Last Sunday, with my parents and mother-in-law, we went for lunch at the wonderful Pheasant Inn at Casterton in celebration of Mother's Day. Casterton is a stone's throw from Tunstall, now part of a parish where a Victorian ancestor of mine was vicar*, and where the Brontë sisters and the other girls from Cowan Bridge school went to church. It was a beautiful day so we went for a stroll after our meal and the church was looking lovely in the spring sunshine.
The church is mentioned in Mrs Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë and I've always been taken with the story of the poor girls huddled in the room above the door eating their cold lunch. Bathed in sunlight here the tiny window above the porch looks quaint, but the interior of that little space must have been very cold. Living in a stone house I know how long it takes to warm up even with hot sun on it!
Mrs Gaskell notes:
There was another trial of health common to all the girls. The path from Cowan Bridge to Tunstall Church, where Mr. Wilson preached, and where they all attended on the Sunday, is more than two miles in length, and goes sweeping along the rise and fall of the unsheltered country, in a way to make it a fresh and exhilarating walk in summer, but a bitter cold one in winter, especially to children whose thin blood flowed languidly in consequence of their half-starved condition. The church was not warmed, there being no means for this purpose. It stands in the midst of fields, and the damp mists must have gathered round the walls, and crept in at the windows. The girls took their cold dinner with them, and ate it between the services, in a chamber over the entrance, opening out of the former galleries.
*not William Carus Wilson (Mr Brocklehurst!), my ancestor was just a young curate at this time.
You can browse our books on the Brontës here.