CHARLOTTE Bronte fans from as far as Canada and South Korea descended on Haworth and Thornton to celebrate the bicentenary of her birth today.

Standing quietly in the corner of the famous Parsonage's garden where the Bronte children played, Seongyi Yi from Seoul paid her own tribute by wearing a home-made dress copied from a portrait of her literary heroine.

She and husband Sun Park spent their honeymoon in Haworth two years ago and had returned purely to pay homage.

"Villette is my favourite novel, I read it as a young girl and identified very much with the main character," said musical composer Seongyi Yi.

"We had to come and celebrate her bicentenary and my wife only finished her dress at 3am," said computer game designer Mr Park.

The day began at 11am at St James Church, Thornton, where Charlotte's father Patrick was the minister and Charlotte and her sisters were born in the nearby parsonage, now a boutique coffee shop called Emily's.

Barbara Kirkaldy and husband Alan had flown in from France for the occasion, because her father Reggie Lovette had owned the butchers shop in the very same building between 1936 and 1979.

"We are fascinated by all the history and this is such an important day," Mrs Kirkaldy said.

Lyn Glading had travelled from Lancaster and is one of the longest-serving members of the Bronte Society, having joined in 1972 and was on its council for 20 years until 2002.

"The Bronte sisters blazed a trail for women and women writers and Charlotte was their driving force - it was she who urged them to publish," said Miss Glading, accompanied by her springer spaniel, Bronte.

Bronte expert and former TV presenter Christa Ackroyd attended the ceremony where a small bright coloured wreath was laid at the Old Bell Chapel by the the Reverend Gloria Hardisty and another was carried to Haworth by a team of cyclists.

"We must remember Charlotte's passion for equality of class and gender - which is as relevant now as then," Ms Ackroyd said.

"That campaign for fairness all started in Thornton with her wonderful father who educated all his daughters and who said 'Thornton, my happiest days were there'.

"Charlotte lived here for four years and then her mother died a year after they moved to Haworth.

St James church warden Steve Stanworth urged the gathered visitors: "Whenever you meet anyone, please do tell them the Bronte sisters were born in Thornton."

At Emily's coffee shop retired teacher Sybil Oakley and daughter Cathy Calvert were enjoying a morning in her memory as owner Mark de Luca served a packed premises.

"My sister and I were dragged round the Parsonage at every opportunity as children - we could have given guided tours aged eight," Mrs Calvert said.

Bradford-born artist Brian McQuinn had called at the cafe to display his original painting of Charlotte. "I've always been a great fan of her writing, in fact my daughter is named after her," he said.

In Haworth, Canadian sisters Karin and Jasmin Murray-Bergquist had arrived as part of a literary tour of the Britain and were making bird-shaped birthday cards with craft teacher Julia Ogden at the Old Schoolhouse, restored by the Bronte Society and where Charlotte once taught.

The cards were in reference to Charlotte Bronte's famous line in Jane Eyre: "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will."

"Karin was giving a paper at a conference in Orkney and then we drove down from Glasgow stopping at Wordsworth's Dove Cottage, sailing on Coniston like Swallows and Amazons and then of course we had to come here," said freelance costume designer Jasmin.

Bronte Society marketing and communications officer Rebecca Yorke said it had been a "tremendous day".

"We had people queuing outside before we opened the doors and at the head was a woman from Sussex who'd promised her self she'd be first into the Parsonage on Charlotte's birthday.

"We have people coming from all over the world just to be here on such a special day and that, combined with the fantastic weather has made for an absolutely wonderful atmosphere that suited the occasion," she said.