Telling stories in Brontë Country

High time I posted another blog. I’ve been taking a break from “work” (if the activities that constitute much of my daily life can be called “work” since they’re mostly so enjoyable ), but now I’m back to writing and storytelling, so my life once again offers blogworthy items.

Let’s call blogworthy items ‘blogabilia’. Is the word in anyone’s dictionary? Blogabilium. Noun, abstract. An event, idea, reflection, scheme, experience, etc. deemed worthy to become the subject of a blog. Plural Blogabilia. (Okay, let’s not get into the etymology. Inflection looks Latin, but I don’t think blogus was ever a Latin word. Better leave it to the lexicographers.)

Anyway, here’s a blogabilium relating to Monday August 15th, two days ago.

At the storytelling in Hebden Bridge at the end of June I met Adam Sargant, who runs a small informal storytelling group in Howarth. Having heard me tell one of my Peak District tales he invited me to the Howarth group’s meetings, so on Monday past I accepted his invitation. To cut a long story short: the group meets in the back room of The Old Hall Inn, the word “Old” being merited – the building dates back to the 16th century, as indicated by the huge Elizabethan fireplaces, though most of the facade is early 18th century and there’s a 20th century extension. Adam tells traditional tales, as I do, but some of the others read their own work – the standard of one or two of these contributions was impressive. I enjoyed the mixture. And when I was asked to do a full gig there at the September meeting I didn’t decline! So that’s me with another storytelling booking.

Apart from the pleasure of the occasion and the ambience of the venue, I enjoyed the final part of the journey there – beautiful sunny day (the return journey, as midnight approached, was less fun). The route from my home took me first to Hebden Bridge, and by now I know that part of the journey pretty well, and then to a road I’d never been on before. It’s a twisting road of steep hills and interminable bends that goes right over the top of the Pennine moors, bleak and impressive, and then drops into the next valley, which is where Howarth lies; just a half-hour drive, but I had to stop part-way to get out of the car, savour the view and inhale the moorland air.

Howarth boasts a number of old houses and consists almost wholly of steep hills. At the top of one of those hills (The Old Hall Inn is half way down it) stand the Old Parsonage, the Church, and the one-time school. The Old Parsonage is where, during the second quarter of the 19th century, Philip Brontë raised his family: Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Ann. The one-time school is where Charlotte taught, and where she was married in 1854. Here, in this small cluster of buildings at the top of the village, commanding views right across the valley, is where the authors of Jane Eyre, Villette, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and other landmarks in English prose literature were born, grew up, lived and worked. All those novels were composed in this little place.

Just across the lane from the Church is the public house, The Black Bull, where Branwell drank – and, alas, ultimately drank himself to death. Indeed, none of the family survived to middle age. The delight of finding oneself in the home of such an outpouring of literary brilliance is tempered by knowledge of the tragedies that befell the Brontë sisters, and the brother.

Naturally, the tourist industry flourishes here, and the Old Parsonage is now a Brontë museum, boasting a number of unique manuscripts among other memorabilia of the family. But the tourist attractions don’t detract from the charm and beauty of the place.

And what a location for storytelling! I’m looking forward to my September gig!

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