When most people think of the Bronte sisters, they immediately associate Yorkshire’s foremost literary family with the village of Haworth.
Yet Kirklees can lay claim to be the ‘true’ Bronte country as the girls spent much of their childhoods in the area, particularly Charlotte, and their links to Birstall, Dewsbury and the Spen Valley continued after their move to their father’s new parish. Charlotte even used local landmarks which can still be seen today as locations in her novel Shirley. On the 200th anniversary of her birth, we list the the alternative Bronte Trail destinations on your doorstep.
RED HOUSE MUSEUM, GOMERSAL
The home of Charlotte’s schoolfriend Mary Taylor became the house of Briarmains in Shirley. The Taylors were featured as the Yorke family. Now a museum open to the public.
OAKWELL HALL, BIRSTALL
The Elizabethan manor house was the inspiration for Fieldhouse, Shirley Keeldar’s home in the novel. In the 1840s it was a girls’ school and Charlotte often visited with her friend Ellen Nussey. Now open to the public.
GOMERSAL PARK HOTEL
Then called Moor Lane House, it was the final residence of Ellen Nussey, who died there in 1897. Now part of the hotel complex.
ST PETER’S CHURCH, BIRSTALL
Charlotte is known to have attended services here when visiting her friends in the area. The vicar at the time, the Rev W M Heald, inspired the character Mr Hall. Ellen Nussey is buried in the churchyard.
HEALDS HALL, LIVERSEDGE
A boys’ boarding school during Charlotte’s youth, she based the character of Mr Helstone on the headmaster the Rev Hammond Robertson, a fierce opponent of the Luddites. Now a hotel.
CHRIST CHURCH, LIVERSEDGE
A church built by the Rev Robertson, who is buried here.
HIGH ROYD, SPEN LANE, GOMERSAL
The adulthood home of Mary Taylor, who died there in 1893. Now a hotel.
ST MARY’S CHURCH, GOMERSAL
Mary Taylor is buried here - she died aged 76.
CLOUGH HOUSE, HALIFAX ROAD, LIVERSEDGE
The home of the Bronte parents, Patrick and Maria, as newlyweds, when Patrick was curate of Hartshead. Their first two daughters, Elizabeth and Maria, were born here. Now a private house with no public access, although there is a commemorative plaque.
ST PETER’S CHURCH, HARTSHEAD
Charlotte’s father was a minister here during the Luddite attack on Rawfolds Mill in Cleckheaton, and Maria was baptised here.
SHEARS INN, HIGHTOWN
The Luddites gathered here to plot their attack on Rawfolds Mill, which inspired the novel Shirley.
Patrick Bronte was curate here from 1809-11.
RYDINGS, HUDDERSFIELD ROAD, BIRSTALL
The childhood home of Ellen Nussey is thought to have inspired Thornfield Hall in the novel Jane Eyre. Now a private house only partly visible from the road.
Another home of Ellen Nussey, where Charlotte stayed when Shirley was published. She corrected proofs of Jane Eyre in the garden. Now a private house.
Mentioned in Shirley as well as the park, although re-named Nunnery Hall.
HUNSWORTH MILL, CLECKHEATON
The fictional Hollows Mill was based on this factory, which was owned by the Taylor family. It has since been demolished and is now part of an industrial estate.
ROE HEAD, MIRFIELD
The girls’ school attended by Charlotte, Emily and Anne, where Charlotte met Mary and Ellen and later returned to teach. Now owned by the Hollybank Trust.
LOUSY THORN FARM, HIGHTOWN
Patrick lodged here when he first arrived at Hartshead. Now called Thornbush and privately owned.