Beautiful Anne Brontë Birthday Celebrations

It’s been a busy ten days for literary anniversaries. Yesterday was the birthday of Virginia Woolf, who visited Haworth Parsonage in 1904 and wrote about Emily and Charlotte Brontë in ‘A Room Of One’s Own’, and Robbie Burns, much loved by the Brontës. Of course, they were both trumped by the 200th birthday of our much loved Anne Brontë just nine days ago, so today we’re going to look back at last weekend’s Anne Brontë celebrations in Haworth and Scarborough.

Anne’s big day was last Friday, the 17th of January, and I myself marked the day by travelling to the place she and her family are most associated with: Haworth. Clouds were overhead but, rarely for a winter’s day, there was no rain as I climbed that famous steep hill once more. Now called Main Street it had been called Kirkgate as Anne made her first voyage along it aged just three months in April 1820.

My first port of call was the Brontë Parsonage Museum itself, or rather it’s shop annex. The Parsonage building is out of action throughout January as this is the time when the year’s new display is installed and essential cleaning and conservation work is carried out. Thankfully, however, the museum had opened its Bonnell Room especially for Anne’s birthday celebrations, and what a treat it was.

Henry Houston Bonnell was a major donor to the museum collection. A wealthy American from Philadelphia who loved all things Brontë, his generous bequest has seen part of the museum named after him. Unfortunately he never got to see this recognition, for he died in 1926, two years before the parsonage museum was opened to the public. For those familiar with the museum, it’s the room at the far end of the shop, or alternatively the final room that you enter as you walk down the stairs after visiting the parsonage itself.

This year it has been dedicated to Anne, and after kindly partaking of a glass of bubbly I was offered, I walked with excitement into it. Anne’s exhibition, entitled ‘Amid The Brave And Strong’ opens in full to the public next month, and I can’t wait to see it and report back on its treasure, but if the Bonnell Room is anything to go by, we’re in for a real treat.

The numerous cabinets contain a wide selection of Anne Brontë items that tell her story from beginning to end. Thus we have her pebble collection, one of her drawings of her spaniel Flossy, and a large and varied selection of her poetry and art. We also have the blood stained handkerchief with her initials in the corner, and the walls themselves are beautifully decorated with the cross-written letter which she sent to Ellen Nussey in the last weeks of her life.

Amid The Brave And Strong exhibition

Above is a photograph of the first pair of display cases, containing Anne’s stunning turquoise and carnelian necklaces, as well as the small round portrait of Anne wearing that very same carnelian necklace aged around 12 or 13, drawn by Charlotte Brontë.

From the moment of seeing that first case I was incredibly moved. At last, Anne Brontë was centre stage. As a child she had been called ‘waiting boy’, but now Anne has to wait no longer for the love and recognition she deserves. The attendant asked what I thought of the exhibition at which point I promptly burst into tears – maybe the bubbly had gone to my head, but I think I was overcome with how wonderful the exhibition was, how fitting and tastefully done – there is no doubt now that this is Anne Brontë’s year, and I found seeing that an incredibly emotional experience. When I visit the full exhibition next month I aim to be more in control of my emotions, but I’ll take a hanky or ten along just in case.

After leaving the parsonage, I made my way to the neighbouring church where Anne’s father served so well for more than 40 years. From there, it was a short stroll to the Old School Rooms, the building founded by Patrick Brontë and in which Anne spent many hours as a much loved and respected Sunday School teacher. A talk was given on Anne Brontë there which was informative and well presented – there was one little error in which a picture of Anne by Charlotte was described as being a ‘fantasy figure of a woman’ drawn by Anne, but otherwise it was a fitting tribute to Anne on her special day and hit exactly the right tone.

Old School Rooms Haworth
The Old School Rooms, where Anne was a teacher

I headed home to South Yorkshire full of love and delight at how Anne was being remembered – well done to all who have been involved in the exhibition, including Brontë Society supremo Kitty Wright who I was pleased to bump into again in Haworth.

Sunday saw the celebrations switch to Scarborough, but unfortunately I was struck down by manflu at this most inappropriate time and was unable to attend. Thankfully I received a number of reports of the weekend, all of which praised it fulsomely. The ‘Anne Brontë p.200’ art exhibition organised by Lindsey Tyson was a huge hit, and the book that accompanies it, containing 200 images created from ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’, has delighted everyone lucky enough to have a copy. The exhibition itself will soon be moving to Haworth, giving everyone another chance to see it.

Venerable Brontë biographer Edward Chitham gave a talk which was very well received. Now in his mid-eighties he has lost none of his passion for Anne Brontë and her sisters, nor his ability to convey that to an audience.

