Saturday, September 17, 2011

Haworth, Oxenhope & Stanbury From Old Photographs Volume 1. A Review

Our thanks to Amberley Publishing for sending us a review copy of this book.

Haworth, Oxenhope & Stanbury From Old Photographs
Volume 1: Domestic & Social Life
Steven Wood
Amberley Publishing
ISBN 9781445603681 
Haworth seems to be a place for opposites. Charlotte Brontë spent a large part of her life wishing and/or trying to get out of Haworth (or so she said, albeit sometimes the opposite was true(1)) while her sister Emily was so homesick at school that she managed to be brought back home. Some visitors love the place for its sake while others think it would be a village like a thousand others if it wasn't for the Brontës. Haworth residents have a love/hate relationship with the hundreds of tourists that 'invade' them each year. All this goes to show how difficult it must have been to write a book to suit all tastes.

Steven Wood has weathered the storm admirably and manages - in our humble opinion - to keep everyone's interest in his text and his selection of pictures concerning the domestic and social life of Haworth(2) (with sections on streets, houses, schools, churches and leisure). Granted, there always seems to be something magic and alluring about old pictures and in this day and age when Haworth and its tourist industry is so maligned(3) timetravelling from the sofa and seeing some of the 'real' Haworth as it once was is quite a treat. Just like the life of the Brontë family would have been interesting without their novel-writing Haworth would have been an interesting place without the Brontës. A spirited place, as so many books insist on, brimming with personality and - but perhaps this might be said of every English village? - with a generous dose of colourful people.

On the subject of colourful characters and the Brontës, we were surprisingly charmed by John Hey, known locally as 'Old Bluche' and keeper at Harbour Lodge for over 25 years. Steven Wood writes of him,
He thoroughly disapproved of Brontë-inspired visitors tramping over the moors, disturbing the grouse. He refused to believe that 'little Charlotte brontë o' th' parsonage' could have written any books--'she just gat some cleverish sort o' chap to write 'em for her'.
The pictures and Steven Wood's concise yet thorough descriptions take us to places that no longer exist (as elsewhere in England the 1960s were demolishing-crazy in Haworth) and which would have been familiar to the Brontës, a regular feature of their daily lives, particularly with their father's profession. Of particular interest are the pictures connected to Haworth's old church, the church where the Brontë family worshipped. Some of the pictures we hadn't seen before and we certainly didn't know a few things about it and what became of some of its parts. Likewise, some very interesting pictures of the first Brontë Museum are to be seen.

And those are just the ones directly connected to the Brontës, but the whole book, just like the whole village, is worth a look around. We are certainly looking forward to the second volume, which will be on trade and industry. Hopefully, as we have been hoping every time we review a book on Haworth, that one will include a street map. While these books usually include maps of the area, hich are helpful too, they never seem to include a simple street map so that those that aren't local can locate the less well-known places/streets. But then again, knowing the Haworth character, that might be the whole point.

The pictures and the texts both combine to give a wonderful, encompassing sense of this unique, much-loved, quaint and quirky village.

Notes:

(1) To Emily Brontë, 1 October 1843.
I should like uncommonly to be in the dining-room at home, or in the kitchen, or in the back kitchen. I should like even to be cutting up the hash, with the clerk and some register-people at the other table, and you standing by, watching that I put enough flour, not to much pepper, and, above all, that I save the best pieces of the leg of mutton for Tiger and Keeper; the first of which personages would be jumping about the dish and carving-knife, and the latter standing like a devouring flame on the kitchen floor. To complete the picture, Tabby blowing the fire, in order to boil the potatoes to a sort of vegetable glue! How divine are these recollections to me at this moment!
(2) Haworth the township, which comprises Haworth, Oxenhope and Stanbury.
(3) For instance, Crap Days Out by Gareth Rubin & Jon Parker, John Blake Publishing Ltd (2011).

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