For a right understanding of the life of my dear friend, Charlotte Brontë,
it appears to me more necessary in her case than in most others, that the
reader should be
made acquainted with the peculiar forms of population and society amidst which her earliest years were passed, and from which both her own and her sisters' first
impressions of human life must have been received. I shall endeavour, therefore, before proceeding further with my work, to present some idea of the character of
the people of Haworth, and the surrounding districts.
Even an inhabitant of the neighbouring county of Lancaster is struck
by the peculiar force of character which the Yorkshiremen display. This
makes them interesting
as a race; while, at the same time, as individuals, the remarkable degree of self-sufficiency they possess gives them an air of independence rather apt to repel a
stranger. I use this expression, "self-sufficiency" in the largest sense. Conscious of the strong sagacity and the dogged power of will which seem almost the birthright
of the natives of the West Riding, each man relies upon himself, and seeks no help at the hands of his neighbour. From rarely requiring the assistance of others, he
comes to doubt the power of bestowing it: from the general success of his efforts, he grows to depend upon them, and to over-esteem his own energy and power.
He belongs to that keen, yet short-sighted class, who consider suspicion of all whose honesty is not proved as a sign of wisdom. The practical qualities of a man are
held in great respect; but the want of faith in strangers and untried modes of action, extends itself even to the manner in which the virtues are regarded; and if they
produce no immediate and tangible result, they are rather put aside as unfit for this busy, striving world; especially if they are more of a passive than an active
character. The affections are strong, and their foundations lie deep: but they are not - such affections seldom are - wide-spreading; nor do they show themselves on
the surface. Indeed, there is little display of any of the amenities of life among this wild, rough population. Their accost is curt; their accent and tone of speech blunt
and harsh. Something of this may, probably, be attributed to the freedom of mountain air and of isolated hill-side life; something be derived from their rough Norse
ancestry. They have a quick perception of character, and a keen sense of humour; the dwellers among them must be prepared for certain uncomplimentary, though
most likely true, observations, pithily expressed. Their feelings are not easily roused, but their duration is lasting. Hence there is much close friendship and faithful
service; and for a correct exemplification of the form in which the latter frequently appears, I need only refer the reader of Wuthering Heights to the character of "
From the same cause come also enduring grudges, in some cases amounting
to hatred, which occasionally has been bequeathed from generation to generation.
remember Miss Brontë once telling me that it was a saying round about Haworth, "Keep a stone in thy pocket seven year; turn it, and keep it seven year longer, that
it may be ever ready to thine hand when thine enemy draws near."
The West Riding men are sleuth-hounds in pursuit of money. Miss Brontë
related to my husband a curious instance illustrative of this eager desire
for riches. A man
that she knew, who was a small manufacturer, had engaged in many local speculations, which had always turned out well, and thereby rendered him a person of
some wealth. He was rather past middle age, when he bethought him of insuring his life; and he had only just taken out his policy, when he fell ill of an acute disease
which was certain to end fatally in a very few days. The doctor, half-hesitatingly, revealed to him his hopeless state. "By jingo!" cried he, rousing up at once into the
old energy, "I shall do the insurance company! I always was a lucky fellow!"
These men are keen and shrewd; faithful and persevering in following
out a good purpose, fell in tracking an evil one. They are not emotional;
they are not easily
made into either friends or enemies; but once lovers or haters, it is difficult to change their feeling. They are a powerful race both in mind and body, both for good
and for evil.
The woollen manufacture was introduced into this district in the days
of Edward III. It is traditionally said that a colony of Flemings came
over and settled in the
West Riding to teach the inhabitants what to do with their wool. The mixture of agricultural with manufacturing labour that ensued and prevailed in the West Riding
up to a very recent period, sounds pleasant enough at this distance of time, when the classical impression is left, and the details forgotten, or only brought to light by
those who explore the few remote parts of England where the custom still lingers. The idea of the mistress and her maidens spinning at the great wheels while the
master was abroad, ploughing his fields, or seeing after his flocks on the purple moors, is very poetical to look back upon; but when such life actually touches on our
own days, and we can hear particulars from the lips of those now living, details of coarseness - of the uncouthness of the rustic mingled with the sharpness of the
tradesman - of irregularity and fierce lawlessness - come out, that rather mar the vision of pastoral innocence and simplicity. Still, as it is the exceptional and
exaggerated characteristics of any period that leave the most vivid memory behind them, it would be wrong, and in my opinion faithless, to conclude that such and
such forms of society and modes of living were not best for the period when they prevailed, although the abuses they may have led into, and the gradual progress of
the world, have made it well that such ways and manners should pass away for ever, and as preposterous to attempt to return to them, as it would be for a man to
return to the clothes of his childhood.
