Monday, 8 May 2017

Thornton - The Brontë Sisters' Birthplace

My long awaited first visit to Thornton eventually happened on an ideal day - Charlotte Brontë's birthday last month. It was truly a special day for me.
In 1815, Patrick Brontë, the literary sisters' father, was appointed curate at Thornton, near Bradford in West Yorkshire, so he moved with his family into the Parsonage on Market Street, an unprepossessing terraced house. They lived here for five years, before they moved to Haworth in 1820. During their time at Thornton the three famous sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne were born, as well as their brother Branwell.
Today the house is privately owned, with the beautiful, rustic cafe called "Emily's" on the ground floor.

This is the fireplace in the dining room in front of which all four siblings were born. It is so good and gratifying to see that the present owners made an effort to preserve the legacy left by this extraordinary Victorian family.

The rest of the dining room laid out as the cafe's eating area.

My coffee had arrived. Delicious it was, as well as the sumptuous and very reasonably priced Italian style lunch I indulged in.

Detail from the drawing room, which is also part of the cafe......

.......and the fireplace with the famous Emily Brontë's portrait above it.

After spending a most fascinating and memorable time at the Brontë birthplace I went to the nearby South Square, a picturesque arts and crafts centre based in converted weavers' cottages.

Soon I was on my way to the Old Bell Chapel where Patrick Brontë worked as perpetual curate. This is one of the sweeping views from the long main road running through Thornton. Patchy light rain threatened to spoil my photography, but eventually it remained dry with clouds gliding rapidly across the sky changing the lighting from overcast to sunny, which indeed is my favourite type of lighting conditions for outdoor photography.

I got to the Bell Chapel cemetery gate and stepped in. It was so peaceful and the cemetery very beautiful, adorned with all the spring flowers.

The Old Bell Chapel, built at the beginning of 17th century is now a sparse ruin. It was renovated at the time the Brontës lived at Thornton, and Patrick was responsible for the addition of the octagonal cupola/bell tower.

East wall of the Old Bell Chapel ruin, apart from the cupola, is the only remaining part of the structure. All the Brontë children, with the exception of Maria, were baptised here.

This is St James' Church, the present Thornton Church, built in 1872 across the road from the Bell Chapel. The old chapel was neglected consequently and soon fell into disrepair.

The new St James' Church contains many Brontë artefacts from the Old Bell Chapel including the font which would have been used for the christening of the Brontë children, and the old bell from the cupola.

Patrick Brontë wrote of his time in Thornton: "My happiest days were spent there......this is where the family was complete: father, mother and the children, and where they had kind friends".
I, personally, am looking forward to exploring further this beautiful and important Brontë landmark. There are two attractive walks around Thornton in the little "Walking With the Brontës" book I love. I plan to go on both of these walks by the end of this year.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Shipley Glen Tramway & Bluebells

It is the lovely bluebells season again, and I am reminded of the bluebells I saw on my walk around Shipley Glen Tramway about the same time last year. The tramway is the oldest funicular railway in the U.K. still working. It runs through the charming Walker Wood and was opened in 1895 as an alternative to walking up the steep path I pictured in the photo below. There were not masses of bluebells by any means, but those few growing alongside the tram tracks framing the colourful red and blue trams made for very pretty scenes. It was a week day, and the tramway was closed, operating only at weekends and Bank holidays; some might say it was not the best time to photograph the attraction, but I am always drawn to the sense of peace and quiet and always enjoy capturing calm and serene mood in my photos.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Haworth Parsonage on Charlotte Brontë's Birthday (21/04/2017)

Incidentally my birthday falls two days after Charlotte Brontë's, so I feel I have a motive to celebrate my birthday. In fact, one could say I celebrate my birthday by celebrating Charlotte's. Last year I stayed for a couple of nights in Haworth (where the Brontës lived and wrote all their work) , and this year I treated myself to the same. In the morning I visited the village of Thornton for a first time, the Brontë sisters birthplace, which I will be blogging about in my next post, and then I headed to my favourite Haworth. I enjoyed the lovely feeling of no need to rush to go back to Leeds, so I took a leisurely stroll around the Parsonage and happily snapped away with my camera. It was a gorgeous spring late afternoon. I let the photos speak for themselves.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Happy Birthday, Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)!

