Our Landscape of Inspiration

The landscapes of the South Pennines have inspired generations of writers and artists, including: Daniel Defoe, J.M.W Turner, the Brontës, Phyllis Bentley, J.B. Priestley, Ted Hughes, David Hockney, Tony Harrison, Glyn Hughes and Simon Armitage.

Although known mainly for his novels, Daniel Defoe also wrote ‘A tour thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain.’ On his travels in 1724, he was obviously impressed by the Southern Pennine uplands – describing them as “the Andes of England”.

“The Southern Pennine uplands – the Andes of England” – Daniel Defoe

The Brontë family lived at Haworth Parsonage, now the Brontë Parsonage Museum, from 1820 to 1861. The three Brontë sisters wrote some of the best-loved books in the English language. Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall were written over a hundred and fifty years ago, yet their power still moves readers today. The landscapes and places of the South Pennines inspired the Brontës and feature heavily in their work – perhaps most famously in Wuthering Heights.

In this extract, Catherine is recounting a dream:
“I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out, into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy.”

The Bronte Way footpath now links many places familiar to the family.

Phyllis Bentley (1894 – 1977) was the youngest child of a mill owner. She grew up in Halifax, where she later returned to teach English and Latin. Her best-known novel, Inheritance, set against the background of the development of the textile industry in the West Riding, was published in 1932 and received widespread critical acclaim. It ran through twenty-three impressions by 1946. Two further novels followed, forming a trilogy. In 1968 she wrote the children’s novel Gold Pieces, a fictionalised account – seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy – of the Cragg Coiners of Cragg Vale who defrauded the government by clipping the edges of gold coins to melt down and make into new coins.

Ted Hughes (1930 – 1998) was born in Mytholmroyd and raised among the local farms in the area. When he was seven, his family moved to South Yorkshire but, according to Hughes, “My first 6 years shaped everything”. He wrote vividly of the Calder Valley and Haworth Moors in works such as Remains of Elmet (1979).

Hughes was Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death. His later home at Lumb Bank below Heptonstall is now a Writers’ study centre and his wife, Poet and feminist icon Sylvia Plath, is buried in Heptonstall Churchyard.