The patent granted to Alderman Cockayne, and the further restrictions
imposed by James I on the export of undyed woollen cloths (met by a prohibition
on the part
of the States of Hollandof the import of English-dyed cloths), injured the trade of the West Riding manufacturers considerably. Their independence of character, their
dislike of authority, and their strong powers of thought, predisposed them to rebellion against the religious dictations of such men as Laud, and the arbitrary rule of
the Stuarts; and the injury done by James and Charles to the trade by which they gained their bread, made the great majority of them Commonwealth men. I shall
have occasion afterwards to give one or two instances of the warm feelings and extensive knowledge on subjects of both home and foreign politics existing at the
present day in the villages lying west and east of the mountainous ridge that separates Yorkshire and Lancashire; the inhabitants of which are of the same race and
possess the same quality of character.
The descendants of many who served under Cromwell at Dunbar, live on
the same lands as their ancestors occupied then; and perhaps there is no
part of England
where the traditional and fond recollections of the Commonwealth have lingered so long as in that inhabited by the woollen manufacturing population of the West
Riding, who had the restrictions taken off their trade by the Protector's admirable commercial policy. I have it on good authority that, not thirty years ago, the phrase,
"in Oliver's days," was in common use to denote a time of unusual prosperity. The class of Christian names prevalent in a district is one indication of the direction in
which its tide of hero-worship sets. Grave enthusiasts in politics or religion perceive not the ludicrous side of those which they give to their children; and some are to
be found, still in their infancy, not a dozen miles from Haworth, that will have to go through life as Lamartine, Kossuth, and Dembinsky. And so there is a testimony
to what I have said, of the traditional feeling of the district, in the fact that the Old Testament names in general use among the Puritans are yet the prevalent
appellations in most Yorkshire families of middle or humble rank, whatever their religious persuasion may be. There are numerous records, too, that show the kindly
way in which the ejected ministers were received by the gentry, as well as by the poorer part of the inhabitants, during the persecuting days of Charles II. These little
facts all testify to the old hereditary spirit of independence, ready ever to resist authority which was conceived to be unjustly exercised, that distinguishes the people
of the West Riding to the present day.
The Parish of Halifax touches that of Bradford, in which the chapelry
of Haworth is included; and the nature of the ground in the two parishes
is much of the same
wild and hilly description. The abundance of coal, and the number of mountain streams in the district, make it highly favourable to manufactures; and accordingly, as I
stated, the inhabitants have for centuries been engaged in making cloth, as well as in agricultural pursuits. But the intercourse of trade failed, for a long time, to bring
amenity and civilisation into these outlying hamlets, or widely scattered dwellings. Mr. Hunter, in his Life of Oliver Heywood, quotes a sentence out of a memorial of
one James Rither, living in the reign of Elizabeth, which is partially true to this day -
"They have no superior to court, no civilities to practise: a sour and
sturdy humour is the consequence, so that a stranger is shocked by a tone
of defiance in every
voice, and an air of fierceness in every countenance."
Even now, a stranger can hardly ask a question without receiving some
crusty reply, if, indeed, he receive any at all. Sometimes the sour rudeness
positive insult. Yet, if the "foreigner" takes all this churlishness good-humouredly, or as a matter of course, and makes good any claim upon their latent kindliness and
hospitality, they are faithful and generous, and thoroughly to be relied upon. As a slight illustration of the roughness that pervades all classes in these out-of-the-way
villages, I may relate a little adventure which happened to my husband and myself, three years ago, at Addingham -
From Penigent to Pendle Hill,
From Linton to Long-Addingham
And all that Craven coasts did tell, etc.
one of the places that sent forth its fighting men to the famous old battle of Flodden Field, and a village not many miles from Haworth.
