Birthplace of the Brontë sisters is now in community ownership

The house in Thornton, West Yorks, will be renovated and opened to the public in time for Bradford’s year as UK CIty of Culture in 2025

The house where the Brontë sisters were born is now in community ownership, thanks to the support of more than 700 investors.

The terraced house, on Market Street, Thornton in West Yorkshire, saw the births of novelists.Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, and their brother Branwell, between 1816 and 1820.

In 1820, the Brontës moved to the parsonage in Haworth, where the sisters wrote classics including Emily’s Wuthering Heights, Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Their birthplace has been saved after a community share offer and will now be refurbished and opened to the public thanks to a £240,000 grant from the government’s Levelling Up fund.

A portrait of Anne, Emily and Charlotte Brontë, by their brother Branwell (image: National Portrait Gallery / public domain)

Steven Stanworth, vice chair of community benefit society Brontë Birthplace Ltd, said the funding was “fantastic news” which would see it open in time for Bradford’s year as UK City of Culture in 2025.

“This has been a 20-year dream to save the birthplace, the missing piece of the jigsaw in the story of the Brontë sisters,” he said. “For the first time, the little terraced house will be in public ownership.”

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With help from Plunkett UK, Brontë Birthplace had already raised £367,000, including a grant from the City of Culture, to buy and begin work on the property. Broadcaster Christa Ackroyd, a committee member, said they aimed to “use this little building to inspire the next generation” by welcoming children from every school in the district.

Prominent donors include Nigel West, whose father Jim owned the house for a time and has a family connection to the husband of Charlotte Brontë.

He said he made the donation partly to honour the legacy of his father, who died two years ago, and also because he is passionate about its potential use in children’s education.

“I went to Leeds Grammar School thanks to a direct grant, and then on to York University, and without that start in education I would not have had the career I had,” he said. “It will be amazing to secure the Brontë birthplace for future generations.”

“Sometimes on this journey to safeguard the Brontë legacy you stumble across something so unexpected, so wonderful, that you know you are on the right path,” said Ackroyd. “It sent shivers down our spines when we heard he wanted to do something both as a legacy to his late father … but also because of Nigel’s passionate belief in the power of education and our plan to use the Brontë story to inspire the next generation to achieve all their ambitions, no matter what stumbling blocks they encounter.

“Nigel is very modest about his family connection, but the fact we have support from a living descendant of Charlotte Brontë’s husband – the man who stayed behind when all the children were gone to look after their father Patrick – is a wonderful example of synchronicity.”

Now the sale is complete, a tender has been put out for work to repair the roof of the building.