ONE of the most significant buildings in literary history could soon be opened up to the public if new plans by a community group are given the green light.

A campaign to bring the birthplace of the Bronte sisters in Thornton into community ownership was revealed last year.

And now a new planning application has been submitted by the campaign, which, if approved, will create space for workshops, events, and visits by schools and literary groups.

It will also see the property’s bedrooms restored to what they would have looked like during the family’s time there and converted into holiday lets, allowing die-hard Bronte fans the chance to sleep in the same building the writers were born.

Income from the holiday lets will pay for the upkeep of the building to ensure its future and allow it to remain a community facility.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Bronte Birthplace in ThorntonThe Bronte Birthplace in Thornton (Image: Google)

It is hoped the changes would turn the house from an overlooked historical footnote to one of the area’s most significant attractions.

Although the Bronte family is more closely associated with Haworth - the village where they spent much of their lives - they were born in an unassuming terraced house on Market Street in Thornton.

Patrick and Maria Bronte moved to the house in 1815, with their two infant children Maria and Elizabeth. The family soon expanded, with Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne all born in the house. They moved to Haworth Parsonage in 1820.

The parsonage is now a museum, attracting visitors from around the world.

The Thornton property has been run as a small museum in the past, but it has been in private ownership for much of its recent history.

Most recently it operated as a café called Emily’s, but the property is currently for sale.

The group behind the Bronte Birthplace plans is attempting to raise enough cash to take on the property and ensure it remains a place the community can enjoy, rather than reverting to a private home.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A portrait of the Bronte SistersA portrait of the Bronte Sisters (Image: Bronte Parsonage)

The planning application submitted to Bradford Council this week is to create four holiday let bedrooms in the building, together with accommodation for activity workshops and outreach projects. It will also retain the existing cafe use.

It reveals that the group has raised £25,000 through crowdfunding so far, as well as receiving grants from the Architectural Heritage Fund and Bradford Council to develop the plans.

The application adds: “We are in the process of applying for various other grants from the likes of the National Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council; together with offering community shares over the coming months so that people in the local community and beyond can actually own a slice of this important part of Bronte history.”

Referring to the home’s significance, the application says: “This is an extremely significant Grade II*-listed heritage building, yet over the last 35 years it has changed hands frequently in private ownership, with multiple planning applications for changes to the building's layout and use during that time.

“If it is to gain its rightful place in the history of this unique literary family then it does now need to start enjoying the sort of stability already enjoyed by the likes of the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth."

It adds: “The proposed provision of facilities to host events, workshops and outreach projects, school visits, art groups and literary groups all celebrating the Bronte legacy on the ground floor will be financed by the existing ground floor café and restaurant, and the provision of holiday lets in four bedrooms throughout the property.

“Our vision is that the Bronte Birthplace has the potential to put Thornton more prominently onto the tourist map.

“For visitors and local people it will add another dimension to the story of the Bronte family in the Bradford district, presenting their early lives and building connections between the birthplace and the Bronte Bell Chapel in Thornton and the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth.

“It is an opportune moment to activate this heritage building as Bradford readies itself to become the UK City of Culture in 2025.

“Without this passion from local people, the Bronte Birthplace is likely to spend the next 35 years as it has spent the last 35 years, lurching from one private owner to the next, and largely closed to the outside world.”

A decision on the application is expected next month.