A large group of people then made their way to the South Bay beach, where they each wrote a phrase or word onto a pebble relating to Anne before throwing them into the sea. I think this was a lovely idea, as this beach was walked by Anne many times; she even crossed it in a donkey drawn cart (you can still get donkey rides here in summer) and chose it as the setting for the reunion between Agnes Grey and Reverend Weston. I couldn’t be there in person but I was there in spirit, so I was absolutely delighted to see that I was represented on the pebbles thanks to two very special Brontë enthusiasts. Rachel Maria Bell wrote ‘Crave The Rose‘ on a pebble to represent my latest book, whilst Pamela Nash, organiser of the Anne Brontë event in Manchester in March, wrote ‘In Search’ (after my first Bronte biography, ‘In Search Of Anne Brontë‘) and ‘Spirit’ on her pebbles. I was really happy to see this, so thank you very much to Rachel and Pamela.

Crave pebble
Picture courtesy of Rachel Maria Bell – thank you!
In Search Of Anne Bronte pebble
Picture courtesy of Pamela Nash – thank you!

There was then a procession up the steep hill (steep hills seemed to follow the Brontës wherever they went) to Anne’s final resting place at St. Mary’s Church beneath Scarborough Castle. I have to give great thanks here too to Eileen Prunty Hynes, who had not only travelled from Ireland to pay tribute to Anne Brontë but who sent me a picture of my book on Anne’s memorial. A huge honour for me, and Eileen also brought me a present all the way from the Brontë fatherland of Drumballyroney in County Down – thank you very much! I was thrilled beyond measure at these kind thoughts and actions, and even more thrilled to see how wonderfully Anne had been remembered in Scarborough – as represented by the candles and white roses around her memorial.

Crave The Rose on Anne's grave
Picture courtesy of Eileen Prunty Hynes – thank you!

Anne’s immortal creation Helen, the tenant of Wildfell Hall, famously plucks a white winter rose and uses it to represent her own courage and resilience. It also, of course, perfectly represents the courage and resilience of Anne Brontë.

Next week I will be reviewing a new Brontë graphic novel called ‘Glass Town’ by Isabel Greenberg – is it a fitting book to mark Anne’s special year? (Spoiler alert: yes it is, but more on that next week). For now I just want to thank all who have remembered Anne in the last ten days, wherever in the world they are. We are in the year of Anne Brontë, and it’s about time.

Winter rose, tenant of wildfell hall

Crave The Rose: Anne Brontë At 200

We’re less than one week from the 200th birthday of the great Anne Brontë, so I’m thrilled to say that my new book to mark this occasion, ‘Crave The Rose: Anne Brontë At 200’ is available right now from its publisher Valley Press, based in Anne’s beloved Scarborough, from Amazon or by ordering from your local book shop (even better if it’s an independent bookshop of course).

I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I’m really pleased with this book and as I know there are lots of Anne fans reading this book, I thought I’d briefly share details of Crave The Rose. It contains things never seen in a Brontë book before, and thanks to the team at Valley Press it looks absolutely beautiful too.

Crave The Rose by Nick Holland
‘Crave The Rose: Anne Brontë At 200’ is out now!

My book is in three sections, the first of which is a mini-biography of Anne Brontë over the course of nine chapters. Each chapter opens with an Anne Brontë poem that is relevant to that part of her life, and this biography contains new information that has come to my attention since I wrote ‘In Search Of Anne Brontë‘ five years ago.

The middle section looks at a recently discovered essay by Anne Brontë which has never appeared in a book before. The essay is included in full, and I also explain where the essay was found, how it was verified that Anne was the author, and why I believe that these are the final words that Anne Brontë ever wrote.

Crave The Rose by Nick Holland

The final section also contains things that can be found in no other Brontë book, as we take a walk back to the nineteenth century archives and hear first person accounts of people who met the Brontës face to face in their everyday lives. It gives us real insight into what the Brontës were like, and many of the accounts are incredibly moving – and often very surprising too.

I hope you will enjoy reading ‘Crave The Rose: Anne Brontë At 200’ as much as I enjoyed writing it. Next Friday there will be a birthday post to mark Anne’s big day itself, and I may see some of you at Brontë 200 events in Bradford on Friday and Scarborough (I hope to be there on Sunday). For now I leave you with ‘The Narrow Way’, Anne’s magnificent poem which contains the title words to my new book:

