A group of Brontë fans are hoping to turn the birthplace of the writer sisters into a cultural and education centre in Thornton in time for the Bradford 2025 celebrations.
Charlotte, Emily and Anne, as well as their brother Branwell, were all born in the parlour of the property more than 200 years ago. The family later moved to Howarth, and an estimated million people from across the world visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum located in their former home there each year.
A campaign is now underway to make their birthplace in Thornton, a village that like Howarth is part of the metropolitan borough of the city of Bradford, just as famous an attraction.
Donations and grants, including £250,000 from Bradford 2025 UK City of Culture, have enabled the purchase of the building. A further £300,000 is needed to help realise the dream to refurbish it and cover running costs.
Christa Ackroyd, a TV journalist, Brontë fan and one of the people behind the campaign, told Museums Journal: “The Brontë birthplace in Thornton has a chequered past, from bedsits to being a private home and a cafe. It has been the dream of a handful of Brontë enthusiasts to preserve it for future generations and we can’t explain how it feels to know that dream is coming true.”
Brontë Birthplace Limited has been set up as a Community Benefit Company, and a crowdfunding campaign is now seeking investors, with every £1 donated equal to one ownership share in Brontë Birthplace Limited. Investors will receive a share certificate and become members of the Community Benefit Company with voting rights.
“We have raised the money for the house but it is in a poor state of repair from the roof to the windows and wiring, and our education programme needs supporting too,” Ackroyd said.
If it succeeds to raise enough money, the house will be turned into a community and education centre with a cafe and even the option to stay overnight in one of the bedrooms. It aims to “actively participate in preserving and promoting the historical and literary significance of the building and the Brontë family”.
Ackroyd said: “It is the sisters’ story of determination – their ‘never give up’ attitude and their belief in themselves even when they were told women should never be writers - that continues to inspire. We will use the house in our education programme to inspire the next generation to believe they can also achieve their dreams.
"They will be able to write them on our Ambition Wall when we open in time for Bradford City of Culture 2025 and invite schoolchildren from Bradford and beyond to walk in the footsteps of greatness.”