The Brontë Birthplace Is Saved!

In today’s very special post I bring you amazing news about the Brontë birthplace in Thornton. Whilst Haworth has become synonymous with the Brontë sisters, it is the former parsonage on Market Street, Thornton that saw the births of Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne Brontë.

The building was until recently a cafe called Emily’s but was closed to the public after its owners put it up for sale. It faced a very uncertain future, as it had at many times down the decades. Once more there were worries it could be bought by property developers and closed to the public forever – but thankfully, a local group of Brontë enthusiasts came to the rescue. The Brontë Birthplace Campaign was formed, and an ambitious crowdfunding project was put in place. Brontë fans from across the world came together to support the campaign, and I’m thrilled to announce today that the campaign was successful. The Brontë birthplace is saved for the community, and for the literature loving public, forever!

By this fireplace the Bronte sisters were born. Photo by Mark Davis

I was thrilled to be invited along to a preview day by two indefatigable stalwarts of the campaign: Yorkshire broadcasting legend Christa Ackroyd (no relation to Tabby Aykroyd of course, she gets asked that a lot) and Steve Stanworth, who does so much to preserve the nearby Brontë Bell Chapel in Thornton. All the fabulous photographs in this post (including the one at its head) are courtesy of, and copyright of Brontë country photographer Mark Davis. Here are more details from some of those at the heart of this wonderful campaign:

“The Brontë birthplace in Thornton, Bradford, where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë were born in front of the parlour fireplace is now saved and officially in public ownership for the first time in its 200 year history.

Photo by Mark Davis

Brontë Birthplace Limited, a community benefit society, has now taken over the small terraced house on Market Street thanks to a share offer which attracted more than 700 individual investors and significant grants from Bradford City of Culture 2025 and the Community Ownership Fund, under the Government’s levelling up agenda, amounting to more than £650,000 raised. It is a monumental achievement which means the legacy of the most famous sibling authors the literary world has ever known can truly be celebrated throughout Brontë country from cradle to grave and beyond.

Christa Ackroyd (and Charlotte). Photo by Mark Davis

At last we have the keys and the hard work has begun to restore the grade 2* blue plaque building to open in time for Bradford City of Culture 2025, when visitors will be invited to walk in the footsteps of its most famous residents and sit in the community cafe beside the original fireplace, or even stay in the bedrooms where the young girls slept.

A full programme for schools, universities, literary enthusiasts, artists and creatives is being planned and the house has already unveiled some hidden secrets including the hitherto unseen servant’s staircase, the Rev Patrick Brontë’s wardrobe and the original deeds stretching back more than two centuries.

Patrick Bronte’s wardrobe. Photo by Mark Davis

Saving this little house, which has been locked and empty for four years now, has been the culmination of a ten year ambition and a two year campaign . Very soon the public who have supported us every step of the way will be given first glimpse inside this hitherto unexplored gem which is considered the missing piece of the jigsaw in the incredible story of the Brontës, which saw three humble Bradford girls succeed on a world wide stage due to their strong sense of purpose, their passion, determination and Yorkshire grit. We like to think they would have found the same virtues in the entirely voluntary committee who have now bought the house and plan to bring it home for Bradford, Yorkshire, the nation and Brontë enthusiasts the world over.”

Photo by Mark Davis

Nigel West (Patron, and living relative of Charlotte Brontë’s widower Arthur Bell Nicholls)

“This has to be the most significant purchase for the literary world in the country this year. If you consider how important we believe Shakespeare ‘s birthplace to be , here we have a house where not one but three literary giants were born, now saved for the nation.”

Photo by Mark Davis

Ann Dinsdale (Chief Curator of the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth)

“This humble house has had a chequered history and the Society have been fully supportive of the efforts of the Brontë Birthplace Committee to ensure the public have access to what is such an important building in the Brontë story. It is here which Patrick describes as having spent his happiest days and it is important to remember that although he and his wife Maria only lived for five years it is this very place where Charlotte, Branwell , Emily and Anne were born in front of the fireplace to add to their family of two elder daughters, Maria and Elizabeth who sadly the Reverend Brontë was to lose at a young age along with his wife Maria when they moved to Haworth . It should be remembered that It is in Thornton that they socialised for the first and seemingly last time. It will have been a busy noisy happy home and a significant part of their story which will attract visitors from all over the world and add greatly to the offerings already available in Brontë country.”

Steve Stanworth, photo by Mark Davis

Steve Stanworth (Vice Chair)

“This is the culmination of a ten year plan to buy the birthplace not just for Brontë lovers but for young people in the same city where the three famous authors were born to inspire them to see their own potential using the sisters as role models . Now the hard work begins to create an unforgettable experience for visitors who will be able to sit with a coffee besides the famous fireplace where they were born, or even stay overnight in the very rooms where they slept as children. It has been a very emotional day to finally get the keys to what is surely one of the most important buildings in Bradford ‘s cultural past.”

Photo by Mark Davis

Christa Ackroyd (Education Committee Member)

“To achieve support of more than £650,000 is incredible. Two major grants from Bradford City of Culture 2025 and the Community Ownership Fund which comes under the government’s levelling up agenda have significantly helped us with our ambitious plan to raise such a large amount of money in what for many are difficult times.

But it is also to the credit of more than 700 individual investors from people just down the street to all over the world who have bought shares in the humble Brontë home that has stood empty for years that I want to say a special thankyou for seeing its potential . This little house has big plans for the future. It can and will inspire particularly young people to walk in the footsteps of greatness and believe they too can achieve great things. Now it is safe we can breathe a sigh of relief but the hard work begins to being it back to life in time for 2025 and Bradford’s big year.

Bradford has been much maligned in the past. A significant number of children live in poverty and suffer from low expectations . We aim to use this little house to show no matter who you are or what your beginnings you can dream big if you never give up , just like the three sisters who were born here never have up on their ambitions to write stories still read the world over today.”

The original staircase used by the Bronte servants the De Garrs sisters. Photo by Mark Davies

The hard work is only just beginning, but this incredible building’s future is now safe and secure – for us all! It will become an educational centre, a centre for the arts, a cafe, even a place where people can stay in the rooms where the young Brontës lived and breathed. Let us have some more great news:

An open day is planned to celebrate Charlotte’s birthday on Sunday April 21st from 11 til 4 when everyone is welcome at the house to celebrate its purchase before it is closed for major structural work after which it will spring back into life in 2025 as a beacon of ambition and possibility for those who will then be able to experience its magical sense of the past and its promise for the future.”

I hope to see as many of you as possible on 21st April at the Brontë birthplace in Thornton! There will be more on Thornton, and its former parsonage, in my usual post on Sunday. Tonight, and this weekend, is a time for celebration for all those in the campaign, all its backers, all the people we owe so much to. It’s a time of celebration for Thornton, for Bradford, for all across the world who hold the memory of those three incredible sisters dear!


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