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Bronte Country: A Mythical Landscape

Part 2 Dissertation 2004
Alison Wood
Manchester School of Architecture UK
The principal objective of this dissertation was to explore the development and existence of the ‘mythical landscape’. Whilst this report uses the Pennine settlement of Haworth village as its focal case study, acknowledgement is given to the analogous situations which are evident throughout the developed world. Local comparable destinations (Yorkshire based) are discussed within the analysis to further emphasise the familiar existence of such landscapes.

One of the leading aims of the dissertation was to examine the relationship amalgamating tourism and the creation of a ‘mythical landscape’. With specific respect to Haworth village the Bronte trademark so habitually exploited to attract tourists is also accountable for defining the nature of the space. The short term economic survival of the settlement relies on the artificial depiction of the space.

As a consequence of the investiture of Bronte branding and tourism related facilities, Haworth village is today a landscape of consumption. Its constructed existence is at present fundamentally dissimilar from its perceived nature. The dissertation considers aspects of both mythology and reality as are evident in the village; it highlights some of the much fabricated global preconceptions and thus further emphasises the nature of a ‘mythical landscape’.

To facilitate assuming a mythical form an artificially constructed space must define and manipulate its own specific manifestation. The physical fabric of Haworth village is accordingly inflexibly controlled so as to harmonize with the Bronte ideal. Various stringent and atypical statutory restraints are imposed on the Pennine hill village. The study discusses these regulations suggesting that they oppress every component of the historic landscape. The dissertation refers to the reality that the village, in its present day form, could quite viably be entitled an open-air museum.

Subsequent to the above mentioned contention the analysis is summated in a discussion about the nature and the significance of the ‘mythical landscape’ in the contemporary world. The key profession in this summation is the acquiescence that despite its controversial constitution, a ‘mythical landscape’ can perform a fundamental role in maintaining the economic balance of an environment: thus mythical landscapes can contend a justified purpose.

Alison Wood

This dissertation is unusual, not so much in its topic - the historic landscape of a particular part of England associated with the celebrated Brontë sisters - as in its theoretical perspective, which highlights the artificiality of this and other 'branded' places in Yorkshire and elsewhere. Shaped pre-eminently by the tourist industry, the area has become what Alison Wood refers to as a "landscape of consumption". Interestingly, Wood shows that statutory building controls are rigorously implemented to resist the 'natural' forces of change. As these spurious places and communities multiply, Wood's analysis offers a suggestive framework for further research.

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