We were driving along the street, when one of those ne'er-do-well lads
who seem to have a kind of magnetic power for misfortunes, having jumped
into the stream
that runs through the place, just where all the broken glass and bottles are thrown, staggered naked and nearly covered with blood into a cottage before us. Besides
receiving another bad cut in the arm, he had completely laid open the artery, and was in a fair way of bleeding to death - which, one of his relations comforted him by
saying, would be likely to "save a deal o' trouble."
When my husband had checked the effusion of blood with a strap that one of the bystanders unbuckled from his leg, he asked if a surgeon had been sent for.
"Yoi," was the answer; "but we dunna think he'll come."
"He's owd, yo seen, and asthmatic, and it's up-hill."
My husband, taking a boy for his guide, drove as fast as he could to
the surgeon's house, which was about three-quarters of a mile off, and
met the aunt of the
wounded lad leaving it.
"Is he coming?" inquired my husband.
"Well, he didna' say he wouldna' come."
"But tell him the lad may bleed to death."
"And what did he say?"
"Why, only, 'D - n him; what do I care?'"
It ended, however, in his sending one of his sons, who, though not brought
up to "the surgering trade," was able to do what was necessary in the way
and plasters. The excuse made for the surgeon was, that "he was near eighty, and getting a bit doited, and had had a matter o' twenty childer."
Among the most unmoved of the lookers-on was the brother of the boy
so badly hurt; and while he was lying in a pool of blood on the flag floor,
and crying out how
much his arm was"warching," his stoical relation stood coolly smoking his bit of black pipe, and uttered not a single word of either sympathy or sorrow.
Forest customs, existing in the fringes of dark wood, which clothed
the declivity of the hills on either side, tended to brutalise the population
until the middle of the
seventeenth century. Execution by beheading was performed in a summary way upon either men or women who were guilty of but very slight crimes; and a dogged,
yet in some cases fine, indifference to human life was thus generated. The roads were so notoriously bad, even up to the last thirty years, that there was little
communication between one village and another; if the produce of industry could be conveyed at stated times to the cloth market of the district, it was all that could
be done; and, in lonely houses on the distant hill-side, or by the small magnates of secluded hamlets, crimes might be committed almost unknown certainly without
any great uprising of popular indignation calculated to bring down the strong arm of the law. It must be remembered that in those days there was no rural
constabulary; and the few magistrates left to themselves, and generally related to one another, were most of them inclined to tolerate eccentricity, and to wink at
faults too much like their own.
Men hardly past middle life talk of the days of their youth, spent in
this part of the country, when, during the winter months, they rode up
to the saddle-girths in mud;
when absolute business was the only reason for stirring beyond the precincts of home; and when that business was conducted under a pressure of difficulties which
they themselves, borne along to Bradford market in a swift first-class carriage, can hardly believe to have been possible. For instance, one woollen manufacturer
says that, not five-and-twenty years ago, he had to rise betimes to set off on a winter's morning in order to be at Bradford with the great waggon-load of goods
manufactured by his father: this load was packed over-night, but in the morning there was great gathering around it, and flashing of lanterns, and examination of
horses' feet, before the ponderous waggon got under way; and then some one had to go groping here and there, on hands and knees, and always sounding with a
staff down the long, steep, slippery brow, to find where the horses might tread safely, until they reached the comparative easy-going of the deep-rutted main road.
People went on horseback over the upland moors, following the tracks of the packhorses that carried the parcels, baggage, or goods from one town to another,
between which there did not happen to be a highway.
But in the winter, all such communication was impossible, by reason
of the snow which lay long and late on the bleak high ground. I have known
travelling by the mail-coach over Blackstone Edge, had been snowed up for a week or ten days, at the little inn near the summit, and obliged to spend both
Christmas and New Year's Day there, till the store of provisions laid in for the use of the landlord and his family falling short before the inroads of the unexpected
visitors, they had recourse to the turkeys, geese, and Yorkshire pies with which the coach was laden; and even these were beginning to fail, when a fortunate thaw
released them from their prison.