"I am bound to you with a strong attachment.
I think you good, gifted, lovely:
a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart;
it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life,
wraps my existence about you, and 
kindling in pure, powerful flame,
fuses you and me in one."

Last year it was Charlotte Brontë's 200th birthday anniversary, and I marked the day by my own personal tribute to her. This year I thought I'd share some of my favourite photos I took last year in the Bronte Parsonage Museum, the home of the literary Brontë Sisters since their early childhood, where new displays and installations were set up in celebration of Charlotte's special year.

The dining room. The sisters wrote most of their stories, novels and poems at this table and also used to walk around it every evening reading and talking to each other about their writing plans. The table, one of the most important literary artefacts of the 19th century, was sold after the death of Mr Brontë (the siblings' father), and only recently acquired by the Brontë Society and brought back to its original home.

I love looking at the objects on this table, all original family belongings.....

Detail from Mr Brontë's study - his top hat and the piano he bought for his children.

Mr Brontë's study where he carried out most of his parish business (being a curate of Haworth church situated opposite the Parsonage). It is also the room where he first discovered that Charlotte, his eldest daughter, was a successful author following the publication of "Jane Eyre" that was to become her timeless, worldwide masterpiece.

The Kitchen. As children, the Brontës liked gathering around the fire to listen to their servant Tabby's dark tales of the Yorkshire moors. Mr Patrick Brontë's successor, the Reverend John Wade, made some alterations to the Parsonage, including the kitchen. The old range was removed in the process, and consequently, a kitchen range of the correct period was installed to help recreate the room's original appearance. The furniture and utensils are original - those that belonged to the Brontë family.

The sisters were expected to take their share of household chores. Emily, being the one who stayed at home the most, acted as housekeeper helping in the kitchen. She was particularly good at baking bread. Displayed in this photo is also her German dictionary; she liked to study German while carrying out her kitchen tasks.

Part of the beautiful, elegant hall with sandstone stairs, a wood banister and classic Georgian style window on the sill of which there is always a stunning seasonal flower arrangement. The walls are a lovely duck egg shade recreated to look like the original colour of the walls.

The mahogany longcase clock stands halfway up the stairs. Every night, around nine o'clock, Mr Brontë would lock the front door and then, stop on his way up to his bedroom to wind up the clock.

This is the cabinet in Charlotte's room where her dresses and accessories are always on display. The display changes every year, and this is what was chosen for Charlotte's bicentenary year.
The room was the main bedroom, initially used by Charlotte's parents, and then by different members of the family over the years, depending on who happened to be at home at any particular time. After the death of her sisters, Charlotte occupied this room alone. It is also the room she shared with her husband, and where she died.

Charlotte's room contains a selection of memorabilia associated with her, like this pair of mourning shoes. They were made of leather, silk and human hair. Long walks over rough ground caused damage to these fragile shoes which Charlotte poignantly repaired with the hair of her departed siblings.

This handkerchief, that was on show in one of  the cabinets in Charlotte's room, bears her self-caricature which she originally drew in an illustrated letter from Brussels. Regarding herself as plain, she caricatured herself as an ugly, dwarf-like figure.

Charlotte and her sisters inspired many artists around the world, among them Tamara Stone from New York who created a miniature bed, embroidered all over with the literary siblings' words. It was displayed in the Children's Study - the tiny room they played and wrote in their hand-made "little books". The room later became Emily's bedroom.

Mr Brontë's Bedroom. After the untimely death of his wife, Patrick left the room they had shared and moved into this bedroom which remained his for the rest of his life. When his son Branwell's unfortunate addiction to alcohol and opium became danger both to himself and his family, Patrick shared his bedroom with his son in order to watch over him. Branwell died here, and many years later Patrick died in this room, too. Very little of the bedroom furniture survives; this half-tester bed is a reproduction based on a sketch made by Branwell.

