Modern day Haworth is widely considered to be a gem of rural Yorkshire, with its abundance of rolling hills and show-stopping natural beauty. However, it wasn’t always so picturesque.

In the time of the Brontës, this inspiring landscape was a hotbed of death and disease that, according to historians, was one of the most unsanitary parts of 18th century Britain. This impacted directly on the area’s most well known literary family, resulting in the Brontë sisters’ ill health and untimely deaths.

Join our panel as they discuss the juxtaposition of picturesque landscapes with the unsanitary conditions the Brontë family lived in, what role this played in the family’s work, and ask whether we as readers romanticise the troubled environment in which they lived.

About The Speakers

Headshot of Ann Dinsdale

Ann Dinsdale

Ann Dinsdale is Principal Curator at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, where she works on organising exhibitions and caring for the collections. She is a contributor to The Brontës in Context and A Companion to the Brontës, and author of At Home with the Brontes: The History of Haworth Parsonage and its Occupants.

Michael Stewart

Michael Stewart’s debut novel, King Crow, was the winner of the Guardian’s Not-the-Booker Award. Other books: Couples; Café Assassin; Mr Jolly and Ill Will: The Untold Story of Heathcliff. Walking the Invisible, a hybrid memoir about the Brontës’ lives and landscapes, will be published by HarperCollins in June 2021. He is also the creator of the Brontë Stones project.

Stephen Whitehead

Stephen Whitehead spent eighteen years at the Bronte Parsonage Museum on the staff and latterly on the Board of Trustees. He has written widely on the Brontes and his books include The Brontes’ Haworth and The Last Bronte: the intimate memoir of Arthur Bell Nicholls.

About The Chair


Bidisha is a broadcaster, journalist and film maker. She works for The Observer and The Guardian and presents and commentates for BBC TV and radio, ITN, CNN, ViacomCBS and Sky News, where she has been a regular on the weekend breakfast show since 2016. Bidisha specialises in international human rights, social justice and culture and the arts. Her fifth book,  Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices of London (2015), is based on her outreach work in UK prisons, refugee charities and detention centres. 

Her first short film, An Impossible Poison, premiered in Berlin in November 2017  and received its London premier in March 2018. It has been highly acclaimed and selected for numerous international film festivals. Her latest publication is an essay called The Future of Serious Art (Nov 2020) and her latest film series, Aurora, launched in 2020 and is ongoing. She is currently presenting the Hello Happiness audio series for Wellcome Collection, all about mental and physical health.