Isolated as the hill villages may be, they are in the world, compared
with the loneliness of the grey ancestral houses to be seen here and there
in the dense hollows of
the moors. These dwellings are not large, yet they are solid and roomy enough for the accommodation of those who live in them, and to whom the surrounding
estates belong. The land has often been held by one family since the days of the Tudors; the owners are, in fact, the remains of the old yeomanry - small squires, who
are rapidly becoming extinct as a class, from one of two causes. Either the possessor falls into idle, drinking habits, and so is obliged eventually to sell his property: or
he finds, if more shrewd and adventurous, that the" beck "running down the mountainside, or the minerals beneath his feet, can be turned into a new source of wealth:
and leaving the old plodding life of a landowner with small capital, he turns manufacturer, or digs for coal, or quarries for stone.
Still there are those remaining of this class - dwellers in the lonely
houses far away in the upland districts - even at the present day, who
sufficiently indicate what
strange eccentricity - what wild strength of will - nay, even what unnatural power of crime was fostered by a mode of living in which a man seldom met his fellows,
and where public opinion was only a distant and inarticulate echo of some clearer voice sounding behind the sweeping horizon.
A solitary life cherishes mere fancies until they become mamas. And
the powerful Yorkshire character, which was scarcely tamed into subjection
by all the contact it
met with in "busy town or crowded mart," has before now broken out into strange wilfulness in the remoter districts. A singular account was recently given me of a
landowner (living, it is true, on the Lancashire side of the hills, but of the same blood and nature as the dwellers on the other) who was supposed to be in the receipt
of seven or eight hundred a year, and whose house bore marks of handsome antiquity, as if his forefathers had been for a long time people of consideration. My
informant was struck with the appearance of the place, and proposed to the countryman who was accompanying him, to go up to it and take a nearer inspection.
The reply was, "Yo'd better not; he'd threap yo' down th' loan. He's let fly at some folk's legs, and let shot lodge in 'em afore now, for going too near to his house."
And finding, on closer inquiry, that such was really the inhospitable custom of this moorland squire, the gentleman gave up his purpose. I believe that the savage
yeoman is still living.
Another squire, of more distinguished family and larger property - one
is thence led to imagine of better education, but that does not always
follow - died at his
house, not many miles from Haworth, only a few years ago. His great amusement and occupation had been cock-fighting. When he was confined to his chamber
with what he knew would be his last illness, he had his cocks brought up there, and watched the bloody battle from his bed. As his mortal disease increased, and it
became impossible for him to turn so as to follow the combat, he had looking-glasses arranged in such a manner, around and above him, as he lay, that he could still
see the cocks fighting. And in this manner he died.
These are merely instances of eccentricity compared to the tales of
positive violence and crime that have occurred in these isolated dwellings,
which still linger in the
memories of the old people of the district, and some of which were doubtless familiar to the authors of Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
The amusements of the lower classes could hardly be expected to be more
humane than those of the wealthy and better educated. The gentleman, who
furnished me with some of the particulars I have given, remembers the bull-baitings at Rochdale, not thirty years ago. The bull was fastened by a chain or rope to a
post in the river. To increase the amount of water, as well as to give their workpeople the opportunity of savage delight, the masters were accustomed to stop their
mills on the day when the sport took place. The bull would sometimes wheel suddenly round, so that the rope by which he was fastened swept those who had been
careless enough to come within its range down into the water, and the good people of Rochdale had the excitement of seeing one or two of their neighbours
drowned, as well as of witnessing the bull baited, and the dogs torn and tossed.
The people of Haworth were not less strong and full of character than
their neighbours on either side of the hill. The village lies embedded
in the moors, between the
two counties, on the old road between Keighley and Colne. About the middle of the last century, it became famous in the religious world as the scene of the
ministrations of the Rev. William Grimshaw, curate of Haworth for twenty years. Before this time, it is probable that the curates were of the same order as one Mr.
Nicholls, a Yorkshire clergyman in the days immediately succeeding the Reformation, who was "much addicted to drinking and company-keeping," and used to say
to his companions "You must not heed me but when I am got three feet above the earth," that was, into the pulpit.
