With mislaid sentimentality we thank Haworth for giving us the Brontë sisters. Really we should be cursing the place for killing them so young. It was Haworth’s unsanitary conditions and hard living that did for them. During the famous sisters’ brief lives, the town was an open sewer; the main street a river of poo, wee – and worse.There were so many deaths in the town that the graveyard filled beyond capacity. Seepage from the corpses poisoned the local water supply – in turn creating more bodies.
It’s a miracle that the Brontë sisters lived as long as they did. At least they all made it into their 30s. The average life expectancy among their neighbours was a nasty, brutish and short 25.8 years. But if they’d lived elsewhere they might have had full and happy lives. And we’d probably have been saved a great many mawkish costume dramas.
Of course, since the Brontë’s were buried, Haworth has been sanitised. The main street is flooded instead with tourists eager to sift through the sisters’ remains. Every other street and building bears their stamp: Heathcliff Mews, The Brontë Bridge, Brontë Cottage B&B, the beautiful (but sadly now derelict) Brontë cinema, the Branwell Brontë tea rooms (also defunct). Brontë biscuits, Brontë fleeces, Brontë flagstones, Brontë toffee. The town has become a theme park, profiting from the very lives it stole.