Anne Bronte: Scarborough Connections – Part III

This article was originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Issue no. 3, 2015) by Claire Mason. She has kindly contributed her work to be republished here. You can read Part I of the article by visiting this link, and Part II by clicking here.

As already mentioned in Part I, Anne Bronte visited Scarborough many times with the Robinsons, a family she worked for, as a governess, between 1840 and 1845. She came to love the seaside town, and on her final visit, in 1849, she died there, as detailed in Part II.

There is much misconception surrounding which members of the Bronte family actually visited Scarborough. Anne visited at least four or five times with the Robinson family, followed, five years later, by her final, visit with Charlotte and their friend Ellen Nussey. The latter occasion was Charlotte’s first visit to the resort, and she only returned once, three years later, to visit Anne’s grave. Branwell was at Scarborough on two occasions, when he accompanied Anne and the Robinson family. Emily had planned to accompany Anne on a short visit during the summer of 1845, but the venue was changed to York.

There is no indication, therefore, that Emily, or Patrick, Anne’s father, ever visited Scarborough.

The Scarborough that Anne knew was in many ways different from the town today. This part of the article explores some of the areas she is likely to have visited.

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Above: A sketch showing the view across the Cliff Bridge from Wood’s Lodgings in around 1849, the year Anne died (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Beyond and below the bridge in the picture, is Henry Wyatt’s ‘Gothic Saloon’, beside which are the Spa Wells. At the bridge entrance is the Toll Booth where tickets could be purchased allowing unlimited access to the bridge and Spa Wells for a one, two, or four week period, or indeed the entire season. Anne took many walks across this bridge; indeed, the day before she died, she accompanied Charlotte, and their friend Ellen Nussey, along it. Today, the bridge is known as the Spa Bridge and it leads to several footpaths, one of which gradually descends to the Spa buildings, which stand on the site of the old Gothic Saloon.

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Above: Henry Wyatt’s ‘Gothic Saloon’ (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The Gothic Saloon, which stood on the site of today’s Spa, opened with dancing and fireworks on 16th August 1839, the year before Anne’s first visit to Scarborough. On the extreme right of the above picture is the Cliff Bridge (now Spa Bridge), above and to the left of it can be seen the tower of Christ Church, indicated in the picture, at the top of Vernon Place (now Vernon Road). This was the church in which Anne and the Robinsons worshipped, and ultimately where Anne’s funeral was conducted.

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Above: An illustration dated around 1845, showing the view from a bridge-like structure which led from the cliff pathway to the roof of the Gothic Saloon (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Whilst in Scarborough Anne had stayed at Wood’s Lodgings, which is clearly marked on the above picture, along with St. Mary’s Church (her burial place) and the castle on the right. In the foreground is the entrance to the underground room which contained the Spa Wells. In 1626, a natural spring was discovered here by Elizabeth Farrow, and the water was believed to have great healing properties. From this time until around the mid-1800s, many summer pilgrimages were made to the ‘Spa’and people would take the waters in the hope of a cure for a multitude of ailments.

The full story of Scarborough Spa, originally published in the Yorkshire Journal, is available here on Stories From ScarboroughPart I is here and Part II here.

Although it is not recorded, it is quite possible that Anne may have tried the famous spa waters in 1849, hoping they might assist in her recovery from consumption. She may also have sampled them when visiting Scarborough with the Robinsons some years earlier, as she also suffered from asthma, an ailment the spa water reputedly cured.

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Above: The Spa’s water pipe today (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

If Anne had indeed visited the Spa, then she would have walked down a flight of steps which still survive today and are pictured later in this article. The overflow of the spa water came out of a small pipe in the wall, as shown above. The water is no longer used for medicinal purposes.

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Above: The Spa, from, ‘The Poetical Sketches of Scarborough’,1813. Later the steps and wooden fencing were replace in stone (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Below: Steps leading down to the well and beach, far right the spa well set in the wall (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

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Before the Spa as it is today, the Gothic saloon (pictured below) was the place to go for Scarborough’s visitors as they sought out the healing properties of the town’s waters. It proved to be far too small to cater for the crowds and was redeveloped in 1858 to accommodate more visitors. However, as Anne died in 1849, she would have only seen the original saloon building.

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Above: A view across Scarborough’s South Bay from just beyond the Gothic Saloon (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The above sketch was drawn in 1839, just after the saloon had been opened.

