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A literary trip to Yorkshire

August 01, 2016 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

“That was his most perfect idea of heaven’s happiness: mine was rocking in a rustling green tree, with a west wind blowing, and bright white clouds flitting rapidly above; and not only larks, but throstles, and blackbirds, and linnets, and cuckoos pouring out music on every side, and the moors seen at a distance, broken into cool dusky dells; but close by great swells of long grass undulating in waves to the breeze; and woods and sounding water, and the whole world awake and wild with joy.” (Catherine in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë)

How do you imagine Yorkshire? When you think of it, do you see green hills, windy moors, and old churches? If we played a free association game, would you think of Yorkshire terriers or perhaps Yorkshire pudding? I first came to learn about Yorkshire through the words of the Brontë sisters, and I have always imagined it to be a wild place with beautiful architecture. August 1st is Yorkshire Day, so let's travel to this part of England and learn a bit about it. Although Yorkshire does not solely mean Brontë country, we will start our journey in the places they described. Then we will learn more about other literary connections with this region, and move on to other interesting areas to explore the language, symbols, history, sports, and music of Yorkshire, and we will see some contemporary cultural references in TV shows and films.

The Brontës

Read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and you will learn about the winds, the moors, the hills and the wildlife in this country.

If your students enjoy films  watch the latest adaptations of these novels. Go to our blog post to find out more about the two films: The Brontë Sisters Film Projects: Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre

Visit this website to learn more about Brontë country.

Other literary connections

Many famous literary works were either written, related to or set in Yorkshire. Read through this list and guess how these works are related to the area. Read on to find out the answers.

  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  2. The Secret Garden by  Frances Hodgson Burnett
  3. The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
  4. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

1: In Bram Stoker's novel Count Dracula first appears in Whitby, a fishing village on the North Yorkshire coast.

2: In The Secret Garden Mary Lennox is sent to Yorkshire to get better when her parents die in India.

3: In the novel the Waterbury children and their mother move to "Three Chimneys", a house in Yorkshire because their father is wrongly imprisoned.

4: The full title of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe is The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pyrates, where you can learn that he is from Yorkshire.

  • Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath: Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire and Sylvia Plath is buried in Heptonstall, Yorkshire.
  • Philip Larkin: Although born in Coventry, Larkin lived his life in Hull, and he was the librarian of the University of Hull. Find a poem by him and read it out loud.

Seven Yorkshire projects

PROJECT 1: Geography and language to describe it

Learn about the geography of this country on a map, and then watch this video to see the beautiful landscape. Then use these words to describe what you have seen.

  • Dales, moorland, valley, cliff, coastline, waterfall, field, stone walls, woodland, forest

PROJECT 2: The four largest cities in Yorkshire

Find out about the four largest cities in Yorkshire. Work in five groups, and prepare a short presentation about each city.

  • Leeds
  • Sheffield
  • Bradford
  • York

PROJECT 3: Yorkshire dialect: Speak like you were from Yorkshire

Learn about the Yorkshire dialect, and try to use a few words from these lists and maps. Here are some excellent resources to learn about the dialect and here are examples of regional voices.

PROJECT 4: Contemporary music from Yorkshire

Several famous bands come from Yorkshire. Do you know any of them? Choose one and create a poster about them.

PROJECT 5: Factory life and a bit of history: Mystery at the Mill

Mystery at the Mill, written by Elspeth Rawstron and illustrated by Nick Tankard, is an original story published in the Helbling Readers series. It is set in Yorkshire, and both the writer and the illustrator are from the Bradford area.

Read an interview with Elspeth and Nick to find out how Yorkshire inspired this story, and learn about factory life in the 19th century and ethical fashion and work in the 21st century.

What is the story about?

When Caterina finds her great-great grandmother’s diary in the attic she reads about her difficult life as a child worker in the local mill. Caterina starts thinking and soon she started a campaign against a local boutique that sells cheap fashionable clothes. However, the shop belongs to Jake’s Uncle Sanjit. Can Caterina convince Sanjit to sell ethically made clothes? And are Sanjit’s suppliers what they seem?

PROJECT 6: Symbols of Yorkshire and a bit of history

The symbol of the country is the white rose. It is the symbol of the House of York. Learn more about this rose and try to draw it. Then, find out about the red rose, the symbol of the House of Lancaster. When was the War of the Roses and why did it happen?

PROJECT 7: Spot Yorkshire on screen

Yorkshire is a popular setting for films and television series. How many of these films and TV serials have you seen?

  • Downton Abbey, TV series 2010-2015
  • Kes, 1969, directed by Ken Loach, 1966, directed by Mark Herman
  • A Month in the Country, 1987, directed by Pat O'Connor
  • Brassed Off, 1996, directed by Mark Herman
  • Full Monty, 1997, directed by Peter Cattaneo
  • My Summer of Love, 2004, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
  • Adaptations of classics:
    • The Railway Children, 1970, directed by Lionel Jeffries
    • The Secret Garden, 2003, directed by Agnieszka Holland
    • Wuthering Heights, 2011, directed by Andrea Arnold

Have you ever been to Yorkshire? Have you seen it on the page or screen? Share your memories and experiences with us!

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