Another inspired artwork. Denise Salway (aka The Knitting Witch) recreated a key scene from "Jane Eyre" in wool. I love seeing how the Brontës inspired people, being inspired by them in so many ways myself.

Brontë Parsonage Museum is currently engaged, for a second year running, in a five year programme of activity celebrating the Brontës' bicentenaries: Charlotte in 2016, Branwell in 2017, Emily in 2018, Anne in 2020; and in 2019 their father Patrick will be commemorated, too - it will have been 200 years of his taking up curacy in Haworth Church.
So this year marks troubled brother Branwell's bicentenary, and I am looking forward to putting together my best photos from around this year's Parsonage and sharing them at Branwell's birthday in June.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Haworth Moor On Glorious Spring Day

Last Saturday was a simply perfect early spring day, and I considered myself lucky to have a chance for a gentle stroll on the beloved Haworth moor. To make things even better I was with a good friend who was on the moor for a first time. I took pride in showing her my favourite landscape; the place where one day, before long hopefully, I will be walking every day. It was one of those utterly fulfilling days that keep you smiling for days afterwards...

I had seen photos of these stone books partly buried in the ground on the moor, but it took me a while to get to know where exactly they were located. None of my walks happened to take me there, and even a couple of locals walking their dogs could not tell me where to go to find the books. Then, recently my friend from Haworth showed me the way. There are two sets of five books lying close to each other on one of the main paths of Penistone Hill. They are called "Literary Landscape Sculptures" and are created by artist Martin Heron. The books are a fitting feature on the moor being evocative of the Brontë sisters' works and placed in the midst of the countryside they loved and drew inspiration from.

I took this shot not far from Cemetery Road. There is a path that climbs steeply from the road, at one of the car park lay bys, leading to this spot with a typical stunning view over the moor and Worth Valley. Mid distance there is the beautiful and very photogenic Lower Laithe Reservoir, and to the left, if you know it is there, you could just about see Top Withens (possibly a model for Wuthering Heights) below the horizon on the left. Loved the three isolated daffodils next to the old quarry stone adding a splash of bright colour to the scene and spelling spring season on the Brontë moors. How I look forward to returning here for more liberating and reviving walks in the very near future, now kinder weather has finally arrived!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Saltaire Village, 07/04/2016

This post was in my drafts for a whole year, so I am very pleased that it has finally seen daylight. When I visited Saltaire in April last year I was very excited as I had not been there for about ten years. I was looking forward to seeing if and what changes had been made over the years, so I simply walked around some of the most popular places of interest.

Saltaire is a fascinating, historic, model village near Bradford in West Yorkshire. It got its name from its founder, Titus Salt, and the river Aire which runs though the village. Salt was an industrialist involved in textile industry in the 19th century Bradford. Bradford was already polluted and overcrowded, and since its population still grew at the fastest rate in the country, Salt decided to move his business and employees to a rural area. He employed two local architects, Lockwood and Mawson, to plan a new community and design an entire village inspired by the Italian Renaissance. The project took twenty five years to complete.

Salts Mill was the first building to be completed in the new village in 1853. It manufactured luxury cloth through a multi-stage process of transforming raw llama and alpaca wool. It was built near the railway and canal to ensure quick and cheap distribution of products, and was also positioned where the winds would blow the potentially harmful factory smoke away from the village.
By the 1980s the British textile industry was in steep decline, and Salts Mill was finally closed in 1986.Today the Mill opens its three floors to the public for shopping and exhibitions. It features a gallery with the work of renowned Bradford-born artist David Hockney and the famous Salts Diner.

There is a heron in this image, just above the weir, near the edge of water. Apparently it was a permanent resident in that spot, and I wonder if it can still be seen there. I have a soft spot for herons.

An attractive green on Alexandra Square encircled by Almshouses.

