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'Haworth church loss is affecting trade in village'
One of Bradford district’s tourist traps, Haworth Village, has been left “without a heart” while its parish church undergoes a £1.25 million restoration project.
Johnnie Briggs, who is part of the historic village’s thriving tourism industry, has warned that more needs to be done to attract visitors from the UK and abroad while Haworth Parish Church in Main Street, is closed.
The Grade II-listed church, which contains the crypt where the famous literary sisters Emily and Charlotte Bronte are buried, was closed in July for major repairs to replace its roof.
Mr Briggs, who runs the Bronte Walks tour company, told a meeting of the Bronte Country Tourism Partnership (BCTP): “The closure has had a big effect because it’s left the village without a heart.”
He said the church was an important focal point for tourists who flock to the village each year. Many come from the US, Japan and across the globe to visit the church, because of its links with the Bronte Sisters.
Mr Briggs said that Cliffe Castle museum in Keighley, which houses many Bronte artefacts, was also currently closed to visitors for renovation and suggested temporarily exhibiting the items in Haworth’s Old School Room building, to attract more people there.
Mr Briggs said: “We have to develop some joined up thinking to see how we can improve the quality of the visitor experience in Haworth.”
The Reverend Peter Mayo-Smith, the vicar of Haworth Parish Church, said he understood the concerns of traders but revealed the church should re-open to visitors within the next month.
He said there had been delays because it had been impossible for builders to carry out work on the roof because of torrential rain and storms over the summer.
Mr Mayo-Smith said: “The bad weather has not helped us at all – you can’t do roofing work while it’s throwing it down with rain – but we think by the latest estimate that we will be re-opening on November 2 or 3, when they are due to finish work. I am anticipating that the church will be open to the public on November 4.
“I do understand what the traders are saying but it is a short-term dip to preserve the life of the village.”