Sutcliffe Sowden grave (? to 8th August 1861)


Charlotte Bronte was also the only one of the Bronte children to marry and the ceremony at St Michael And All Angels church in Haworth was performed by Reverend Sutcliffe Sowden. Here I am at his grave in a pretty churchyard in Hebden Bridge.


Sutcliffe conducted the marriage ceremony as he was good friends with the groom (Arthur Bell Nichols) and Charlotte’s brother Branwell. He’d got to know the dwindling Bronte family well after many visits to the parsonage. Sowden was a great walker and noted geologist and he and Branwell spent many happy hours exploring the countryside. At Charlotte’s wedding he described the bride as “a snowdrop, a pale wintry flower” and was one of about eight people at the wedding.


Sadly just nine months later he returned to Haworth to conduct Charlotte’s funeral following her death (probably) from severe morning sickness aged 38. It must have been distressing for him to witness his widower friend Arthur in despair at losing his wife and their unborn child. Charlotte joined her five siblings and mum in the vault under the church floorboards. Sutcliffe would return to Haworth six years later to conduct the funeral of Charlotte’s dad Patrick. The long Bronte  lineage ended.


Sutcliffe served here at the handsome St James's Church in Hebden Bridge for twenty years. Reading the names on the headstone it looks to be a family plot comprising his brother and two sisters. In his forties he drowned in the Rochdale Canal and his young death brought shock to Hebden Bridge. Nobody knew what happened but he he’d been to visit a friend one violently windy night. In darkness he took a short cut across a bridge which was being repaired and attended by loose stone and rubble. He either slipped into the water or was blown in, drowned and was carried about 20m. He was found at 5am the next morning by someone who thought his corpse was a dead dog. His wrist watch had stopped at 11:15pm pointing to the time of death. At the grave I did a salute and left.