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Above: A sketch of a view from the South Bay seafront by Francis Nicholson, c.1832. (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The above picture shows Anne’s former accommodation, Wood’s Lodgings (top right), the Spa Bridge in the centre. and the Gothic Saloon on the left. Even the pathway that leads from the Spa Bridge down to the Saloon and the Spa Well, can easily be identified. This pathway remains today. Also in this sketch are a number of bathing huts on the sands with horse riders, and carriages.

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Above: Undated sketch, estimated to have been drawn between 1845 and 1850 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The Rotunda Museum (shown above on the left) was described by Anne’s brother, Branwell, in an unfinished novel. It is inconceivable to think that Anne would not have paid a visit here with the Robinsons, if not alone, she may have taken the Robinson children there as an educational exercise. The building was erected, specifically as a museum, in 1829, and the rectangular side wings were added in the 1860s.

The building still serves as a museum today and was renovated in 2006.

The full story of Rotunda Museum has been published in the Yorkshire Journal, Winter 2011 edition.

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Above: A crayon sketch by W. Tindall, produced around 1840, the year Anne made her first visit to Scarborough. Once again, to the right of the museum, on the cliff, is the early Wood’s Lodgings ‘house’. On the right is a pool created by the ‘Mill Beck’, the water gradually making its way beneath the Cliff Bridge (now known as the Spa Bridge), and across the South Sands to the sea (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Below: The Rotunda Museum with the two rectangular side wings which were added in the 1860s. It is overlooked by the Grand Hotel, which was later built on the site of Wood’s Lodgings House, where Anne spent her final days (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

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In 2006 the Rotunda Museum was renovated and is as a centre of geology for the region.

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Above: The Rotunda today (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Sources

For a full list of acknowledgements, and to see the article in its original format, please visit the Yorkshire Journal (Autumn, 2015). All copyright retained by the author.

Many thanks to Clare for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough! There is one final installment of this article to come, so watch this space…

Anne Bronte: Scarborough Connections – Part I

This article was originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Issue no. 3, 2015) by Claire Mason. She has kindly contributed her work to be republished here.

Whilst Stories From Scarborough is an archive concerned primarily with seaside attractions, Anne Bronte’s connection with the town, and her grave, arguably provide interest for visitors. Although ‘attraction’ is perhaps not the best term to use here, this famous literary link undoubtedly contributes to Scarborough’s historical richness, therefore this story has been included.

Anne Bronte was born on 17th January 1820, at 74 Market Street in Thornton (near Bradford) where her father was curate. She was the youngest of six children born to Maria Branwell and Patrick Bronte. In April 1820, the family moved into Haworth Parsonage, where Patrick was appointed perpetual curate.When Anne was only about one year old, her mother Maria died. Elizabeth Branwell, who had moved to the parsonage to nurse her dying sister, stayed on and spent the rest of her life there raising the children. The bleak moors surrounding Haworth became the children’s playground and whilst Elizabeth tried to teach Anne and her sisters how to run a household, their minds were more inclined towards literature.

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Above: The Parsonage at Haworth (source – this has been added to the original article, copyright belongs to Sarah Coggrave, who took the photograph on a visit to the parsonage)

At the age of eleven Anne created an imaginary world called Gondal with her sister Emily. For the occupants of this fictional land they created newspapers, magazines and chronicles, contained in tiny books, with writing so small that it was difficult to read without a magnifying glass. Even as children, Anne and her sisters were talented storytellers.

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Above: A portrait of Anne Bronte, c.1835. This is a restored version of a painting by her brother Patrick Branwell Bronte, produced when Anne was aged about fifteen. Michael Armitage has returned Anne’s eyes to their natural blue colour. This pigment had previously faded in the original painting. Many years after Anne’s death, the Bronte sisters’ lifelong friend, Ellen Nussey, described Anne as having ‘lovely violet blue eyes’ (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Upon reaching the age of 15, Anne attended Roe Head School in Mirfield. This was her first time away from home and she was determined to stay and get the education she needed to support herself.

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Above: Haworth – Anne left her home town to attend school (source – this has been added to the original article, copyright belongs to Sarah Coggrave, who took the photograph during a visit to Haworth)

In 1839, a year after leaving the school at 19, Anne started work as a governess for the Ingham family at Blake Hall, near Mirfield. However, the children in her charge were spoilt and disobedient. Anne had great difficulty controlling them and ultimately the Inghams, dissatisfied with Anne, dismissed her. She returned home for Christmas in 1839, joining Charlotte, Emily and Branwell.

The episode at Blake Hall had been traumatic, and she reproduced it in almost perfect detail in her novel, Agnes Grey.