Mr. Grimshaw's life was written by Newton, Cowper's friend; and from
it may be gathered some curious particulars of the manner in which a rough
swayed and governed by a man of deep convictions, and strong earnestness of purpose. It seems that he had not been in any way remarkable for religious zeal,
though he had led a moral life, and been conscientious in fulfilling his parochial duties, until a certain Sunday in September, 1744, when the servant, rising at five,
found her master already engaged in prayer; she stated that, after remaining in his chamber for some time, he went to engage in religious exercises in the house of a
parishioner, then home again to pray; thence, still fasting, to the church, where, as he was reading the second lesson, he fell down, and, on his partial recovery, had to
be led from the church. As he went out, he spoke to the congregation, and told them not to disperse; as he had something to say to them, and would return
presently. He was taken to the clerk's house, and again became insensible. His servant rubbed him, to restore the circulation; and when he was brought to himself "
he seemed in a great rapture," and the first words he uttered were "I have had a glorious vision from the third heaven." He did not say what he had seen, but returned
into the church, and began the service again, at two in the afternoon, and went on until seven.
From this time he devoted himself, with the fervour of a Wesley, and
something of the fanaticism of a Whitfield, to calling out a religious
life among his parishioners.
They had been in the habit of playing at football on Sunday, using stones for this purpose; and giving and receiving challenges from other parishes. There were
horse-races held on the moors just above the village, which were periodical sources of drunkenness and profligacy. Scarcely a wedding took place without the rough
amusement of foot-races, where the half-naked runners were a scandal to all decent strangers. The old custom of 'arvills,' or funeral feasts, led to frequent pitched
battles between the drunken mourners. Such customs were the outward signs of the kind of people with whom Mr. Grimshaw had to deal. But, by various means,
some of the most practical kind, he wrought a great change in his parish. In his preaching he was occasionally assisted by Wesley and Whitfield, and at such times
the little church proved much too small to hold the throng that poured in from distant villages, or lonely moorland hamlets; and frequently they were obliged to meet in
the open air; indeed, there was not room enough in the church even for the communicants. Mr. Whitfield was once preaching in Haworth, and made use of some
such expression, as that he hoped there was no need to say much to this congregation, as they had sat under so pious and godly a minister for so many years;
"whereupon Mr. Grimshaw stood up in his place, and said with a loud voice, ' Oh, sir! for God's sake do not speak so. I pray you do not flatter them. I fear the
greater part of them are going to hell with their eyes open.'" But if they were so bound, it was not for want of exertion on Mr. Grimshaw's part to prevent them. He
used to preach twenty or thirty times a week in private houses. If he perceived any one inattentive to his prayers, he would stop and rebuke the offender, and not go
on till he saw every one on their knees. He was very earnest in enforcing the strict observance of Sunday; and would not even allow his parishioners to walk in the
fields between services. He sometimes gave out a very long Psalm (tradition says the 119th), and while it was being sung, he left the reading-desk, and taking a
horsewhip went into the public-houses, and flogged the loiterers into church. They were swift who could escape the lash of the parson by sneaking out the back way.
He had strong health and an active body, and rode far and wide over the hills, "awakening" those who had previously had no sense of religion. To save time, and be
no charge to the families at whose houses he held his prayer-meetings, he carried his provisions with him; all the food he took in the day on such occasions consisting
simply of a piece of bread and butter, or dry bread and a raw onion.