In Salt's times the Almshouses were provided rent-free for the elderly and sick in the village. They came with a pension, forty years before the first state pensions in the UK.

As I started walking down Victoria Road, the most famous road in the village, I spotted this lovely vintage shop I didn't know it was there. I couldn't wait to get in and have a good look around. And I found something I had been searching for for a long time - a pair of old, gold rimmed. round spectacles to use in my still life work.

I carried on walking down Victoria Road, and suddenly I thought: "hang on a minute, am I actually in Victoria Road? .....Yes, I am.... but something is very different .....And then it came to me - I vaguely remembered hearing quite a while ago that all the trees in Victoria Road had been felled. I stared around in shock... yes, all the beautiful trees on both sides of the road were gone!! I could not see what justified reason there could possibly be for this other than the trees having an untreatable disease. But when I googled the issue I was horrified to learn the trees had been removed merely for easier movement of pedestrians!

Part of the Factory School. Mill owners of the 19th century, who depended on child labour, were required to ensure the children they employed received education, but not to provide facilities. Sir Titus built this beautiful, fully equipped school which now forms part of Shipley College.

I love bakeries, and this very attractive and inviting one on Victoria Road immediately caught my eye.

Just before the Railway Station and Bridge there is a charming cobbled street called Albert Terrace. This is a photo of one of the alleyways off Albert Terrace.

Another view of the same alleyway as above. I liked the pattern of the stone brick houses huddled together on the right hand side.

Colourful boats on the Leeds Liverpool Canal, and the towpath which provides an excellent place to both cycle and walk.

The diner boat was very tempting, but I still had a lot to see and a long way to walk, so I managed to resist the temptation. Looking forward to checking out the diner next time I am in Saltaire. The United Reformed Church is on the left in the photo.

The former Congregational Church was provided for the spiritual welfare of Salt's employees. It is a fine example of Italianate religious architecture. Sir Titus Salt is interred in the mausoleum. The church is a grade 1 listed building, which is the same category as York Minster or Hampton Court Palace.

My next destination was Roberts Park. I was pleased to see that it had been extensively refurbished. Salt believed in the importance of leisure for his worker's health, and the park was included in his village project from an early stage. It was also to be distraction from the temptations of alcohol. (Apparently, Salt was against alcohol consumption and did not build any public houses in the village).

A statue of two alpacas in the park. Since it was mainly alpaca's wool that was manufactured into cloth in Salts Mill alpaca acts like a mascot of the village.

The statue of Sir Titus Salt basking in some lovely spring sunshine. It was a great day for exploring Saltaire.

The bandstand with its new, cheerful, red paint looked very good in its recently refurbished edition.

A view of Salts Mill coming back to the village from the western side of the park.

I was getting a little weary by now, so back in Victoria Road I decided to stop at the lovely Massarella cafe for a cup of coffee and a sandwich.

There was artwork by the local artists all over the walls, something I had to have a close look at. I do like and appreciate cafe like this.

I took this photo sitting at my table in the cafe. This is Victoria Hall, one of the finest buildings in Saltaire. It was opened as the Saltaire Club and Institute in 1871; it offered a library, dance hall and lecture theatre, meeting rooms, billiards room and gymnasium. Now the hall hosts regular events including craft and vintage fair and is also home to wurlitzer organ with regular afternoon and evening concerts.
I like this photo particularly because it looks like a vintage postcard with its brownish tones and the cafe's name written across the window pane.

Saltaire was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001. It was recognised for its international influence on town planning and as one of the earliest, largest and best preserved 19th century "model villages" anywhere in the world.
There is so much more to this extraordinary village than I could possibly fit in one post. It is one of the rare places on my list that I intend to go back to time and time again. There are some beautiful countryside walks around the village, too. Last spring I went for a lovely Shipley Glen and Hirst Lock walk.
For any further interesting reading on Saltaire, as well as quality photography, I recommend fellow blogger jennyfreckles who resides in Saltaire and posts daily on her blog.