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Maria Brontë (nee Branwell)
Wife of The Reverend Patrick Brontë.
Mother of the novelists Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë.
Born Penzance, Cornwall, 15th April 1783.
Died Haworth, Yorkshire, 15th September 1821.
Maria was the eighth of eleven children of Thomas Branwell and Anne Carne of Penzance, Cornwall, a prosperous merchant family with extensive property holdings in the town. The family was involved in local politics as well as trade, Maria's brother Benjamin serving as the town's Mayor in 1809. The Branwells and the Carnes were leading members of the Wesleyan Methodist community in Penzance, the Branwells being instrumental in the building of the town's first purpose-built Wesleyan chapel in 1814.
Between 1808 and 1811 four family deaths (including Maria's mother and father) effectively broke up Maria's immediate family and she looked for employment. Her father's sister Jane was the wife of John Fennell, a Methodist minister who, in 1812, was appointed Headmaster of the newly opened Woodhouse Grove School at Rawdon, between Leeds and Bradford in Yorkshire. Jane Fennell acted as housekeeper at the school and she invited her niece to assist her. In the summer of 1812 Maria Branwell travelled to Yorkshire to start a new life.
Courtship and Marriage
John Fennell and Patrick Brontë had been curates together in Wellington, Shropshire in 1808. In 1812 Patrick Brontë was the curate at Hartshead, 12 miles from Rawdon, and John Fennell invited his former colleague to visit Woodhouse Grove School to inspect the teaching of Classics. During his visit, Patrick Brontë was introduced to the newly arrived Maria Branwell, and after a short but determined courtship (Patrick Brontë walking the 24 mile round trip to take Maria out walking!) the couple were married in nearby Guiseley Parish Church on the 29th December 1812. The ceremony was a double wedding sanctioned by special licence. A mutual friend of Fennell and Brontë, The Reverend William Morgan of Bradford, was engaged to Jane, the daughter of John and Jane Fennell.
At the double ceremony, Patrick Brontë solemnised the marriage of William Morgan and Jane Fennell, and then William Morgan solemnised the marriage of Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell. John Fennell gave away both his daughter and his niece, and the brides stood bridesmaid to each other. On the same day in Penzance, two cousins of the two brides, Joseph and Charlotte Branwell, were also getting married.
Maria was petite, plain, pious, intelligent and well read with a ready wit. She made friends easily, and the friends that the Brontë's made in Thornton remained life-long friends to Patrick and his children. Her only extant written work, apart from letters, is the tract, The Advantages of Poverty, In Religious Concerns, but it was never published.
Raising the Family
Maria had an annuity of £50 a year, which would have been a great help to Patrick Brontë who had nothing but his stipend. Their first home was Clough House, Hightown, near Hartshead, and their first two children, Maria and Elizabeth were born there in 1814 and 1815. In 1815 Mr. Brontë moved to a larger living at Thornton, three miles north of Bradford, where, in a house in Market Street, the other four children were born, Charlotte (1816), Patrick Branwell (1817), Emily Jane (1818) and Anne (1820). In 1820 the family moved to Haworth, and within a year Maria developed cancer (probably of the uterus), and after a harrowing seven and a half month illness, she died on the 15th September 1821.
|© Митрофанова Екатерина Борисовна, 2009 ||