William Grimshaw, Patrick Bronte and the Evangelical Revival
The Brontes and the town of Haworth in Yorkshire, where they lived, are knitted inseparably in the popular imagination but, as Michael Baumber explains, it was not just literary genius but also religious revivalism that the parsonage spawned in this period.
The period between 1714 and 1740 saw a steep fall in church attendance. Nor was the problem confined to the Church of England. The Congregational and Presbyterian Churches were in decline and so were the Quakers. Yet the evidence suggests more a flight from the churches than from Christianity, because religious revivalism was also a feature of the period. Much of it was short-lived or limited in geographical scope but it showed that if the Church of England had sufficient imagination to draw on the well of religious enthusiasm that existed, much of the lost ground could be regained.
John Wesley was the man who set out to accomplish that task. He was a priest ordained into the Church of England, and the Methodist movement was originally conceived as a means of regenerating the Church from within. In the end the institutional rigidities of the established church forced him to leave and create an entirely new denomination. The practical problems which led to this result can be illustrated in miniature by examining the careers of William Grimshaw and Patrick Bronte, both of whom spent their mature years as Perpetual Curates of the remote Pennine chapelry of Haworth.