Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte are commemorated in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. Their stone tablet of Huddlestone stone, given by the Bronte Society, was erected on 9th October 1939 but due to the war and difficulty of travel it was not formally dedicated until 19th July 1947. It is placed on the wall next to Shakespeare's memorial. The service included Anne's hymn "Believe not those who say the upward path is smooth" and the address was given by the Society's President Donald Hopewell. The tablet was designed by Sir Charles Peers and the inscription reads:
Emily Jane Bronte
With Courage to Endure
They were the daughters of the Reverend Patrick Brunty or Prunty and his wife Maria (Branwell). He was born in Co. Down in Northern Ireland and changed his surname to Bronte when he attended Cambridge University. Their other children were (Patrick) Branwell, Maria and Elizabeth. Both of these daughters became ill while attending a harsh clergy school in Lancashire (which was later the model for Lowood School in Jane Eyre) and died. In 1820 Patrick was appointed incumbent at Haworth in Yorkshire.
Charlotte was born on 21st April 1816 at Thornton parsonage near Bradford in Yorkshire and used the pseudonym Currer Bell for her writings. She and Emily also attended the school which had caused the death of their two sisters but were later educated at home by their father and aunt. After attending a school at Mirfield Charlotte returned to teach there and later took a post as governess. Jane Eyre was to be her most successful novel. Shirley was begun just before the deaths of her brother, Emily and Anne in quick succession. Villette was her other well known work. She married her father's curate Arthur Bell Nicholls on 29th June 1854 but died on 31st March 1855 and was buried in the family vault at Haworth church.
Emily was born 30th July 1818 and eventually became a teacher but ill health meant she had to give up that profession. She wrote many poems and the novel Wuthering Heights (her pseudonym was Ellis Bell). She died on 19th December 1848 and is buried at Haworth.
Anne was born on 17th January 1820 and used the name Acton Bell. She also worked as a governess and wrote Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as well as poems. She died while visiting Scarborough on 28th May 1849 and is buried at St Mary's church there.
"The life of Charlotte Bronte" by Elizabeth Gaskell, 2 vols. 1857
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004:
"Bronte Ceremony in Westminster Abbey" by Donald Hopewell in Publications of the Bronte Society, part LVIII, 1948
19th July 1947
National Portrait Gallery, London, UK / Bridgeman Images
This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library
Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster