Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Travelogue: Haworth

Last June, my then 16-year old daughter, Sarah, and I took a trip to Dublin-Shrewsbury-Stratford-Haworth-Whitby-Edinburgh. We had a wonderful time but somehow the travelogues got swallowed by Shakespeare postings and I realized that it was high time that Haworth was addressed properly.

Much as I loved visiting the Bronte Parsonage Museum, the Black Bull, the White Lion, and the rest of the town of Haworth, the part that I loved the most was escaping the narrow, stony town and walking on the moors up to Bronte Falls.

We had just one night in Haworth, arriving by train into Keighley about mid-day and then catching a taxi up to Haworth. After we checked into our B&B, we visited the Black Bull, where Branwell worked hard on drinking himself to death, and took loads of pictures while waiting for lunch.

Here's are our favorites from the pub:

After lunch, we scurried over to the Parsonage and spent a glorious couple of hours going through all the rooms. I've read for years about what a tiny person Charlotte was, but seeing her actual clothes really drove home that point. It was also a real treat to see the tiny books that Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne made as children. The Museum store was jam packed with goodies and we ended up getting a couple of posters--a portrait of Emily and a water color of Top Withins.

Mother Nature got her rainstorm out of the way while we were in the Museum, so afterwards we decided to hike up to Bronte Falls before dinner. The road to the trail was fairly empty, and the trail was absolutely empty except for two groups of hikers that we met on the way down. I have no idea whether that is common or not--I had sort of assumed that the trail would be choked with Bronte fans paying homage, but we pretty much had the moors to ourselves on a fresh, beautiful June evening.

We ended the day with a dinner at The White Lion where we were both so tired we were practically falling asleep in our soup. Next day, we visited the church--all but Anne are buried in a vault below the church--and the graveyard where we saw headstone after headstone that marked the passing of a very short life. Only a few were for people who lived to old age--most were in their 20's or younger.

Haworth was definitely a pilgrimage that will remain vivid in my mind for a long, long time. As we were riding in the taxi up from Keighley, I mentioned how it felt like we were going back in time as the roads became cobbled and the streets narrowed. Sarah ended up wearing her glasses instead of contacts while we were there because the wood smoke from the chimneys stung her eyes. The parsonage, church and graveyard, Black Bull, and White Lion are all at the top of town--all the streets slope down from them, but the moors beckon you up out of the town. It truly is a remarkable feeling, that feeling of the hills calling to you to leave the smokey town and walk in the fresh air on the top of the world.

Final note - will someone please tell me who stole the "th" from Keighley? I fancy myself pretty good with the British pronunciation of place names, but I made a fool of myself at the train station in Stratford when I insisted that we wanted to go to Keighley (pronounced, I thought, "Keeley"). The woman selling the tickets kept on asking if I wanted to go to "Keithley" and finally I just pointed to the place on the map, and she said, "yes, Keithley!"

For the record, here is the station sign...no "th"!

Here are more pictures of this wonderful little town in beautiful Yorkshire where some of the finest literature in the English language was written. Everyone we encountered was friendly and helped to make our time there thoroughly enjoyable.


  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing! I hope to one day visit places like that. I heard about the small books with the tiny writing. I think their clergyman father would have been appalled if he could read them! Looks like you had a fantastic time!

  2. thank you for this. Just wonderful. I went to Haworth in 1998 on my own and spent a day almost entirely alone on the moors. I spent about four days just being in the town and cherishing every moment. I rang my mum all the way back in Australia and declared, 'I'm here! I'm really in Howarth!' I'd go back again so happily.

  3. Thanks for this. We were at Haworth during the summer but were very pushed for time and didn't even manage to get to the moors. Hoping to get back there in April, if it isn't under snow then. Yorkshire place names are almost as bad as Scottish ones for strange pronunciations. They have a place which is written Staithes but pronounced Steers. Why?

  4. We hiked to Bronte Falls, too, after visiting the Parsonage. I remember we wore our "waterproofs," so I guess Mother Nature wasn't that kind to us. Although I'm usually a terrible photographer, I have a lovely snap of the cemetery with wildflowers blooming.

    Your story about Keighly was funny. We were saying "Hay-worth" until someone told us it was "How'erth." Later, though, somebody else told us that was a local pronunciation only!

  5. What a wonderful trip! I'm pretty well convinced that the British know very well that the way they pronounce place names makes no sense but they do it just to drive every one else crazy!

  6. I hope to get to Haworth (finally!) maybe this coming summer; your account and photos really make it look like a great and moving experience, so thanks for posting about your trip.

  7. Hi there! I’ve been talking to Jane about Keighley spelling in another place, and with her permission, I’m putting some thoughts here which might help clarify why it’s so strange. In a nutshell, it’s because it’s from a different language, and very old.

    'Cyhha's Clearing'- that's the accepted origin of the name. It's later Anglo-Saxon, and when originally written in what we now know as "Old English",. Now The Saxons used runes to write, and if they wrote down the name of the place they would do it phonetically, according to their runic alphabet. To complicate matters further, they had different accents and dialects of their own, and it’s perfectly possible that two different Saxons, would write the word differently because they pronounced it slightly differently, and in modern times it’s hard to know exactly what was happening, sometimes. However, the accepted gist is that the C in “Cyhha” is a hard C, and the Y is actually a remanant of the rune which is pronounced "th". So Cyhha is pronounced something like Kuth-ha. The clearing is the "ley", which is pronounced "lee".

    The Domesday Book of 1086, which was William the Conqueror's census and evaluation of his new English kingdom, is considered the definitive "first" for spelling and meaning of many places. The trouble with the Yorkshire survey was that it was done almost entirely by the only available literate men around- who happened to be French monks specially brought over to do the job. There are many instances where the French-and-Latin schooled monks had quite a bit of trouble finding a decent spelling for Anglo-Saxon words.(They had even more trouble with the Old Norse ones!) These men regularly had problems with "K" which exists not in Old French and exists only as a furrin import in modern French. And they didn't have that letter that represented "th" at all, again because it doesn't exist in French. So they either substituted something that they did understand or just left it out, when it came up. In the case of Keighley, they did their best to include it.
    There’s a fair explanation of the transition from Runes to Latin letters , though not of place-names, at this site:

    Scroll down about halfway.

    Over the centuries, many place-names were written just as the writer saw fit, usually phonetically, sometimes abbreviated and sometimes with little added bits in them which were clear at the time, but not necessarily obvious now. So Keighly has been spelt sometimes with a C, and sometimes with K. That “th” sound is spelt sometimes with a “th” and sometimes with “ch”, which might be pronounced close to the “ch” in the scottish word “loch”. One thing is clear here- people were still pronouncing it with the “th”. Old spellings often say a lot about local accents! In Shakespeare’s time, and even in Jane Austen’s, you find handwritten documents where the place-name is still totally phonetic, and tht can be a hoot to read!

    It was only when the national postal service got underway at the beginning of Victoria’s reign, that it became important to have a standardized spelling of town names. Often the clerks involved with this had to go back to the original town charter of the middle ages in order to get things sorted, or failing that The Domesday book itself. Something about the old spellings of Keighley caused them to not put in the “th”. Who knows what that was? There wasn’t a lot of systematic understanding going on, that’s for sure.

    Anyway, Keighley is “Keith” ley, to the confusion of everyone who was not born there.

  8. Thanks for the photos - it's many years since I've been to Haworth, even though I used to live in Yorkshire and one of my Uni friend's husband's family live in Keighley so I've been there a few times. British pronunciations - you can't beat 'em - but for really hard to pronounce names Wales is the country.

    By coincidence, I finished reading Wuthering Heights for book club a few days ago! (Still trying to get that Kate Bush song out of my head!

  9. Jezebel - btw, I just littered up your LJ site with comments. First, I forgot to sign in so I posted an anonymous post, then I signed up but cut/pasted the comment in twice. Sorry for the mess!

    I only heard about the Kate Bush song recently and didn't like it much. I like Sylvia Plath's poem much better, and Ted Hughes's as well.

  10. Thanks for posting on my site! The Kate Bush song and video is interesting (that eyeliner!), but apparently she based the lyrics on a BBC adaptation, not on the actual book, which explains a few things.

  11. Lovely post! How I wish I had more time to spend in this beautiful place. Next time I'll stay at a B&B and walk up to the moors!

  12. Note to self: Must remember to bring good, waterproof boots when eventually going to Haworth!

    Good post, really nice to read about your visit and to see the pictures! Thanks! :)