Sheila Hancock visits Haworth to tackle myths of Bronte sisters for show

Keighley News: Actress Sheila Hancock during filming for the Brontë documentary Actress Sheila Hancock during filming for the Brontë documentary

Haworth’s legendary literary sisters were spotlighted in a new documentary at the weekend.

Actress Sheila Hancock travelled to Haworth – home of the Brontës – to make the programme, which was screened last Sunday evening.

And bosses at the Parsonage Museum, where Miss Hancock spent a week filming last October, said they were pleased with the final result.

“She obviously empathised with the Brontës – particularly over their bereavements – and was very passionate about the subject,” said Ann Dinsdale, collections manager at the museum. “It was quite moving.

“There weren’t any startling new revelations, but the programme did bring out aspects of the Brontës’ lives which perhaps general viewers were not as familiar with.”

The documentary, entitled Perspectives: Sheila Hancock – The Brilliant Brontë Sisters, investigated what inspired the siblings.

Miss Hancock said: “I have been a fan of the Brontës since I was a child. I think all three sisters are brilliant and I don’t have a favourite.

“All reading their work does is put me off writing my own novel. Their work is wonderful and one couldn’t hope to aspire to be as good as that.”

She began her journey in Haworth, where the sisters grew up, before travelling to other places important to the family, including Brussels, where Charlotte worked as a governess, and Scarborough, where Anne died from tuberculosis after being taken there to convalesce.

The documentary tackled the myth the Brontë siblings were isolated country folk, and looked at how Charlotte was partly responsible for this misconception after her siblings’ early deaths.

Miss Hancock looked at the unconventional education that led the girls, along with their brother Branwell, to write from an early age, creating imaginary worlds that inspired their later work.

Delving into the work of the literary family, the actress – widow of Morse actor John Thaw – set out to discover what inspired them to write such epic novels in the mid-19th century.

Miss Hancock looked at Charlotte’s love letters to her married tutor Constantin Heger, and in one discovered on close examination that a full stop actually looked like a heart. She visited the National Portrait Gallery to see the only surviving painting of the sisters together, and took a journey to Anne’s cliff-top grave in Scarborough.

Emily and Charlotte Bronte both saw their most famous works – Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre respectively – published in 1847.

The three sisters died within a few years of each other – Emily in 1848, Anne the following year and Charlotte in 1855.

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