Crave The Rose by Nick Holland

‘Believe not those who say
The upward path is smooth,
Lest thou shouldst stumble in the way
And faint before the truth.
It is the only road
Unto the realms of joy;
But he who seeks that blest abode
Must all his powers employ.
Bright hopes and pure delights
Upon his course may beam,
And there amid the sternest heights,
The sweetest flowerets gleam; –
On all her breezes borne
Earth yields no scents like those;
But he, that dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.
Arm, arm thee for the fight!
Cast useless loads away:
Watch through the darkest hours of night;
Toil through the hottest day.
Crush pride into the dust,
Or thou must needs be slack;
And trample down rebellious lust,
Or it will hold thee back.
Seek not thy treasure here;
Waive pleasure and renown;
The World’s dread scoff undaunted bear,
And face its deadliest frown.
To labour and to love,
To pardon and endure,
To lift thy heart to God above,
And keep thy conscience pure, –
Be this thy constant aim,
Thy hope and thy delight, –
What matters who should whisper blame,
Or who should scorn or slight?
What matters – if thy God approve,
And if within thy breast,
Thou feel the comfort of his love,
The earnest of his rest?’

Happy JAnneuary – Anne Brontë 200 Celebrations

We have made it into a new year, so happy 2020 one and all! This isn’t any old new year, of course, but the end of a six year period which has seen the 200th anniversaries of the births of the Brontë children. They’ve saved the best for last, for this year sees the 200th birthday of our beloved Anne Brontë.

In fact, the big day is just twelve days away as I type this, so we’re not only in the year of Anne, but the month of Anne too! The History Press, who published my ‘In Search Of Anne Brontë’ in 2016 and who will be publishing my book on Charlotte Brontë and Ellen Nussey later this year, have dubbed this month ‘Janneuary’ – I like that, so I’m borrowing it to give a Janneuary update on three Brontë birthday celebrations heading rapidly towards us.


Brontë pilgrims often make their way to Haworth, and understandably so – it’s worth a visit on any day of the year, but Anne Brontë lovers should also try to get to Scarborough. It’s a beautiful place on a sunny day, which is why Anne loved it so much. She is buried there of course, in St. Mary’s churchyard in the shadow of the ancient castle, but she also spent large chunks of her summers there during her years as a governess to the Robinson family of Thorp Green.

St Mary's Church, Scarborough
St Mary’s Church, Scarborough

Anne always remembered Scarborough fondly, and it’s good to see that they remember her fondly too, for they’ve put together an exciting sequence of events to mark this special occasion. The first event gets under way next week, and it’s a brilliant way to mark Anne’s life and her artistic as well as writing talent. Called ‘Anne Brontë p.200’ it runs from 11th January to 8th February, and is at Woodend Creative, a large building in beautiful grounds just a short walk from the Grand Hotel and adjacent to Scarborough’s excellent art gallery.

The brainchild of local artist Lindsey Tyson, it is based upon an excellent idea that takes Anne’s ‘The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall’ and turns it into 200 individual pieces of art by 200 artists, each of whom has used a page from the book as their base. The results are incredible, and if you can’t get along to the exhibition you can buy the complete set of Anne inspired artwork in this stunning book that you can purchase at the event or from Lindsey via this link:

This book is beautiful inside and out – full credit to Lindsey and all the artists! (picture courtesy of Jamie McGarry)

That’s not all that’s taking place on the east coast this month. On the 14th, Tim Tubbs is giving a talk on ‘The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall’, and on the 17th and 18th, Eddie Lawler is presenting his ‘Tracking The Brontës’ show. Eddie has performed at Haworth on many occasions, and now lives at Scarborough with his wife Olga who painted this fantastic version of Branwell’s portrait of the sisters. It’s a brilliant show – fun, moving and packed full of facts (with a little Yorkshire rapping thrown in for good measure). All of those events are also at Woodend.

Olga's take on the pillar portrait - with Branwell restored!
Olga’s take on the pillar portrait – with Branwell restored!

On Sunday 19th a beautiful celebration of Anne’s life will take place, beginning at the Grand Hotel, on the site of which Anne spent her final moments. A torchlit procession will then lead to the South Bay beach, where pebbles will be thrown into the sea. The procession will then lead uphill to St. Mary’s church where bells will ring out in Anne’s name.


Anne Brontë never crossed the Pennines to Manchester, but her family did. It was in that city that her father Patrick had his cataracts cut away without anaesthetic, and where Charlotte commenced the writing of ‘Jane Eyre’ as she nursed him. Emily Brontë had earlier visited the city with Charlotte too, to consult an eye specialist.

It is now a bustling, modern city but it hosts its very own Anne Brontë tribute under the banner of ‘Project Anne Brontë 200’. It takes place on 28th March of this year in a very fitting setting – Manchester’s ‘Cross Street Chapel’. I say fitting, because the minister of this very chapel, in its original form, in the mid-nineteenth century was a certain Reverend William Gaskell, husband of Charlotte Brontë’s friend and biographer Elizabeth Gaskell.

