Maria Branwell was the eighth child of twelve born to Thomas Branwell and Anne Carne in Penzance, Cornwall, England, although only five daughters and one son grew to adulthood. Thomas Branwell was a successful merchant and owned many properties throughout the town. The men of the Branwell family took part in the town's public life, several serving as Mayor in the 19th century and also in other civic offices. The family were prominent Methodists, Thomas's sister and two of his daughters marrying clergymen of Wesleyan leanings. With the Carne family and others, they initiated and developed the first Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Penzance.
Courtship and marriage
Maria met Patrick Brontë in 1812 when visiting her aunt Jane and uncle John Fennell in Yorkshire after four family deaths between 1808 and 1812; two of the deaths were her mother's and father's, and aunt Jane was her father's sister. Maria moved to Yorkshire to help her aunt with the household management of a new Methodist training school. John Fennell, a former schoolmaster and Methodist class leader in Penzance and Wellington, Shropshire, was appointed Headmaster of the newly opened Woodhouse Grove School at Rawdon, for the sons of Methodist ministers in 1812. Patrick, during his curacy in Wellington, had known John Fennell in Shropshire's Wesleyan circles. When Fennell was invited to the Yorkshire headship, he needed external examiners for his students and invited Patrick to serve in that capacity at Woodhouse Grove. Maria and Patrick 'loved at first sight' and married within the year. They were married on 29 December 1812 at Guiseley Parish Church by mutual friend Reverend William Morgan, who on the same day, married Jane and John Fennell's daughter, Jane Branwell Fennell. Befitting the close family that the Branwells were, also married on that day at the same hour were Maria's youngest sister, Charlotte, to her cousin Joseph Branwell at the parish church of Madron in Cornwall.
Maria and Patrick's first home was Clough House in Hightown. Their first two children, Maria and Elizabeth were born there in 1813 or 1814 and 1815. Their second home was in Thornton, where their remaining children were born: Charlotte (1816), Patrick Branwell (1817), Emily Jane (1818) and Anne (1820). In 1820 the Brontës moved to Haworth. After moving to Haworth Maria developed ovarian cancer and died seven and half months later, suffering a long agony. Her youngest daughter Anne was only twenty months old.
The only work besides letters that Maria wrote was the essay "The Advantages of Poverty, In Religious Concerns." The essay can be found in the book Life and Letters by Clement Shorter.
- Patricia Ingham (2006): The Brontës (Oxford University Press), p. xii.
- Glen, Heather. The Cambridge Companion to the Brontës. Cambridge companions to literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.