MEET Emily, Charlotte and Anne - three bats found in a Thornton roof whose new home is a replica of the Brontes’ birthplace in the village.

The Pipistrelle bats, found at South Square Centre during restoration work, have been named after the Bronte sisters. And the South Square team has worked with local ecologists on creating a rather special home for the nocturnal creatures.

“Thornton is famous for being the birthplace of the Brontes,” said Yvonne Carmichael, director of the centre. “South Square does a lot of work around the family, so it was only right that we named our bats after the three remarkable sisters.

“A bat box is an artificial roost designed to encourage bats into areas with few roosting sites. You can purchase them from garden centres and other places, but we’re an arts centre - this was never going to be ‘just a box’.”

Heritage Assistant Chloe Moreton set to work designing a bat home with a difference. The Brontë Bat Box is a home that Charlotte, Emily, and Anne can call their own - a replica of the house where the world famous literary family lived before moving to Haworth. The building, now Emily’s restaurant, is a short walk from South Square.

As scaffolding on the arts centre roof was taken down, the Brontë Bat Box was installed, watched by Chloe, whose family is from Thornton. Said Chloe: “I’m really proud to be a little part of the history of this amazing centre. It does great work for its local community and has undertaken some successful outreach through lockdown, supporting the village’s elderly and vulnerable.”

Visitors to the centre will be able to see the Bronte Bat Box when the venue re-opens in June.

Last year South Square Centre, a collection of 19th century Grade II workers’ cottages, was given National Heritage lottery funding for a capital works programme that included the restoration of its roof. When the work started the team discovered the three bats were frequent visitors.

“The centre has such a rich and wonderful heritage,” said Yvonne. “It supports artists from around the UK with its exhibitions, and it continues to follow in its ethos of being community-led but accessible to all. We have some great plans for the future and we’re pleased that the Brontë Bats will be a part of it.”

South Square Centre is due to re-open to the public on June 4, with social distance exhibitions. It is continuing projects throughout its renovation, including a rolling programme of garden events from May and reopening of the café and bar.