Monday, 26 June 2017

Branwell Brontë's Bicentenary Birthday (1817-2017)


Self-portrait  c.1840
“Backward I look upon my life,
And see one waste of storm and strife,
One wrack of sorrows, hopes, and pain,
Vanishing to arise again!
That life has moved through evening, where
Continual shadows veiled my sphere;
From youth's horizon upward rolled
To life's meridian, dark and cold.” 
Patrick Branwell Brontë -

Branwell Brontë was the talented but troubled brother of the three famous literary sisters - Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. They were all born in succession within five years 200 years ago, and 2017 is the second of the bicentenary years, Branwell's 200th birthday. Last year I paid tribute to Charlotte on her bicentenary here.

As the the only boy in a family of six children, Branwell held a privileged status, and much was expected of him. From early childhood he showed as much artistic talent as his sisters did. Living an isolated life in a Parsonage on the edge of broody and windswept moors the children created and lived an imaginary world and wrote plays about fictional lands of Angria and Gondal. They also wrote poems, and Branwell was the first of the siblings to have his poems published. He was praised for his translations of Horace. He took up portrait painting too; was given lessons by an acclaimed artist of the time, and he worked as professional portrait painter in Bradford. Unlike his sisters, he was an outgoing and charismatic person who liked socialising and soon he came to indulge in the company of young artists and writers who met in the pubs of Bradford. Unfortunately, his career as a painter, as well as plans to apply to the Royal Academy of Arts came to nothing, and Branwell found himself looking for more mundane employment. He worked as tutor and as clerk at railway stations, but these posts ended up in disappointment too. By now Branwell was drinking heavily and had also become an opium addict. Perhaps the biggest blow in his life came when his employer's wife he allegedly had an affair with refused to marry him after the death of her husband. Unable to cope with disappointment, Branwell sank deeper and deeper into depression, alcoholism and severe drug abuse and he died tragically at the age of 31.

To mark Branwell's bicentenary Brontë Parsonage Museum have organized an exhibition named "Mansions in the Sky" - Branwell's words from one of his poems. The exhibition is curated by English poet and novelist Simon Armitage. Part of it is an installation of Branwell's room which represents the way it probably looked in the 1830's when Branwell was an ambitious and aspiring poet and artist. Here are some of my photos I took of the room.








When I first saw this moving installation I was astonished at how good it looked. It was created in collaboration with the producers of "To Walk Invisible", a recent TV movie by Sally Wainwright on the lives of the Brontë family between the years 1845 and 1848, the year Branwell died in.
Branwell has usually been perceived mainly as failure and embarrassment to his family, so I was both surprised and pleased to see that through this elaborate and remarkable exhibition he received a very good recognition for his bicentenary year.


Branwell's clothes and his sister Emily's dress, the costumes worn by the "To Walk Invisible" actors. The costumes are currently exhibited in the Bronte Parsonage.


A recent view of the "Black Bull" public house on top of Main Street, Branwell's favourite haunt only a two minute walk from the Parsonage he and his family lived in.


Opposite  the "Black Bull" there is a shop where Branwell used to buy his laudanum (it was legal to sell/buy it in his day) I took this shot of the front of the shop just after the filming of "To Walk Invisible", when it still had its makeover to look like it had done at the Brontës time. Today the shop is called "The Cabinet of Curiosity" and sells gifts alongside handmade personal care products.


The only existing group portrait of the Brontë sisters, oil on canvas, painted by Branwell cca 1834. It was not discovered until 1906 and it has been in the possession of the National Portrait Gallery in London since 1914. The painting is popularly called a "pillar" portrait because Branwell sketched himself in as well, but, for reasons we cannot be certain about, he decided to paint himself out by leaving a shadowy pillar between Emily and Charlotte. Did Branwell already have an inkling of how life was going to unfold for him?

  “Life is a downward journey; all concur in saying it carries us downhill.”
Patrick Branwell Brontë -










Saturday, 17 June 2017

Walker Ground Manor Inspired Still Life

Walker Ground Manor is a beautiful 17th century Bed & Breakfast accommodation where we stayed on our recent visit to Hawkshead; I blogged about it here. I loved its traditional interior and I could not resist shooting some still life in such an inviting and inspiring setting. The most obvious choice was to use the lovely sash windows in our room and en-suite bathroom.
Apart from my diary and my night dress everything else belonged to our room.
I was going to accompany the images with a narrative as usual, but then I decided there was no need for it this time. I'll let the photos speak for themselves. They will speak louder than words.















Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Walk to Top Withens, Brontë Country, 11/06/2107

Last Sunday, after a great session on Brontë treasures at the Parsonage, I went with G and our friends for one of my favourite walks. Top Withens is a ruined farmhouse on Haworth Moor whose location is believed to have inspired the location of the Wuthering Heights farmhouse in Emily Brontë's novel.
It was a warm, windy day with a lot of menacing clouds, some sunshine and scattered showers. We got wet twice, but we wore our waterproof jackets and didn't care. It was just great to be on those paths and tracks again.
I decided not to take many photos this time, but just enjoy the walk and countryside. Sometimes it is nice to do just that - totally immerse yourself in nature and forget about everything else. It is quite a long walk for our standards and I was surprised how much less time it takes if you don't stop every so often to take a shot. But it was impossible for me not take any pics at all, so here are the few I did take.



Looking back towards the narrow and short strip of woodland; once you pass it you are very close to Top Withens.

My friend with Top Withens in the distance above her head. We were all amazed at how, despite constant strong winds, her hair remained put with hardly any signs of disheveledness!


I was hoping that cotton grass would be in bloom and sure it was. I love its white fluffy balls bobbing in the wind. Cotton grass is such a lovely and distinctive moorland feature.


The two lone trees at Top Whitens. They are always very photogenic, and this time, for a change, I decided to picture them on their own, without the ruin. I love the moody atmosphere; after all that is what Top Withens is about.


Our friend discovered that the green door of the small barn is actually unlocked, and there is a small shelter with a wooden bench inside. Well, I didn't know that, and it was good to find out there is somewhere you can go for shelter if you are caught up in the usual wuthering weather at Top Withens.





Saturday, 10 June 2017

Walker Ground Manor B&B, Hawkshead, Lake District, England

Following my recent post on our visit to Hawkshead I cannot but share photos and experience of the accommodation we chose for the visit. We stayed at the beautiful Walker Ground Manor, a traditional 17th century country house with original features such as exposed beams, fine oak floors and paneling and a barley twist oak staircase.

 


I just love this charming and welcoming entrance that speaks volumes about what you can expect inside.


There are three very beautiful and stylish rooms to choose from at the Manor, as well as a self catering converted barn. We went for the Garden View room. I loved its peaceful and relaxing feel, antique furniture, partly sloped ceiling and the sash window overlooking the garden. The second little window gives the room additional charm and character.






The large ensuite bathroom with views over the field is simply stunning.  The large old window was a great backdrop for some still life photography I will share in one of my next post.



Opposite our room on the landing there was this lovely window.


Dining room where breakfast is served every morning. The breakfast is really good and tasty with a lot of choice; our hosts Sue and Richard, who run the B&B business, have their own hens, so there are always fresh organic eggs for breakfast; they also use locally sourced produce and bake their own bread. It was good and inspiring to find that Sue and Richard generally stand for mindful and ethical way of living.


The oak paneling in the dining room is just so beautiful.




The guests' lounge with the original oak floor and shuttered windows is a lovely place for a little rest.



The guests can also relax in the recently refurbished wood framed conservatory.



The top windows were our room windows. Each window had a bird nest. The one under the small window seemed abandoned, but the one above the other window was very much in use and we watched a finch busily flying in and out. Notice the gorgeous peony tree. Richard built a simple canopy above it to protect it from rain as the flowers would lose their delicate petals in heavy rain.


The delightful veranda which belongs to the Veranda Room.




The garden is huge and incredibly beautiful. The Manor boasts six acres of land; the formal garden gives way to woodland and fields beyond.



The vivid colour azaleas were particularly eye catching....




There is an attractive beck and waterfall too, but because it had not rained for a long time the waterfall was just a trickle at the time we were there. You can see it at its more usual self here.



Looking out of the car park in front of the house onto the lane.


The lane leading into the village is lined with lovely picturesque lakeland countryside. It was such a joy making the short walk to the village for our evening meals.





You are even treated to a good view of Hawkshead Church from the lane.









Our Bed & Breakfast as we saw it coming back in the evening.



Walker Ground Manor was a perfect place for our short stay in Hawkshead, and I think we will always look to stay there when we want to go to Hawkshead. We loved its traditional old decor, immaculate cleanliness, comfort and peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. Sue and Richard are great hosts - very friendly, easy going and they have a fine eye for detail. What impressed me probably the most was that guests are provided with virtually everything they could possibly need without having to ask for it. There was even a toothpick in our room! On the whole, this is just a beautiful place we will be looking forward to returning to time and time again.