The horse-races were justly objectionable to Mr. Grimshaw; they attracted
numbers of profligate people to Haworth, and brought a match to the combustible
materials of the place, only too ready to blaze out into wickedness. The story is, that he tried all means of persuasion, and even intimidation, to have the races
discontinued, but in vain. At length, in despair, he prayed with such fervour of earnestness that the rain came down in torrents, and deluged the ground, so that there
was no footing for man or beast, even if the multitude had been willing to stand such a flood let down from above. And so Haworth races were stopped, and have
never been resumed to this day. Even now the memory of this good man is held in reverence, and his faithful ministrations and real virtues are one of the boasts of the
But after his time, I fear there was a falling back into the wild rough
heathen ways, from which he had pulled them up, as it were by the passionate
force of his
individual character. He had built a chapel for the Wesleyan Methodists, and not very long after the Baptists established themselves in a place of worship. Indeed, as
Dr. Whitaker says, the people of this district are "strong religionists;" only, fifty years ago, their religion did not work down into their lives. Half that length of time
back, the code of morals seemed to be formed upon that of their Norse ancestors. Revenge was handed down from father to son as an hereditary duty; and a great
capability for drinking, without the head being affected, was considered as one of the manly virtues. The games of football on Sundays, with the challenges to the
neighbouring parishes, were resumed, bringing in an influx of riotous strangers to fill the public-houses, and make the more sober-minded inhabitants long for good
Mr. Grimshaw's stout arm, and ready horsewhip. The old custom of "arvills" was as prevalent as ever. The sexton, standing at the foot of the open grave, announced
that the "arvill" would be held at the Black Bull, or whatever public-house might be fixed upon by the friends of the dead; and thither the mourners and their
acquaintances repaired. The origin of the custom had been the necessity of furnishing some refreshment for those who came from a distance, to pay the last mark of
respect to a friend. In the life of Oliver Heywood there are two quotations, which show what sort of food was provided for "arvills" in quiet Nonconformist
connections in the seventeenth century; the first (from Thoresby) tells of "cold possets, stewed prunes, cake, and cheese," as being the arvill after Oliver Heywood's
funeral. The second gives, as rather shabby, according to the notion of the times (1673), "nothing but a bit of cake, draught of wine, piece of rosemary, and pair of
But the arvills at Haworth were often far more jovial doings. Among
the poor, the mourners were only expected to provide a kind of spiced roll
for each person; and
the expense of the liquors - rum, or ale, or a mixture of both called 'dog's nose' - was generally defrayed by each guest placing some money on a plate, set in the
middle of the table. Richer people would order a dinner for their friends. At the funeral of Mr. Charnock (the next successor but one to Mr. Grimshaw in the
incumbency), above eighty people were bid to the arvill, and the price of the feast was 4s. 6d. per head, all of which was defrayed by the friends of the deceased.
As few "shirked their liquor," there were very frequently "up-and-down-fights" before the close of the day; sometimes with the horrid additions of "pawsing" and
"gouging," and biting.
Although I have dwelt on the exceptional traits in the characteristics
of these stalwart West-Ridingers, such as they were in the first quarter
of this century, if not a
few years later, I have little doubt that in the every-day life of the people so independent, wilful, and full of grim humour, there would be much found even at present
that would shock those accustomed only to the local manners of the south; and, in return, I suspect the shrewd, sagacious, energetic Yorkshire man would hold such
"foreigners" in no small contempt.
I have said, it is most probable that where Haworth Church now stands,
there was once an ancient " field-kirk," or oratory. It occupied the third
or lowest class of
ecclesiastical structures, according to the Saxon law, and had no right of sepulture, or administration of sacraments. It was so called because it was built without
enclosure, and open to the adjoining fields or moors. The founder, according to the laws of Edgar, was bound, without subtracting from his tithes, to maintain the
ministering priest out of the remaining nine parts of his income. After the Reformation, the right of choosing their clergyman, at any of those chapels of ease which had
formerly been field-kirks, was vested in the freeholders and trustees, subject to the approval of the vicar of the parish. But owing to some negligence, this right has
been lost to the freeholders and trustees at Haworth, ever since the days of Archbishop Sharp; and the power of choosing a minister has lapsed into the hands of the
Vicar of Bradford. So runs the account, according to one authority. Mr. Brontë says,-"This living has for its patrons the Vicar of Bradford and certain trustees. My
predecessor took the living with the consent of the Vicar of Bradford, but in opposition to the trustees; in consequence of which he was so opposed that, after only
three weeks' possession, he was compelled to resign."
In conversing on the character of the inhabitants of the West Riding
with Dr. Scoresby, who had been for some time Vicar of Bradford, he alluded
to certain riotous
transactions which had taken place at Haworth on the presentation of the living to Mr. Redhead, Mr. Brontë's predecessor; and said that there had been so much in
the particulars indicative of the character of the people, that he advised me to inquire into them. I have accordingly done so, and, from the lips of some of the
survivors among the actors and spectators, I have learnt the means taken to eject the nominee of the Vicar.
