Discontent in 'Brontë country' as Thornton takes on Haworth as the 'true birthplace' of the famous sisters

 

Ever since the Brontë Parsonage Museum was founded in 1928 the Yorkshire tourism mecca  of Haworth has been a the undisputed capital of "Bronte Country".

But now across the moorland that inspired Wuthering Heights there are whisperings of discontent that Haworth has for too long monopolised the story of Anne, Charlotte and Emily.

Six miles away the  tiny community of Thornton, on the outskirts of Bradford, is staking its claim to be the "true" birthplace of the sisters and opening chapter in their astonishing story.

Thornton is seeking to regenerate itself and see the birthplace as key in what they call a "three pronged tourism attack" to make the village of traditional stone built houses  "first port of call" for Brontë fans.

The quest by a handful of villagers to establish an alternative Bronte trail had appeared something of a pipe dream.

But it seems that the idea has struck a chord in Bradford, a city not exactly awash with popular tourist destinations.

There are calls for Bradford Council to step in and buy the house in Thornton where all the children were born before father Patrick upped sticks to take the living in the bustling town of Haworth.

As well as chasing the usual grants, new Brontë Birthplace Trust is also approaching celebrities such as David Hockney and Patti Smith - who is playing a benefit gig for the Parsonage Museum in April - for help.

Supporters of the idea have pointed out the property could be snapped up for £130,000 - substantially less than the Bradford Council forked out towards the Tour de France (an event not actually now coming to Bradford).

Local councillor Valerie Binney has made a personal plea to Council Leader David Green to preserve the birthplace on behalf of the new Bronte Birthplace Trust - until it can pay the council back.

She said: "The regeneration department let us down by not telling us last October that the property could not be added to the list of community assets under the community right to buy, which would have given us six months in which to raise the money.

"The asking price is about £130,000 which is not much in the scheme of things especially when the Council has given £347,000 to the Tour de France even though it is not going to go through the City of Bradford.

"For too long the fact that the Bronte sisters were born here and the Rev Patrick Brontë spent five happy years living and preaching in Thornton has been ignored.

"Preserving the Bronte Birthplace to be used has a museum is our heritage and would also help regenerate the village which a number of us have been trying to do for years."

The Trust suffered an initial set-back over a misunderstanding of the scope of  the 2011 Localism Act.

Funding hopes were dashed when it became clear  a residential property cannot be listed as a community asset under the terms of the legislation.

A number of years ago Brontë Society member Barbara Whitehead bought the house, intending to turn it into a museum.

But the project proved too much for Mrs Whitehead who was in failing health and has since died.

Locals say the house was then sold to a buyer in London who let it out to tenants before putting it back on the market.

Bronte Society Chairman Sally McDonald said: "The Brontë birthplace is a very special place for the Bronte Society but our commitments are such we're not in a position to financially support that building or a future museum in it.

"But we wish the trust every success. I would think the birthplace would be somewhere visitors would take in on route to the Parsonage.

"I would not see them being in opposition. I think they would compliment each other.

"I would not say the birthplace has been overlooked. While they were born there the Parsonage was where the novels were written and where they spent most of their lives.

"There is also the landscape which inspired the writing. So Haworth has a special claim in the world of Brontë admirers."

Trust chairman Steve Stanworth fears that the property at 72/74 Market Street, where the Brontës lived between 1815 and 1820, could be sold to one of two prospective buyers in the bidding unless the Trust can come up with the cash.

As well as the birthplace, the Trust is also hoping to woo visitors with the lovingly restored Bronte Bell Chapel - where the family was baptised - and the South Square arts project featuring a gallery, coffee shop, and other amenities.

He said: "Haworth have played their cards very well. They have not only got the Brontës but all the gift shops and cafes.

"But we have a three pronged attack for tourism. We do not want to take anything away from Haworth. We just want them to come to us first. We want to make ourselves the first port of call."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century