Haworth, St Michael's Church - The Bronte Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Association with the literary Bronte family
St Michaels is known as 'The Bronte Church' for its association with the Bronte family, who lived at the nearby Parsonage, now a popular museum dedicated to the literary family. All the family except Anne Bronte are buried here in a crypt beneath the east end of the church. Highlights include the Bronte Window, dedicated to Charlotte, and a south-east chapel with the Bronte memorial.
We do not know exactly when the first church was erected at Haworth, but there was certainly a chapel here in 1317 when the citizens of Haworth were commanded by the archbishop of York to pay the curate his wages. It is quite possible that a church or chapel of some sort stood on the same site long before this, but there is no clear evidence either way.
In 1488 a new chapel was erected, and the base of the tower survives from this 15th-century building.
A notable vicar was William Grimshaw, who took office in 1742. Grimshaw was a fiery orator and a close friend of reformer John Wesley. Grimshaw was known for driving men out of nearby drinking houses, sometimes using a whip to herd his reluctant parishioners into the church to listen to his sermons. He preached as often as 30 times a week and drew such a large congregation that the church had to be rebuilt on a larger scale to contain his listeners.
The most famous parish priest was Patrick Bronte, who accepted the living of Haworth in 1820 and moved into the Parsonage beside the church. Bronte's children Anne, Emily, and Charlotte grew up at the Parsonage, where they wrote their famous novels, including Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. The sisters, and their brother Branwell, all died at the Parsonage.
They were outlived by their father Patrick, who died in 1861, having served Haworth for 41 years. Bronte and his children were all buried in a vault near the east end of St Michael's church, with the exception of Anne, who died and was buried in Scarborough.
Rev Bronte would not recognise the church we see today; it was completely rebuilt in 1879 after the previous building was found to be unsafe.
Opposite the church is the Old School Room, built by Patrick Bronte to educate local children. One of the teachers, albeit briefly, was Charlotte Bronte.
What to See
The font is a beautifully carved piece of alabaster with marble columns. It was the gift of Mrs George Merrall, wife of a wealthy mill owner. Outside the church, near the south entrance, is an older font bowl, used by William Grimshaw.
The pulpit and low chancel screen are richly carved from alabaster, in an ornate similar style to the font. Pass through the screen and you will find yourself facing the altar, with a wonderful Victoria reredos of alabaster depicting the Last Supper.
On the south wall is a list of incumbents that makes fascinating reading. Look at the top of the list and you will find J Collier listed twice. Collier was incumbent in 1654 but was expelled during the religious turmoil of the Civil War.
He was replaced by E. Garforth, listed as 'Puritan'. Garforth was replaced the following year by R. Town, also listed as 'Puritan'. Town served for just seven years before Collier was reinstated following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1662. Here in just a few lines we can see the story of the turbulent Civil war years laid bare.
Though all these features are interesting, it is the Bronte connection that will draw most visitors to st Michaels. In the south east corner of the church is the Bronte Memorial Chapel, which was dedicated in 1964.
On the south wall is a memorial to Patrick Bronte and his children, while outside the chapel entrance is a brass plaque set into the floor, marking the place where the family are buried. On the pillar beside the brass plaque is an inscription commemorating the family burial.
In the south wall, near the Incumbent's Board, is the Bronte Window, also known as the American Window. It was donated by Thomas Hockley, and American admirer of Charlotte Bronte.
There is a large car park almost immediately beside the church, built to serve visitors to the Bronte Parsonage Museum. If you're coming on foot from the railway station, simply follow signs to the museum. The church is usually open daily, when the museum is open. There is a small shop area at the west end of the church, near the entrance.
There is a plaque at the churchyard entrance making clear that there are no Bronte graves to be found in the churchyard, though you can see the grave of the family servant Tabby Ackroyd, buried near the wall that separates the churchyard from the Parsonage where she served the Brontes for 30 years.
About Haworth, St Michael
Address: Church Street, Haworth, Yorkshire, England, BD22 8DR
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Beside the Bronte Parsonage Museum at the western edge of Haworth.
Website: Haworth, St Michael
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Bronte Parsonage Museum - 0 miles (Museum)
Top Withens - 3.2 miles (Historic Building)
East Riddlesden Hall - 4.3 miles (Historic House)
Hardcastle Crags - 5.6 miles (Countryside)
Gibson's Mill - 5.8 miles (Historic Building)
Halifax, All Souls Church - 8 miles (Historic Church)
National Media Museum - 8.6 miles (Museum)
Skipton Castle - 9.7 miles (Castle)
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