Anne obtained a second post as governess to the four children of the Reverend Edmund Robinson and his wife Lydia, at Thorp Green Hall, a country house near York. Initially, she encountered similar problems to those she had experienced at Blake Hall. However, determined to make a success of her position, Anne eventually came to be well-liked by the Robinson family, as a lifelong friend.

Her employment there lasted from 1840 to 1845 and the house appeared as Horton Lodge in her novel Agnes Grey.

It was in fact, the Robinsons who introduced Anne to Scarborough. For the next five years, Anne spent no more than five or six weeks a year with her family, during holidays at Christmas and in June. The rest of her time was spent with the Robinsons at Thorp Green and she accompanied them on annual holidays to Scarborough.

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Above: South Bay seafront by Francis Nicholson, c.1832 – Anne loved to walk beside the sea (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Between 1840 and 1844, Anne spent around five weeks each summer at the coastal town and loved it. A number of locations in Scarborough were the setting for Agnes Grey’s final scenes and for Linden-Car village in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

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Above: This old sketch shows St. Nicholas Cliff around 1840. On the left are Wood’s Lodgings, and in the distance is Scarborough’s South Bay. Anne stayed in these buildings during her first few years at Scarborough with the Robinson family (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Early in November 1842, Anne’s aunt Elizabeth died, prompting her to return home. At the time her sisters were away studying in Brussels. Elizabeth Branwell left a £350 legacy (about £30,000 in today’s money) for each of her nieces. Anne returned to Thorp Green in January 1843 where she secured a position for Branwell.

He was to take over as tutor to the Robinsons’ son, Edmund, who was growing too old to be in Anne’s care.

Anne and Branwell taught at Thorp Green for the next three years. Branwell entered into a secret relationship with his employer’s wife, Lydia Robinson. When Anne and her brother returned home for the holidays in June 1846, she resigned her position. While Anne gave no reason for leaving Thorp Green, it is thought she had become aware of the relationship between her brother and Mrs. Robinson. Branwell was dismissed when his employer found out, although Anne retained close ties to Elizabeth and Mary Robinson, exchanging letters even after Branwell’s disgrace.

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Above: This drawing is titled ‘New Buildings, Cliff, Scarborough’, and dated 1843, the year of Anne’s third visit to the resort. It shows Wood’s Lodgings viewed from the sea, with its new ‘central block’ and ‘down- the-cliff’ extension. On the left is the Spa Bridge, and a number of bathing huts (or machines) are in evidence along the beach. Scarborough was the first seaside to pioneer bathing machines. This story has already been featured on Stories From Scarborough – see Part I here and Part II here (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Over the Christmas of 1848, Anne caught influenza. Her symptoms intensified, and her father sent for a Leeds physician in early January. The doctor diagnosed her condition as an advanced case of consumption (tuberculosis), leaving little hope of recovery. Her health fluctuated as the months passed, and she grew weaker.

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Above: The Grand Hotel in about 1895 standing on the site of Wood’s Lodgings, where Anne had stayed several decades earlier. The latter was demolished to make way for the former, and when the Grand Hotel was first opened in 1867 it was hailed as “the largest and handsomest in Europe” (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

In February 1849, Anne seemed a little better and felt that a change of air might relieve her symptoms, so she decided to make a visit to Scarborough. Charlotte requested that their friend Ellen Nussey accompany them on the journey which began on 24th May 1849.

They booked rooms at Wood’s Lodgings.

On Sunday, 27th May, Anne asked Charlotte if it would be easier to return home to die instead of being in Scarborough. A doctor was consulted the next day and indicated that Anne’s death was imminent. She died around two o’clock in the afternoon on Monday 28th May 1849.

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Above: This old photo, c. 1860 shows a view of Wood’s Lodgings across the Spa Bridge. It was taken about 10 years after Anne died there. The light coloured cottages abutting the left-hand side of the main building were also part of Wood’s Lodgings, and some believe that it was in one of these where Anne spent her last few days; however, it is equally possible that it was at the right-hand end of the larger, main building. We know for certain that she had a sea view from both her bedroom, and her sitting room (which was one floor below), hence they were ‘back rooms’ with respect to this photograph. Wood’s Lodgings were demolished in 1862 to make way for the Grand Hotel (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Sources

For a full list of acknowledgements, and to see the article in its original format, please visit the Yorkshire Journal (Autumn, 2015). All copyright retained by the author.

Many thanks to Clare for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough! Watch out for Part II, coming soon…