Yorkshire Authors Poets and Playwrights

Yorkshire has captivated the imagination of many writers. The Brontë sisters are indelibly linked to the dramatic, highly atmospheric moors around Haworth. J. B. Priestley hailed from Bradford and you can see a statue of the prolific writer outside the city’s National Media Museum. Here’s a selection of Yorkshire’s most famous writers and some of their works which you can find in your local bookshop.

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Yorkshire Authors

The Brontë Sisters

Anne, Charlotte and Emily are known worldwide due to their passionate literary classics. Born in Thornton, Bradford, they later moved to Haworth where the majority of their work was written and where you can find the Parsonage Museum. The trio wrote their initial works under pen names due to the misogynistic nature of the publishing industry at the time. The three sisters were not the only Brontë sisters as they had older sisters Elizabeth and Maria, who both unfortunately died before reaching adulthood.

Charlotte Brontë (1816 -1855)

Charlotte was the oldest of the 3 surviving sisters, she died due to complications during pregnancy at the age of 39. She wrote: 

Emily Brontë (1818 -1848)

Emily only had one novel published before her death at the age of 30 from tuberculosis. Her last words were “If you will send for a doctor, I will see him now”. She wrote…

Anne Brontë (1820 – 1849)

Anne was the youngest of the sisters, she died while on holiday to Scarborough where she is buried. She published under the name Acton Bell, her works include…

Joanne Harris (1964 – )

Born in Barnsley and now living in Huddersfield, Joanne was a teacher for 15 years, during which time she published novels including…

Mike Pannett

Born in York, Mike Pannett is an author of novels which recount his experience as a rural beat officer in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire.

Kate Atkinson (1951 – )

Born in York, Kate’s first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the 1995 Whitbread Book of the Year. Since then, she has published another six novels, one play, and one collection of short stories.

Margaret Drabble (1939 – )

Born in Sheffield and attended school in York. Her third novel, The Millstone (1965), brought her the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1966, and Jerusalem the Golden won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1967.

Barbara Taylor Bradford (1933 – )

From Leeds, ten of her books have been made into mini series and television movies. The No. 1 best-selling author of women’s fiction over the last 30 years. Highlights of her long career include:

J. B. Priestley (1894 – 1984)

On leaving grammar school Priestley worked in the wool trade of his native city of Bradford, but had ambitions to become a writer. He was to draw on memories of Yorkshire in many of the works he wrote after he had moved south.

Gervase Phinn (1946 – )

With his keen ear for the absurd and sharp eye for the ludicrous, Phinn has delighted audiences with tales of his experiences as a school inspector and is probably best known for his autobiographical novels: The Dales Series, which includes:

Susan Hill (1942 – )

Born in Scarborough, her novels are written in a descriptive gothic style, especially her ghost story The Woman in Black, which was written in 1982. The novel was turned into a play in 1987, and a film in 2012.

Barry Hines (1939 – 2016)

This Barnsley born author wrote the 1968 novel A Kestrel for a Knave, on which the 1969 Ken Loach film Kes was based, he also co-wrote the script with Loach and Tony Garnett. Both the book and the film provide a portrait of life in the mining areas of Yorkshire. He also wrote two other collaborations with Loach which were adapted into films:

Winifred Holtby (1898 – 1935)

Born to a farming family in Rudston, East Yorkshire, Holtby was a prolific journalist. Holtby’s most important book was South Riding, published posthumously in 1936. The book is set in the fictional South Riding of Yorkshire.

Yorkshire in verse

Join us in our poet’s corner, as we uncover a stellar line-up of Yorkshire’s best writers of verse.

Caedmon (657 – 684)

The first English poet was a Yorkshire local. The now ruined Whitby Abbey was established in 657 by Abbess Hilda. From about 670AD it was the home of Caedmon, an Anglo-Saxon herdsman and the first English poet. Caedmon put into English passages from the Scriptures, and wrote the devotional Hymn to Creation.

Andrew Marvell (1621 – 1678)

From Winstead, near Hull, Andrew Marvell is said to be one of the 17th century’s great metaphysical poets. His best known piece of work being the poem, To His Coy Mistress.

Ted Hughes (1930 – 1998)

Born in Mytholmroyd, near Hebden Bridge, he lived in Yorkshire until 1937. He wrote a number of poems about his early life in the area. Hughes, consistently described as one of the 20th century’s greatest English poets, was also a prolific children’s author and translator. He was married to the poet Sylvia Plath and became Poet Laureate in 1984.

W H Auden (1907 – 1973)

Born in York, he published about four hundred poems. His poetry was encyclopaedic in scope and method, ranging in style from obscure 20th century modernism to ballads and limericks.

Ian McMillan (1956 – )

Born in Barnsley he is a British poet, journalist, playwright and broadcaster who has continued to live in Darfield. He started performing on the live poetry circuit in the 1970s. He has had several volumes of poetry published for both adults and children and is an enthusiastic advocate of poetry.

Tony Harrison (1937 – ) 

A poet, translator and playwright from Beeston in Leeds, Tony Harrison adapted the well known English Medieval Mystery Plays, performed in York and Wakefield. He has also penned many poems and drama for film and television.

Simon Armitage (1963 – ) 

Simon Armitage was born in Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, and grew up in the village of Marsden, where his family still live. Armitage was appointed Poet Laureate on 10 May 2019. He is professor of poetry at the University of Leeds and succeeded Geoffrey Hill as Oxford Professor of Poetry when he was elected to the four-year part-time appointment from 2015 to 2019.

Our adopted poets…

Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985)

During the thirty years he spent in Hull, Larkin produced a significant body of poetry. In 2003, almost two decades after his death and despite controversy about his personal life and opinions, Larkin was chosen as “the nation’s best-loved poet” in a survey by the Poetry Book Society, and in 2008 The Times named Larkin as the greatest British post-war writer.

Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963)

The American born poet, novelist and short story writer, described Heptonstall as ‘wild and lonely and a perfect place to work’, and at least one of her poems (November Graveyard) seems to refer to it. Sylvia responded to Haworth and the Brontë legacy in several poems written after walking the area.

Yorkshire playwrights

Yorkshire has been inspirational to a number of world famous playwrights. We find out more about the people who bring northern grit to the big stage…

Alan Bennett (1934 – )

The renowned dramatist and actor, was born in Leeds and went to Oxford and became part of the university review ‘Beyond the Fringe’, produced for the Edinburgh Festival of 1960. Alan Bennett’s play, The Madness of George III, dramatises the monarch’s real-life struggle with porphyria-induced insanity, and his treatment by, among others, Dr Francis Willis. Some say this treatment took place in Ravenscar, in the house that is now the Ravens Hall Hotel. The spot is breathtakingly beautiful.

John Godber (1956 – )

Born in West Yorkshire near Pontefract. In 2005, he won two BAFTA’S for a film he wrote and directed on location in Hull. His plays are performed across the world, Bouncers being the most popular. A playwright with a passion for Yorkshire…

  • Gym and Tonic
  • Bouncers
  • Teechers

Alan Ayckbourn (1939 – )

One of the most prolific and widely performed of English language playwrights and a highly regarded theatre director. He was the artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, where he continues to premiere the majority of his work – predominantly in the world-famous Round auditorium.

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