
Another fabulous day sharing the works of the Brontë family with other enthusiasts had certainly worn us out, but it’s not over yet! We’re at Scarborough Library on Thursday 1st October, then we’ll retrace our steps to Cowan Bridge to perform a Jane Eyre-themed reading in the famous Clergy Daughters’ Schoolhouse – the template for Lowood School in Charlotte’s classic novel – on Wednesday 21st October, and finally we’ll be back at Ponden Hall for our eerie Halloween event!
Watch this space for more information, and take a moment to remember poor tragic Branwell, 200 years old in 2017. See our original production about the end of his life in Salford and Haworth this November.