Bronte Parsonage receives £20,000 from TS Eliot estate

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A sign for the Bronte ParsonageImage source, Getty Images/Jeff Greenberg
Image caption,
Lockdown caused the museum a loss of income which is expected to be felt into 2021

The Bronte Parsonage has received a £20,000 donation from the estate of TS Eliot after the coronavirus pandemic put the museum's future at risk.

A trustee of the poet's estate said the donation had been made possible due to the success of the musical Cats.

The Bronte Society, which runs the museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire, said it had a little known link to the poet.

This week, the museum announced a consultation on redundancies as Covid-19 has limited visitor numbers.

Rebecca Yorke, a spokesperson for the Bronte Society said: "The very generous donation from the TS Eliot estate was totally unexpected and has given our fundraising a huge boost, we are extremely grateful and touched by their support."

"It is thought that the 'Bradford millionaire' that Eliot refers to in The Waste Land may have been Sir James Roberts, who was a customer of the bank where Eliot worked.

"Sir James was a Yorkshire industrialist and philanthropist who bought Haworth Parsonage and gifted it to The Bronte Society in 1928.

"It's wonderful that there is still a connection between Eliot and the Brontes all these years later."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Eliot's wife Valerie allowed the musical Cats to be based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

The parsonage, which was the family home of authors Charlotte, Anne and Emily Bronte, usually attracts more than 70,000 visitors per year.

However, it was forced to close during lockdown and only reopened to the public over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

The parsonage is unable to welcome the usual number of visitors due to the "intimate nature of the house," Ms Yorke said.

The Bronte Society has now notified staff of its intention to enter a period of consultation with them, which may lead to redundancies.

An online festival, called #Bronte2020, took place on Friday, contributing more than £6,500 to the cause.

Clare Reihill, trustee of TS Eliot's estate, said the donation had been a "very straightforward reaction" to the threat faced by the parsonage.

"The Eliot estate are very fortunate to have access to funds because of the success of Cats and it seems to me crucial we help other literary bodies should they run into trouble," she said.

"We have to secure our literary past and the Bronte sisters' contribution to our literary culture cannot be overstated."

Eliot, whose second wife Valerie was from Yorkshire, is one of the most significant poets of the 20th century and won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1948.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical cats is based on one of his books, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

Last year, Cats was turned into a film starring James Corden, Judi Dench and Taylor Swift.

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