Pilgrimage to Yorkshire
Tuesday, 31st May
Day twelve of my Grande Tour dawned with me in Leeds at Amy the Ant's. Amy had taken an interest in my list of foods to try and fixed me a kipper for breakfast. It was wonderful. She sauteed it in butter and
it was tender and flaky and had a marvellous flavour. If given the opportunity, I would definitely be a kipper person. Since I have never seen them for sale at any of my local grocers, I will have to wait for a future vacation in order to sample them again. It was the last thing I ate in England that I could actually taste properly.
After breakfast we spent a few minutes strolling around Amy's neighbourhood. We also made visits to a cash machine and to Cohens Chemist Shop where the pharmacist was kind enough to look up a brand
name of cold and flu medicine I was familiar with in the States in order to find its UK equivalent. I was feeling absolutely dreadful. I knew that the formula in the medication would make me drowsy and a bit fuzzy, but I was willing to risk it in order to alleviate my symptoms.
We caught a bus into town and had a pleasant walk to the train station. Near the bus station was an open air market with local vendors. It looked much like our flea markets in the States. I would have enjoyed browsing, but we were short on time. Fortunately, I was able to walk through Leeds shopping district, which is excellent, another day.
Amy and I took the short ride from Leeds to Keighley where we were met by Ormondroyd and Bagpuss. Amy had arranged for us to take the steam train to Haworth so I could visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum. For a librarian from the Ozarks, it was a true pilgrimage. Haworth is located three miles from Keighley in the Pennine Hills. It is a former wool producing town and helped to provide raw materials for the textile mills in nearby Bradford. Haworth's claim to fame, however, is its connection to what is considered by many to be the world's foremost literary family – the Brontes.
I was excited about the trip to Haworth for two reasons. As much as I wanted to see the Museum and Bronte memorabilia, I was equally delighted with the journey itself. We took a steam train owned by the
Keighley and Worth Valley Railway from Keighley to Haworth. It was a real kick to ride in the old fashioned carriages and to hear the sound of the steam engine. And the short trip through the Pennine moors was fabulous. I hope someday to return to the area and take one of the hiking trails through the area and north through the celebrated Yorkshire Dales. The countryside is so beautiful it is easy to understand why writers and painters have always found it inspiring.
The depot at Haworth suits the village perfectly. It looks like it belongs to another age. We hiked from the station through a municipal park to the central business/tourist district. Haworth is a lovely village. The thing I should have realized before I got there but didn't take into consideration is that the trip from the depot to the Bronte Parsonage Museum is straight up. These were by far the steepest streets I had encountered in England. Okay, I realize that we have many small towns in the Ozarks with streets that climb at 120 degree angles or steeper and this shouldn't have phased me. But I was unwell and, to be
honest, the climb just about did me in.
We stopped at a nice little tea room about two thirds of the way up the hill for lunch. I made another choice from my foods to try list and ordered a ploughman's lunch. I could taste the vinegar on the pickles
and could barely taste the cheese, which was a disappointment since English cheeses are so much more flavourful than American cheeses. Bagpuss ordered the Yorkshire Pudding with beef and gravy. I was astonished at it's size. It filled the entire plate and they piled the meat and gravy inside it like a bowl. The small one I'd had in Oxford was piddly by comparison.
I resumed the trek upward with a full stomach and a renewed determination to visit the shrine of nineteenth century literature. The Bronte sisters were actually born in Thornton, another village near Bradford, to the Reverend Patrick Bronte and his wife Maria. Reverend Bronte moved Maria and their six small children into the parsonage in Haworth in 1820. Mrs Bronte and their two eldest daughters, Maria and Elizabeth, all died within a few years of their arrival, leaving Patrick to raise Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne. Haworth was to remain their home for the remainder of their lives.
The Brontes were an accomplished family, but an unlucky one. Patrick, who died at age 84 in 1861, outlived all of his children, none of whom reached the age of 40. Patrick and the four children who survived into adulthood were all authors. Branwell, who fell into alcoholism and opium addiction, is the least known of the children. He shared his sister's talent, but not their self-discipline and certainly not their success. The youngest daughter, Anne, wrote two excellent novels, Agnes Grey in 1847 and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in 1848. But it is Charlotte and Emily who are the stars of the family. Charlotte's
Jane Eyre and Emily's Wuthering Heights were both written in 1847 and are considered classics of English literature.
It is unusual for one family to produce two accomplished authors. For there to be five published authors in one household is truly remarkable. The three sisters published under the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Visitors began the journey to Haworth in the early 1850s in the hope of a chance meeting with Charlotte and they are still coming from all over the world. The rooms occupied by the Bronte family have been restored to their early 1850's appearance. The original part of the house contains the Bronte's furniture and personal belongings. The house now belongs to the Bronte Society, which was founded in 1893 to promote an interest in the family's literary achievements.
After touring the museum, we strolled through the graveyard and visited St Michael and All Angels Church. Then we walked down a narrow lane with a stunning view and access to the moors that provided inspiration to the sisters. The Pennine hills are a favourite destination for Japanese tourists who descend upon Haworth in droves each year. It is said, not by me you understand, that admiration of
the Brontes has reached cult status in Japan and that many of the tourists have difficulty separating the authors from the characters in their books. I will admit to rather hoping we would run across a party of them in full regalia searching for Heathcliff on the moors.
The walk back to the rail station was a snap since it was all downhill. Continuing my unscientific observation of English toilets, I would like to note that those at the station in Haworth have those old
fashioned cloth towel dispensers, the ones where the towelling is on a large roll and you have to tug at it in order to pull down a clean, dry patch on which to dry your hands. Amazing. I hadn't seen one of those
since the 1960s. The neat thing about it is that I'm sure they consider it one of those new-fangled inventions.
We took the train back to Keighley where we were joined by Phil and Metal Chicken, who departed almost immediately but rejoined us in Bradford. Our next stop was at Saltaire, a model Victorian village built by Sir Titus Salt to house the workers in his textile mills. Amy and I watched an interesting film about the life of Salk and his vision for the village. Then we browsed through the 1853 Gallery where I was finally able to locate something less expensive in the UK than in the US – art supplies. Sketch books, pencils, paints
and brushes were all priced lower than the same thing in the US.
It was time to hit downtown Bradford and the long awaited curry. Ormondroyd is a curry aficionado and assured me that Bradford is the curry capital of the known universe. He selected one of his favourite
restaurants, Omar's. You need to understand that going out for a curry isn't something one does in the Ozarks, so I had been looking forward to this for weeks. Everyone ordered something different so I could sample a variety of the dishes. I had travelled 5500 miles to eat curry at Omar's and thanks to a combination of the virus I had and the medication I was taking to fight it off, everything tasted exactly alike. I could taste the heat but not the flavour of the spices and herbs. That low rumbling in the background was God laughing at me. Everyone else enjoyed it so much that I'm sure it was a wonderful meal.
We ended the evening at a rather posh pub not far from Omar's. It was here that I was proposed as an honorary member of the Flat Cap and Muffler Society. Bagpuss was kind enough to loan me the use of this cap. Amy, Bagpusss and I headed for the train station, Phil and Metal Chicken headed homeward in their car and Ormy, who lives nearby, waved and headed off homeward in another direction. Amy and I parted with Bagpuss at the station in Leeds, where he continued on to York. Day twelve had been great fun.
As an aside, I want to apologize for the lack of photos from my stay in Yorkshire. But check back next time for some sketches of my stay in the North.