BRONTE lovers from all over the world will be descending on Dewsbury this month to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Patrick Bronte’s arrival in the town
The father of the famous Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Ann, came to Dewsbury in 1809 and spent two eventful years here as curate at Dewsbury Parish Church, now renamed Dewsbury Minster.
An exhibition depicting Patrick’s life is to be held in the church, and many other events are being organised by a special committee set up a year ago to plan the Bronte Festival.
The news comes after a major two-part TV adaptation of Wuthering Heights, which was filmed extensively at Oakwell Hall.
Renowned Bronte expert, Dr Juliet Barker, who wrote the widely acclaimed book, The Brontes will be visiting the town to talk on the life of Patrick and his family, and celebrated jazz singer Val Wiseman, will be paying a moving tribute to him in song.
Dewsbury Arts Group have organised a presentation on Patrick’s life in the town which they will be performing on two nights in Dewsbury Arts Centre.
Market traders will be wearing Victorian dress to mark the occasion, and historic walks around the town have been planned.
The organising committee, chaired by Mr Denis Ripley, are keen to tell the world Dewsbury played a far more significant role in the lives of the Bronte family than historians have ever given it credit for.
Mr Ripley said: “People may associate the Brontes with Haworth, but many believe the Bronte story started in Dewsbury.
“If Patrick hadn’t come to Dewsbury when he did, the Bronte family as we know it, may never have existed.”
There are many fascinating stories to tell about Patrick’s stay in Dewsbury and the effect he had in the town, including diving into the River Calder to save a drowning boy and tackling a thug who tried to disrupt a Whitsuntide Procession.
Another interesting Dewsbury connection to the Bronte story is the fact that it was a Dewsbury man, William Walsh Yates, editor of the Dewsbury Reporter for many years, who first proposed the formation of a Bronte Society and a Bronte Museum.
Mr Ripley added: “The first annual meeting of the Bronte Society was held in Dewsbury Town Hall, and Mr Walsh was responsible for collating much of the Bronte artefacts, including letters, drawings, manuscripts and personal relics, from the Dewsbury and Hartshead districts.
“He also wrote a book on Patrick’s stay in Dewsbury in an attempt to rectify an omission made by Mrs Gaskell, whose famous biography of Charlotte failed to mention he had spent two eventful years in Dewsbury and had a great influence on the development of Dewsbury itself.
“He came to Dewsbury from the south of England, but just imagine if he had stayed there. The chances are he would never have come to Yorkshire at all. Dewsbury certainly plays an import part in the Bronte story.”
The festival starts on Friday September 25 and continues on Saturday 26, Sunday 27 and throughout the following week.
Following on from the Bank Holiday TV drama Wuthering Heights, Oakwell Hall is continuing to stage an exhibition linked to the production.
Oakwell Hall in Birstall was one of several local locations used for the filming of the drama starring Tom Hardy as Heathcliff and Charlotte Riley as Cathy.
The displays give a peep behind-the-scenes with photographs taken during the filming last summer along with props and scripts.
Items on display include the wooden board on which Heathcliff and Cathy carved their names and the mocked-up deeds to Wuthering Heights.
The exhibition also features memorabilia from other Wuthering Heights-related productions and books.
The exhibition, in the Buttery next to the Great Hall, will be on show until the end of the year.
Oakwell Hall is open Monday to Friday from 11am to 5pm and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5pm. Admission charges are £2 for adults, 90p children and wheelchair users and £5 families – although
admission is free during Heritage Open Weekend on Saturday, September 12 and 13.Š