Day 19: The Bronte Parsonage Museum from a student’s perspective, Hwa Chong Institution, Singapore
Bacon and eggs again. Later, an olde house upon a recluse hillside a galaxy away. Well, at least the air is warm with the glorious blaze of the sun. Across the globe however, the same flame-ball never fails to set alight my country Singapore. Seems like today is a miraculous, even mix of invisible snow and fire arrows. At 8.15 am on the dot, I report at the porter’s lodge at Christ College. Our meagre smiles resonate with our mild interest in this old, majestic, monotonous house.
I sit at the back of the bus, a cacophony of friendly chats and noise filling the vehicle, though I’m a part of it too. Interestingly though, the dull countryside proves an eye-opener. The beautiful repetition of grass fields, power lines, cows, and more power lines is truly a new, majestic scene to the urbanised Singaporean; man’s needs are gracefully and mercifully met by what nature has to offer. Gradually, I fade away into a dreamy, tranquil world…
We alight from the bus and are greeted by an unusually huge gust of invisible ice. Why on earth is a tourist attraction located so far away from civilisation? And why is the car park located in the middle of a forest atop a hill? It must be quite a pain for the Brontes should they live here today. We exit the car park and surround ourselves with trees and greenery and farms with chickens. Upon exiting the forest, a peaceful yet bustling town welcomes me with its gravel-filled path atop a gentle slope. Vibrant colours of pink, green and blue of the small shops and eateries contrast with the stagnant grey of the ground; a lovely amalgamation of history and urbanisation.
To think that the Bronte’s house is this big! A giant, grey brick is placed in front of a small, “squarish” garden. Yet, the parsonage looms before us with surprising majesty. Our guide tells us that the parsonage used to be smaller though; a small extension on the right to it has been added in the name of a bigger exhibition for tourism. Fortunately, this addition does not seem to diminish the grandeur that the house exudes.
Inside the parsonage itself though, each room is surprisingly miniscule and each corridor surprisingly narrow. We course through this tight maze. Yet, it still calls out to me, as though I’ve been here before, as though I’ve finally arrived at my long-desired destination after a rigorous journey… The house is turned into a museum that ostensibly reflects as exactly as possible where and how the Brontes lived. So that’s the toy soldier that the Bronte sisters stole from their brother… So that’s the kitchen where Charlotte Bronte baked so often… So that’s, wait… Wow, the Brontes’ own writing desk and stationary! That’s the pen which was used to write Jane Eyre! That’s the piece of wood which Wuthering Heights was written on! These are integral pieces of history to the subject of English Literature which I love so much. If only I could touch them, feel what the master craftsman’s (in this case, master craftswoman) once held to craft a legendary art form… Sadly, I can’t preserve this moment of euphoria, not even through the soft click of a button (the parsonage does not allow photos). Then again, perhaps this is a way to force tourists to fully cherish their time here at the parsonage, instead of wasting its true historical value on a mere Instagram post.
Just beside the parsonage is a school that one of the Bronte children taught at. It is a humble, rectangular building (grey again); their father made sure his children had a good education so that they could make a living by themselves as teachers. We learnt about one of the schools they attended, in Lancashire. The excessively harsh discipline of the school’s management meant that learning was by no means an enjoyable definition. Horrific sanitation led to the deaths of the first two Bronte children. The remaining three were fortunately pulled out by their father. I thank God for blessing me with a lovely school in a stable environment created just for learning. Still, if legendary writers came about from such a background… It is interesting to note though that this school served as a significant source of inspiration for Charlotte’s setting of Jane Eyre. It just goes to show how important a stable environment for education is in a child’s life.
I end this excursion with an enlightened mind. I learned much about how a family of writers rose from rags to riches. I, as a generally well-off student, have no excuse then in screwing up my education. I do regret having negative thoughts about the trip at the start. If I had been more open-minded, I could have learned much more. In any case, it was a true honour and an extremely rare opportunity to have been at such a historically-significant site as the Bronte Parsonage.
Written by Matthew, student