Leeds & West Yorkshire

Brussels square named after Bronte sisters

Artist impressions of Charlotte and Emily Bronte Image copyright Getty Images/Hulton Archive
Image caption While in Brussels, Charlotte (left) and Emily Bronte would walk to the neighbourhood of Koekelberg to see friends

A public square in Brussels is to be named after the Bronte sisters - celebrating Charlotte and Emily's connection to the Belgian capital.

The writers both spent a period of time living in the city, which features in two of Charlotte's novels.

The square will be renamed Place des Soeurs Bronte/Zusters Bronteplein in honour of the 19th Century novelists.

The tribute is part of the "feminisation" of street names in the neighbourhood of Koekelberg.

Helen MacEwan, author of The Brontes in Brussels, said: "The Bronte square will be the first step in this initiative.

"In Koekelberg, the sisters are thus set to be pioneers in the 21st Century as they were in the 19th."

In 1842, Charlotte and Emily left Haworth in West Yorkshire for Brussels in order to improve their French so as to be able to teach the language better.

Brussels went on to be the inspiration for the city of Villette in Charlotte's novel of the same name.

Villette contains reworked material from an earlier novel, The Professor, which was published posthumously.

Image copyright Geograph/Graham Hogg
Image caption The Bronte family's former home in Haworth, West Yorkshire, is now a museum dedicated to their life and work

The school in Brussels where Charlotte and Emily studied has since been demolished, with an arts centre now standing in its place.

There is a plaque there commemorating the sisters' stay, however the Brussels Bronte Group has spent years pushing for a more prominent tribute.

The Bronte siblings

  • Charlotte - born on 21 April 1816, she was the eldest of the siblings to reach adulthood, but the last to die. She wrote Jane Eyre, Shirley and Villette, and died on 31 March 1855, aged 38.
  • Branwell - born in 1817, was the only Bronte brother. He was a writer and painter and died in 1848, aged 31.
  • Emily - born on 30 July 1818, she would write Wuthering Heights but died of tuberculosis aged 30 in December 1848, two months after the same illness killed her brother.
  • Anne - born on 17 January 1820, wrote Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She died in May 1849, aged 29.
  • They had two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, who died during childhood.

Source: BBC History.

The pedestrianised square - which is being created at the end of Rue des Braves/Dapperenstraat - will house a complex including a library. As is customary, it will have both French and Dutch names as both are official languages in Belgium.

There is already a small square in the heart of the city named in memory of murdered Yorkshire MP Jo Cox.

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