Bronte Connections ~ Cowan Bridge.

In recent days I have written about a village with a movie connection and two villages visited by vampires. This next one has an association with members of perhaps England’s most famous literary family ‘ the Brontes’ .

I have passed through Cowan Bridge numerous times as it sits on the busy A65 in between Ingleton and Kirkby Lonsdale, our usual route up to the Lake District. In days gone by it would have been much quieter, the continuous traffic noise definitely distances the imagination away from the 1820s , when siblings Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily attended The Clergy Daughter’s School in the village.

We had decided to stop off for lunch on the way home from Cumbria on a busy bank holiday Monday. I must admit I suggested Cowan Bridge because I thought it may be easier to get lunch there than its more touristy neighbors. I have also always been curious about where on earth the Bronte school is……

It turned out the Tea Room was busy inside, but there was space outside next to the noisy road with the traffic whooshing by. 😅 We just decided on coffee and prepackaged sandwiches and ate them in the pretty seating area.

Afterwards we pottered about the village in totally the wrong direction. Eventually a kind local pointed us toward the original bridge that Cowan Bridge takes its name from. After crossing it we came to a row of old stone cottages. These are what remain of The Clergy Daughter’s School.

An inscription on the end cottage wall reads :

Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte & Emily Bronte

Lived here as pupils of the Clergy Daughter’s School 18-24 – 25.

The school was moved to Casterton 1833.

Patrick Bronte was a clergyman living in Haworth with six young children. His wife Maria had sadly died a couple of years earlier. Sending four of their offspring to a respected boarding school for clergy children would no doubt have seemed the right thing for this busy man of the cloth to do.

Unfortunately the harsh environment at the school would contribute to the untimely deaths of the two eldest girls. Poor quality food, cold damp conditions and cruel unjust punishments were the norm. Maria, then Elizabeth were sent home suffering from consumption , both would die within weeks of one another. Patrick sent for Charlotte and Emily and they never returned to Cowan Bridge.

A still from the 1944 film version of Jane Eyre.

For Charlotte , her experiences at the Clergy Daughter’s School were to be drawn upon for her novel Jane Eyre. In the book young Jane is sent to Lowood School where she makes a new friend, Helen Burns. Helens and Jane’s life there mirrors that of her and her sisters harrowing time at Cowan Bridge.

Today one of the remaining cottages is available as an attractive Holiday Let , so fans of the Brontes’ can experience a little part of Bronte history. A short walk and you are away from the road noise and out into beautiful rolling countryside.

I am glad the buildings stand as a reminder of how harsh life could be back then, and also as a celebration of what the Bronte family would eventually achieve.

Have you visited any places where the Brontes’ lived, worked or played? 📖

34 thoughts on “Bronte Connections ~ Cowan Bridge.”

  1. An interesting post and the cottages look pretty. I’ve never been a fan of the classics though and haven’t read any of the Bronte books but if Jane Eyre mirrors the true life experiences of the sisters then I wouldn’t want to 😦 I may one day go to Haworth but only for the steam railway and any photo opportunities.

  2. I had not realised that the school the Brontes attended was in Cowan Bridge.
    A couple of years ago I walked ‘The Bronte Way’ a route from Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham to Oakwell Hall in Yorkshire linking places associated with Charlotte, Emily and Anne.
    It proved a very interesting trip and had me re-reading some of their novels. I was particularly taken by Charlotte’s ‘Shirley’ which had previously passed me by.

      1. Shirley is perhaps the most accessible of their novels though it is not well known. Historical and social context background with a good story to tell. I would recommend it hiighly.

  3. Another pleasant little village with an interesting literary connection.
    It must have seemed fairly remote in the past – not so much now with that busy main road. But, on reflection, being on the route between two more significant locations it’s probably never been off the “beaten path”.

  4. Only been to Howarth. These cottages look lovely and don’t show what suffering must have happened behind their closed doors for Charlotte and her sisters. Lovely post, thanks for sharing xx

  5. The cottages are beautiful and easy to miss if you are travelling in the ‘wrong’ direction. I have actually been in the cottage on the far left, which used to belong to a friend’s grandparents. It was just as you would imagine a cosy cottage to be. I would love to visit Haworth one day. X

    1. I love Wuthering Heights. Jane Eyre is another great story. Charlotte definitely drew from her experiences for her writing, whilst Emily had the most vivid imagination I feel. X

  6. Oh wow, how interesting (and such beautiful photos!) Have just read Jane Eyre for the first time and only when reading up afterwards learned what an influence true family life had been on the story. Trying to figure out whether I’m geared up enough to start on Wuthering Heights now! Looks a fascinating and beautiful village. X

    1. If you were to visit a place with Bronte connections, you definitely need to visit Haworth where they grew up and the Moors where they walked. 🙂 Wuthering Heights is definitely worth reading. I like it even more than Jane Eyre. X

  7. Such an interesting & informative post. Not been to Cowan Bridge, but have been to Howarth & visited the Parsonage a long time ago. Each time we come over we say we’ll pop back to Howarth & still haven’t. Thanks for sharing. Love those cottages. Take care, stay safe & huggles.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this post. I think I had just assumed the school was in some dank and dark wet valley, but it looks to be up a hill, and fancy it now being a holiday cottage. I wonder if the original school was much bigger?
    I have been to Haworth- I liked it better the first time I visited when I was 14 as there were more artifacts on display- now they have removed a lot to make it look like a home, as is the modern way of dumbing down.

    1. Hi Cathy it’s basically on the side of a busy road. Originally it was bigger. All the cottages there were one big building and there were other buildings there too. After it was a school it was a bobbin mill, then turned into cottages.As for Haworth, I like the rooms idea, though they may not always match with who actually slept in them which is a shame. Xx

  9. Love these photos. I visited Kirkby Lonsdale a few years back. I went to Wycoller again a few weeks ago but haven’t been to Haworth since last August. Hopefully I can get there in the Autumn. I’ve just been to Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester where Charlotte visited several times x

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