The 'Haworth Parsonage Photo' at the BPM was taken about 1857 and it is thought
to be the oldest photograph in the archive. By this date photographers were using machine-cut mats
so it is unusual to find one with a hand-cut mat and even more unusual for it to be so roughly made
with only one straight side.
The metal mat of the 'Bronte Sisters Photo' is cut in the same unique way
so they will have been taken by the same photographer. Who could have taken
In the 1850s, James Barraclough (b.1824), watchmaker,
clockmaker, jeweller & ironmonger, lived in Thornton, about six miles from Haworth. His
father was John Barraclough (1802-1880) and the family shop was in Main Street, Thornton.
In the 1860s James was also an early photographer and took many
views of Haworth. He took photographic portraits of Rev Patrick Bronte c1860. About the
same time he copied Branwell's 'Pillar' and 'Gun-Group' paintings of the sisters for
Martha Brown; these were all collodion "photos on glass."
The 'Haworth Parsonage Photo' of 1857 was owned by one of his
descendents2. so it would be easy to conclude that
he took both photos, but there are doubts about this. James was known for being "neat and
precise in everything he did" 1. and
most of the early photos of Haworth (probably taken by James Barraclough) are well presented with a
good quality ornate mat surround, sometimes housed in a velvet lined hinged case. The 'Haworth
Parsonage Photo' & 'Bronte Sisters Photo' are quite different; they have scruffy metal
mats which were created with very little care. They are quite unlike any other photographs of
Haworth. Most of these can be dated to the 1860s, not the 1850s.
Many items from the Parsonage ended up in the hands of local residents. The
Barraclough family were well known and trusted by the Bronte family so it may be that the
'Haworth Parsonage Photo' was taken by another photographer and given to James, or
that it was amongst items purchased when the contents of Haworth Parsonage were sold in
The photographer John Stewart (1814-87) visited Haworth in 1856
to photograph George Richmond's portrait of Charlotte for Elizabeth Gaskell and George Smith, her
publisher. Stewart made another visit later that year. On a third visit, early in
1857, he took photographs of Haworth for Mrs Gaskell before returning to his home in
The 'Bronte Sisters Photo' was found in France and the writing on the
reverse is in French. John Stewart lived in France and returned there in 1857 but Elizabeth
Gaskell also travelled to France on completion of the biography of Charlotte Bronte in