She made the long trip from Cornwall in the hope of finding happiness

Maria was the eighth of eleven children of Thomas Branwell and Anne Carne of Penzance, Cornwall, born April 15, 1783. Her father was a prosperous merchant with extensive property holdings in the town, and the family was involved in local politics as well as trade, Maria's brother Benjamin serving as the town's Mayor in 1809. The Branwells and Carnes were leading members of the Wesleyan Methodist community in Penzance, and the Branwells were instrumental in building the town's first purpose-built Wesleyan chapel in 1814...


Between 1808 and 1811 four family deaths (including Maria's mother and father) effectively broke up her immediate family, and she began looking for employment. Her father's sister Jane was the wife of John Fennell, a Methodist minister who, in 1812, was appointed head master of the newly opened Woodhouse Grove School at Rawdon, between Leeds and Bradford in Yorkshire. Jane Fennell acted as housekeeper at the school and invited her niece to assist her. In the summer of 1812 Maria Branwell travelled to Yorkshire to start a new life.

John Fennell and Patrick Brontë had been curates together in Wellington, Shropshire in 1808. In 1812 Patrick Brontë was the curate at Hartshead, 12 miles from Rawdon, and John Fennell invited his former colleague to visit Woodhouse Grove School to inspect the teaching of classics. During his visit Patrick Brontë was introduced to the newly arrived Maria Branwell, and after a short but determined courtship (Patrick Brontë walking the 24-mile round trip to take Maria out walking!), the couple were married in nearby Guiseley Parish Church on December 29, 1812. 

A mutual friend of Fennell and Brontë, The Reverend William Morgan of Bradford, was engaged to Jane, the daughter of John and Jane Fennell, and a special license was arranged so that the double wedding ceremony could be arranged at short notice. Patrick Brontë solemnised the marriage of William Morgan and Jane Fennell, then William Morgan solemnised the marriage of Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell. John Fennell gave away both his daughter and his niece, and the brides stood bridesmaid to each other. On the same day in Penzance two cousins of the two brides, Joseph and Charlotte Branwell, also married.

Maria was petite, plain, pious, intelligent and well-read with a ready wit. She made friends easily, and the friends she had made from Thornton remained life-long friends to Patrick and his children. Her only extant written work, apart from letters, is the unpublished tract The Advantages of Poverty In Religious Concerns.

Maria's annuity of £50 a year would have been a great help to Patrick Brontë, who had no income but his stipend. Their first home was Clough House, Hightown, near Hartshead, where their first two children, Maria and Elizabeth. were born in 1814 and 1815. In 1815 Mr Brontë moved to a larger living at Thornton, three miles north of Bradford, where in a house in Market Street the other children were born: Charlotte (1816), Patrick Branwell (1817), Emily Jane (1818) and Anne (1820). In 1820 the family moved to Haworth, and within a year Maria developed cancer (probably uterine), and after a harrowing seven-and-a-half month illness, died on September 15, 1821.

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