HAWORTH is inexorably linked with the Brontes.

Visitors flock in their thousands to the parsonage museum every year to learn more about the lives of the famous literary siblings.

But some 70 years before their father Patrick became curate in the village, another colourful character held the post and was making his own impression on parishioners.

William Grimshaw was a fiery man renowned for some strange behaviour, yet was also a hugely popular preacher who packed out churches.

A glimpse into his fascinating life is provided in a new, illustrated book, William Grimshaw: The Perpetual Curate of Haworth.

Author Simon Ross Valentine originally used the information, gleaned from decades of research he carried out on Methodist history, for a public lecture in 2008 commemorating the 300th anniversary of Grimshaw’s birth.

“In 18th-century England a revival of religion occurred due mainly to the preaching of the Methodist leaders John and Charles Wesley and their army of assistant preachers,” said Simon.

“Grimshaw, although an Anglican minister, greatly assisted the Wesleys in their preaching activities in the northern counties of England.

“By all accounts Grimshaw was a charismatic – if not odd – character, earning himself the nickname Mad Grimshaw.

“A man of prodigious stature, and a fiery preacher, he was both loved and feared by Yorkshire folk.”

Grimshaw took-up the Haworth church position after undergoing an evangelical conversion experience whilst serving as an Anglican clergyman in Todmorden. He went on to become one of the most important revival preachers of that time and led the establishment of a circuit of religious groups known as the Great Haworth Round.

Simon adds: “Grimshaw was a strange man, even to his contemporaries.

“If the curate was not happy with the number of people attending his services, it was his usual practice to set the congregation singing Psalm 119 – the longest psalm in the hymn book.

“He would then leave his pulpit and see who were idling away their time in the churchyard, street or nearby Black Bull Inn. With a horse-whip in his hand, he would march into the ale-house intent on forcing those inside to attend church!

“Apparently on hearing that Grimshaw was approaching, people could be seen making their escape from the inn, some jumping out of the lower windows and others throwing themselves over the low back wall.

“Having gathered together a number of the miscreant parishioners, he would lead them to the church and re-ascend the pulpit just as the congregation was about to finish singing the psalm!”

On another occasion, Grimshaw dressed as the devil one night and confronted a startled man who had refused to marry a girl he’d made pregnant.

* William Grimshaw: The Perpetual Curate of Haworth is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is priced £3.99. Copies can be ordered from Waterstones or online from Google books.