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Haworth: literature, locomotives and retrofuturism

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 9 December 2018
Related property: Lodge Yard, Askrigg
Haworth: literature, locomotives and retrofuturism

West Yorkshire is no more ‘last century’ than anywhere else in this Sceptre’d Isle; but many holidaymakers visiting Lodge Yard surely do so with at least a smidgen of tacit nostalgia for a bygone age. The towns and villages of the Yorkshire Dales, quaint and unspoilt. The gently undulating Dales themselves, unchanged and unchanging. A sense of life being lived at a kinder, gentler pace.

Askrigg, where Lodge Yard is located, is enchanting – somewhere between a large village and a small town, with the amenities you’d expect of the latter plus the friendliness of the former. And you can read more about the holiday site by clicking here.

There’s beauty on the doorstep, too: fantastic walking and cycling to be enjoyed, welcoming pubs at which to slake your thirst and eat your fill, and a wealth of history to discover.

But if you have time, it’s well worth making the 45-mile journey south to Haworth (at top), the home village of Yorkshire’s – indeed, Britain’s – most famous literary family: the Brontës.

Born in Thornton, near Bradford, six miles or so to the south-east of Haworth, Charlotte (above), Emily and Anne Brontë and their brother Branwell (the latter drawn to the outré) were raised at Haworth Parsonage (below), their father Patrick being ‘Perpetual Curate’ (vicar or rector, in practice – the title a peculiar archaism) of the village. Though they did travel – particularly Charlotte and Emily – they never really left the place; it was always their home. Which, coupled with the fact that they all died young, has turned Haworth Parsonage into a place of pilgrimage for lovers of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Jane Eyre and (of course) Wuthering Heights.

Today Haworth Parsonage is a museum, dedicated to the Brontës and attracting hundreds of thousands of Brontë acolytes each year. It’s well worth a visit, too. It’s open from 10am to 5pm between November and March, and until 5.30pm from April to October. At the time of writing, admission is £8.50 per adult and £4 per child. Under-fives are free, and there are various family tickets and group concessions.

But Haworth is about more than just the Brontës. There are plenty of other reasons for you to visit this picturesque village surrounded by dramatic moorland.

Haworth is home to a growing array of independent shops, art galleries and eateries. You’ll find everything from luxurious handmade chocolates to bespoke artworks, and a huge choice of places to eat and drink. Browse up and down the cobbled High Street; pop into the friendly, welcoming shops – to buy, or just to chat.

And as well as the Brontës, Haworth has another claim to fame: the Keighley Worth Valley Railway. At five miles in length, running from nearby Oxenhope to Keighley, near Bradford, the KWVR is dwarfed by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway over in Pickering, near the Bell End Farm holiday site; but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in rolling stock (above), with more than 30 steam and diesel locomotives in its care, plus compartment coaches, dining cars, goods wagons et al, all harking back to yesteryear.

And perhaps all that clanky old machinery is why Haworth attracts an eccentric but benign sector of society: fantasists (in the true sense) whose preferred form of escapism is a synthesis of a mechanised past and a re-imagined future.

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-Century industrial steam-powered machinery, and the movement’s flamboyant fashions are a loose take on Victoriana, coupled with ‘old-tech’ accessories: flying goggles, old wind-up timepieces – anything with cogs and sprockets, really.

Towards the end of November, hundreds of steampunks (above and below) converge on Haworth for a three-day festival (2019 will be its seventh year), featuring music, dancers, entertainers, burlesque performers, vintage vehicles, a fashion show and a masquerade ball.

Quite what the Brontë family would have made of steampunk is anybody’s guess. Branwell, I suspect, would have been an early adopter. But I reckon the sisters, too, outwardly respectable but quietly revolutionary as they were, would have found steampunk’s benign subversiveness much to their liking.

Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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