The previous incumbent, next but one in succession to Mr. Grimshaw,
had been a Mr. Charnock. He had a long illness which rendered him unable
to discharge his
duties without assistance, and Mr. Redhead came to help him. As long as Mr. Charnock lived, his curate gave the people much satisfaction, and was highly regarded
by them. But the case was entirely altered when, at Mr. Charnock's death in 1819, they conceived that the trustees had been unjustly deprived of their rights by the
Vicar of Bradford, who appointed Mr. Redhead as perpetual curate.
The first Sunday he officiated, Haworth church was filled even to the
aisles; most of the people wearing the wooden clogs of the district. But
while Mr. Redhead was
reading the second lesson, the whole congregation, as by one impulse, began to leave the church, making all the noise they could with clattering and clumping of
clogs, till, at length, Mr. Redhead and the clerk were the only two left to continue the service. This was bad enough, but the next Sunday the proceedings were far
worse. Then, as before, the church was well filled, but the aisles were left clear; not a creature, not an obstacle was in the way. The reason for this was made evident
about the same time in the reading of the service as the disturbances had begun the previous week. A man rode into the church upon an ass, with his face turned
towards the tail, and as many old hats piled on his head, as he could possibly carry. He began urging his beast round the aisles, and the screams, and cries, and
laughter of the congregation entirely drowned all sound of Mr. Redhead's voice; and, I believe, he was obliged to desist.
Hitherto they had not proceeded to anything like personal violence;
but on the third Sunday they must have been greatly irritated at seeing
Mr. Redhead, determined
to brave their will, ride up the village street, accompanied by several gentlemen from Bradford. They put up their horses at the Black Bull - the little inn close upon
the churchyard, for the convenience of arvills as well as for other purposes - and went into church. On this the people followed, with a chimney-sweeper, whom they
had employed to clean the chimneys of some out-buildings belonging to the church that very morning, and afterwards plied with drink till he was in a state of solemn
intoxication. They placed him right before the reading-desk, where his blackened face nodded a drunken, stupid assent to all that Mr. Redhead said. At last, either
prompted by some mischief-maker, or from some tipsy impulse, he clambered up the pulpit stairs, and attempted to embrace Mr. Redhead. Then the profane fun
grew fast and furious. They pushed the soot-covered chimney-sweeper against Mr. Redhead, as he tried to escape. They threw both him and his tormentor down on
the ground in the church-yard where the soot-bag had been emptied, and, though, at last, Mr. Redhead escaped into the Black Bull, the doors of which were
immediately barred, the people raged without, threatening to stone him and his friends. One of my informants is an old man, who was the landlord of the Black Bull
at the time, and he stands to it that such was the temper of the irritated mob, that Mr. Redhead was in real danger of his life. This man, however, planned an escape
for his unpopular inmates. The Black Bull is near the top of the long, steep Haworth street, and at the bottom, close by the bridge, on the road to Keighley, is a
turnpike. Giving directions to his hunted guests to steal out at the back door (through which, probably, many a ne'er-do-weel has escaped from good Mr.
Grimshaw's horsewhip), the landlord and some of the stable-boys rode the horses belonging to the party from Bradford backwards and forwards before his front
door, among the fiercely-expectant crowd. Through some opening between the houses, those on the horses saw Mr. Redhead and his friends creeping along behind
the streets; and then, striking spurs, they dashed quickly down to the turnpike; the obnoxious clergyman and his friends mounted in haste, and had sped some
distance before the people found out that their prey had escaped, and came running to the closed turnpike gate.
This was Mr. Redhead's last appearance at Haworth for many years. Long
afterwards, he came to preach, and in his sermon to a large and attentive
good-humouredly reminded them of the circumstances which I have described. They gave him a hearty welcome, for they owed him no grudge; although before they
had been ready enough to stone him, in order to maintain what they considered to be their rights.
Into the midst of this lawless, yet not unkindly population, Mr. Brontë
brought his wife and six little children, in February, 1820. There are
those yet alive who
remember seven heavily-laden carts lumbering slowly up the long stone street, bearing the" new parson's" household goods to his future abode.
One wonders how the bleak aspect of her new home - the low, oblong,
stone parsonage, high up, yet with a still higher background of sweeping
moors - struck on
the gentle, delicate wife, whose health even then was failing.