Anne Brontë, accompanied by her older sister Charlotte and their friend Ellen Nussey, arrived in Scarborough on 25 May 1849. She was very ill, her advanced tuberculosis having been diagnosed in January only a few weeks after the death of her other sister Emily. The family had also suffered the loss of their brother Branwell in the previous September. Anne died on 28 May and was buried in Scarborough by her own wish, to spare Charlotte the unbearable task of accompanying her coffin back to their home in Haworth, and her elderly father the anguish of conducting the funeral of his third child to die in the space of nine months.
Scarborough was Anne’s favourite watering place, where she had enjoyed happy times in the past with the Robinsons, in whose family she was the governess. Though a cure was not a possibility, she hoped that the sea air would give her a chance to regain a little strength. The trip had however been put off as she was too ill to travel, but it became obvious that if there was to be any chance of the sea air providing some respite from her illness, there must be no further delay.
Anne, Charlotte and Ellen took rooms at Number 2, The Cliff, known as ‘Woods Lodgings’, on St Nicholas Cliff. On Anne’s last evening there was a glorious sunset and the three women sat in the window of their sitting room to enjoy the scene - ‘grand beyond description’.
On 26 May she drove on the sands in a donkey-cart. On the following day, Sunday, she was dissuaded from going to church, but walked a little in the afternoon and sat on a seat in a sheltered and comfortable spot near the beach. The following morning however it was plain that a change was taking place. A doctor was sent for, but there was nothing he could do, and she died, peacefully and serenely, at two o’clock in the afternoon. Her last words to her sister, who was almost overcome with grief, were ‘Take courage, Charlotte, take courage’.
‘I have no horror of death: if I thought it inevitable, I think I could quietly resign myself to the prospect . . . But I wish it would please God to spare me, not only for papa’s and Charlotte’s sakes, but because I long to do some good in the world before I leave it. I have many schemes in my head for future practice - humble and limited indeed - but still I should not like them all to come to nothing, and myself to have lived to so little purpose. But God’s will be done.’ - Anne Brontë
Old Mr Brontë wrote to Charlotte suggesting that she remain for a few weeks at the seaside for the change of scene to restore as far as may be her health and spirits. As Scarborough was too full of painful memories, Charlotte and Ellen went to Filey.
Anne Brontë is the author of ‘Agnes Grey’ and ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’. She has always been overshadowed by her more famous sisters, Charlotte who wrote ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Villette’, and Emily whose only published work was ‘Wuthering Heights’
What you can see today ...
You can see Anne Brontë’s grave in St Mary’s burial ground off Castle Road. The Grand Hotel now stands on the site of ‘Woods Lodgings’.
Find out more ...
Our publication A Guide to Historic Scarborough has more information on Culture and the Arts in Scarborough. See the publications page for more information.
Text Frances Hall
Image Geoff Wood