Cross Street Chapel
Cross Street Chapel is right in the heart of Manchester

Pamela Nash has put together a magnificent programme of musical highlights that pays great tribute to Anne, and as Anne loved to play and listen to music she will surely appreciate this tribute. The hugely acclaimed up and coming composer Lucy Pankhurst has written a piece especially for the event – a setting of Anne Brontë’s poem ‘The Bluebell‘ which she has entitled ‘A Fine And Subtle Spirit’. It’s being performed by professional singers and a children’s choir, so it should be a truly memorable event. There will also be performances of hymns by Anne and poems by Emily set to music, and I will be there to say a few introductory words myself (please don’t let that put you off). This is an event not to be missed if you are in or near Manchester, and I will bring more details on it as that final Saturday in March approaches.


Anne was born in Thornton near Bradford of course, the last of the six Brontë siblings and just three months before the family moved to Haworth. Unfortunately there won’t be a special event at the Thornton birthplace of the Brontës and the powers that be are keeping the Parsonage at Haworth closed on that day (January is the month when they change out the exhibitions), but they have organised a party at the Delius Arts & Cultural Centre in the centre of Bradford.

Here is the official description of the event on the Brontë Society website:

Come down to be entertained by an exciting line-up of musicians, poets and DJs, and try your hand at zine-making, badge-making and other DIY crafts. This is a night to throw on your glad-rags, revel in performances, and enjoy delicious food and drink all for Anne Brontë’s birthday.”

It sounds like there’s something for almost everyone, and no advance booking is required – simply turn up and pay what you want.

The Delius Centre, near Bradford's Alhambra Theatre
The Delius Centre, near Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre

The truth is that if you carry Anne Brontë in your hearts, she will be with you wherever you are on Friday the 17th, so why not have your own celebration even if you’re on your own with an Anne Brontë book and a slice of cake (that’s what I plan to be doing in Haworth on the day)? If you can couple that celebration with one of the fabulous events in Scarborough or Manchester as well then you can make it a JAnneuary and MAnnearch to remember!

Anne Brontë 2020 And Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year! May I wish all of my readers a very happy 2020, your support really does mean everything, so I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog in the year that’s gone and continue to enjoy it in the year that’s come along!

Whether you like to call them ‘resolutions’ or not, I hope that you achieve your dreams and goals in the year ahead. It’s a year that will see me have two more Brontë books published – probably my last ever Brontë books, so I hope I’ve done their subjects justice. ‘Charlotte and Ellen‘ will be out in autumn, and ‘Crave The Rose: Anne Brontë At 200’ will be out later this month! It’s worth pointing out that whilst Amazon seems to say that it’s out on the 2nd, tomorrow, it will be a little later than this as the festive period have slowed down the usual typesetting, printing and distribution service with Valley Press. Fear not, however, it will be out later in January, hopefully in time for Anne’s 200th birthday, so you can pre-order now – I hope you will think it worth the wait; it has some things in it that have never been seen in book form before, and I’m really excited about making them available to the public.

Happy New Year card
The Victorians didn’t just make odd Christmas cards!

Did you spend New Year’s Eve linking arms, and singing Auld Lang Syne? Wouldn’t it be nice to think of the Brontës doing just that – with Anne leading the chorus in that voice described by Ellen Nussey: “She sang a little; her voice was weak, but very sweet in tone.”

Ellen also described how Anne and Ellen loved to play the piano which can still be seen by visitors to Haworth’s Brontë Parsonage Museum. How lovely to think of Anne at the piano, maybe Emily alongside her as she so often was, as they all sang the words written by Robbie Burns in 1788 and which have now become forever associated with Hogmanay celebrations.

Only a dream? Actually, it’s almost certain that this is what took place in the Brontë’s parsonage over the new year period. How do we know this? Because we still have Anne Brontë’s music books. She loved to copy pieces of music by hand onto blank music paper that she would then play on the piano – and we still have Anne’s own handwritten and annotated copy of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ – here it is!

Auld Lang Syne
Auld Lang Syne, copied out by Anne Bronte

The Brontës were fans of anything Scottish, and especially of Walter Scott, James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, and Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire. Whilst Burns’ name will forever be associated with these New Year words he himself said it was an ancient song which had been passed on to him by an old man, and he had merely set it in print.

Wherever the song originates it resonates powerfully today – should old acquaintances be forget, because they date from long since (‘lang syne’ in the Ayrshire idiom)? No, says Burns, these old acquaintances will meet again and share a cup of friendship again. It’s a simple message – we move on to the future, but we should always remember and cherish the past. So we move on to 2020, and are now just over two weeks from Anne Brontë’s 200th birthday – I wish you all a very happy new year and hope you had a joyous Hootenanny, and as I thank you for your acquaintance I leave you with this timeless song that Anne played on the parsonage piano:

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
[Chorus:] For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.