The Life of Charlotte Bronte HTML version

Chapter 1
The Leeds and Skipton railway runs along a deep valley of the Aire; a slow and sluggish
stream, compared to the neighbouring river of Wharfe. Keighley station is on this line of
railway, about a quarter of a mile from the town of the same name. The number of
inhabitants and the importance of Keighley have been very greatly increased during the
last twenty years, owing to the rapidly extended market for worsted manufactures, a
branch of industry that mainly employs the factory population of this part of Yorkshire,
which has Bradford for its centre and metropolis.
Keighley is in process of transformation from a populous, old- fashioned village, into a
still more populous and flourishing town. It is evident to the stranger, that as the gable-
ended houses, which obtrude themselves corner-wise on the widening street, fall vacant,
they are pulled down to allow of greater space for traffic, and a more modern style of
architecture. The quaint and narrow shop-windows of fifty years ago, are giving way to
large panes and plate-glass. Nearly every dwelling seems devoted to some branch of
commerce. In passing hastily through the town, one hardly perceives where the necessary
lawyer and doctor can live, so little appearance is there of any dwellings of the
professional middle-class, such as abound in our old cathedral towns. In fact, nothing can
be more opposed than the state of society, the modes of thinking, the standards of
reference on all points of morality, manners, and even politics and religion, in such a new
manufacturing place as Keighley in the north, and any stately, sleepy, picturesque
cathedral town in the south. Yet the aspect of Keighley promises well for future
stateliness, if not picturesqueness. Grey stone abounds; and the rows of houses built of it
have a kind of solid grandeur connected with their uniform and enduring lines. The
frame-work of the doors, and the lintels of the windows, even in the smallest dwellings,
are made of blocks of stone. There is no painted wood to require continual beautifying, or
else present a shabby aspect; and the stone is kept scrupulously clean by the notable
Yorkshire housewives. Such glimpses into the interior as a passer-by obtains, reveal a
rough abundance of the means of living, and diligent and active habits in the women. But
the voices of the people are hard, and their tones discordant, promising little of the
musical taste that distinguishes the district, and which has already furnished a Carrodus to
the musical world. The names over the shops (of which the one just given is a sample)
seem strange even to an inhabitant of the neighbouring county, and have a peculiar smack
and flavour of the place.
The town of Keighley never quite melts into country on the road to Haworth, although
the houses become more sparse as the traveller journeys upwards to the grey round hills
that seem to bound his journey in a westerly direction. First come some villas; just
sufficiently retired from the road to show that they can scarcely belong to any one liable