THE Clergy Daughters' School was situated at Cowan Bridge, just over the Westmorland border into Lancashire.

In 1824, the Rev Patrick Bronte, from Haworth, Huddersfield, brought his daughters Maria and Elizabeth there. His elder daughter, Charlotte, arrived, apparently by herself, in August.

The institution had been founded by the Rev Carus Wilson, who was both vicar and squire of Casterton - to which place the school was later removed.

With 110 pupils, it was large compared to Miss Salkheld's academy for eight girls at Heversham.

Though locally hailed as a generous benefactor, Carus Wilson's school's 'assisted fees' were quite high at £14 per year, with £3 extra for 'accomplishments' of French, music and drawing.

Charlotte was only at Cowan Bridge for eight months. Yet her lurid story of child abuse and lack of Christian charity at Low Wood in her 1847 novel 'Jane Eyre' has been as everlasting as those Dickens, in 1839, portrayed of workhouse cruelty in 'Oliver Twist'.

In 'Jane Eyre', Carus Wilson, renamed as the Rev Mr Brocklehurst, was depicted as 'a sanctimonious man, hand in glove with a sadistic God who commanded his teachers to expunge the girls' lust by flogging their bodies, and providing them with scanty, often uneatable food, badly-cooked in a damp, dirty kitchen.'

After enduring a harsh winter, the two younger girls were sent home in spring. Within months they had died of tuberculosis and, possibly, of typhus. Maria was 10 and Elizabeth nine; not a pleasant story.