In the two weeks since I wrote about the Headstones Project, I have added fifty more photographs to the collection, with another 80 or so awaiting processing. Early yesterday afternoon, following the jaunt to Flamborough, I went up to the churchyard to snap more stones.
I noticed an elderly gentleman (about my age!) walking slowly up and down the rows, looking at every headstone. When he arrived close to me I asked if he was looking for anyone in particular and he said, “Yes, I’m looking for Anne Brontë’s grave.” He was a little crestfallen to learn he had to travel seven miles up the coast to complete his quest. I walked with him for a while as he went looking for his car and learned a few new things about the Bruntys.
I was thrown back to my school days and the day our English teacher, J. R. Bell, read the first few paragraphs of our A level set book, Wuthering Heights, in his rich, sonorous voice. Anne’s older sister, Emily, became one of my favourite human beings and has never lost her place in my Top Three.
When I was in my late twenties I walked the Pennine Way and stayed one night at Ponden Hall, (Thrushcross Grange). And I remember, as if it were yesterday, resting for a few minutes at Top Withens. The better known Bill Brandt photograph of Wuthering Heights is unforgettable too, though it isn’t easy to “read” in most of its online incarnations. (Another image, taken from above the farmhouse, is tonally more appealing but I know which one the shades of Emily and Heathcliff would prefer.)
The well-met gentleman in St Oswald’s churchyard told me Patrick Brunty had changed his name to Brontë because he thought it would make him more acceptable to his Haworth parishioners. There are several other explanations for the change. Maybe all are fanciful.
The Brontë Society and Parsonage Museum website is an essential portal to the family but, if you are at all interested in any or all of them, just search away online.