THE Bronte siblings lost their mother and two oldest sisters before any of the four remaining children had reached their 10th birthday.

Themes of family and grief, as well as their moorland home and unconventional education, played significant roles in the childhoods of Emily, Charlotte, Anne and Branwell, and went on to shape their creativity.

Now the BrontĂ« Parsonage Museum is shining a spotlight on the siblings’ remarkable childhood in a new exhibition.

The Brontes’ Web of Childhood, which opens on February 1, is the centrepiece of a year-long programme of events focussing on the formative years of the world famous literary family.

The exhibition includes letters and other items from the family never before seen in public, Charlotte’s christening cap - on display for the first time - and a textile installation from contemporary artist Ellie Brennan.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Charlotte's christening cap is on display for the first timeCharlotte's christening cap is on display for the first time (Image: Bronte Parsonage Museum)

The new programme of exhibitions, talks and activities at the Parsonage Museum explores how the childhood of Branwell, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë shaped them as writers.

The BrontĂ«s’ Web of Childhood examines what it was like for the family growing up in a draughty parsonage on the edge of the moor, and how their experiences inspired their creativity, both as children and adults.

Throughout the museum, visitors will also be able to see items connected to these themes, including letters previously held in the Blavatnik Honresfield Library, which has a national collection of manuscripts, first editions and letters, showing, for the first time, Charlotte’s intimate thoughts on death and mortality.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A letter from Charlotte to Ellen Nussey from July 1849A letter from Charlotte to Ellen Nussey from July 1849 (Image: Bronte Parsonage Museum)

Diaries, portraits, schoolbooks and toys belonging to and created by the family as children will also be on display, alongside several of Branwell and Charlotte’s remarkable ‘Little Books’ - the tiny, handmade and written publications, smaller than a matchbox, created for their toy soldiers.

Charlotte’s christening cap, on loan from a private collection, will be returned to the Parsonage Museum to make its first ever public appearance. And her drawing of Zenobia Ellrington, a significant figure in the Brontes’ early writing, dating from October 15, 1833 will also be in the exhibition.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Charlotte’s drawing of Zenobia Ellrington, 1833 Charlotte’s drawing of Zenobia Ellrington, 1833 (Image: Bronte Parsonage Museum)

Ann Dinsdale, Principal Curator at the BrontĂ« Parsonage Museum, says: “We can clearly see the impact of the real lives of each of the BrontĂ«s in their later work, whether that’s in their creation of characters - motherless children, strong independent women - or situations - harsh schooling or the death of a child from tuberculosis.

“Patriarch Patrick BrontĂ« encouraged a rich, if unconventional, education for all his children - significantly for the time including the girls - and this, along with their fantastical imaginations, allowed each of the children to develop their incredible talent.”

Alongside the exhibition, a new textile installation entitled Tactile Turmoil by artist Ellie Brennan will be displayed, with visitors encouraged to touch and feel the artworks - a collection of large rug-like pieces.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Artist Ellie Brennan's textile artwork is inspired by the BrontesArtist Ellie Brennan's textile artwork is inspired by the Brontes (Image: Bronte Parsonage Museum)

Inspired by the BrontĂ« sisters’ first impressions of their new home when they moved to Haworth from their birthplace in Thornton in 1820, these newly created rugs contrast the wild, dark nature of the landscape around the village with the innocence and lightness of childhood.

Throughout the year, the former Brontë family home turned museum in Haworth will host a series of events that each reflect what we know of the childhood of the Brontës.

Events include storyteller Sophia Hatfield sharing folk tales inspired by the servants who lived in the house and the stories they may have told the Brontë children.

The annual BrontĂ« Festival of Women’s Writing in September will centre around contemporary children and Young Adult writers, bringing some of the UK’s most well-known writers in these genres to Haworth.

* Other Bronte Society events include;

* Haiku Pick Me Ups: Created by Writer in Residence Ian Humphreys, the installation (in the museum’s Exhibition Room until March 3) follows walking and writing workshops he led last summer on Haworth Moor with local groups. During these ‘walkshops’ hundreds of haiku were written - each short poem inspired by nature, the wild and the BrontĂ«s. Visitors can have a go at writing their own haiku.

* Emily Bronte and Vampires: This talk considers Emily Brontë’s literary relationship with the figure of the vampire. The talk, on Thursday, February 8, at the Old School Room, 2pm, traces the influence of German literature on Emily’s understanding and usage of the vampire figure in Wuthering Heights, and the impact of this on contemporary vampire fiction, including Stephenie Meyer’s Eclipse, the third instalment in her vampire series Twilight.

* Creating the Bronte Legacy: Focus on how the the family’s literary legacy was created and how authentic a view this provided. The process began with Charlotte’s curation of Emily and Anne’s literary output, but is most strongly associated with Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte BrontĂ«, which shaped decisively not only how Charlotte was perceived but also her father, her husband, her brother and significant figures associated with the BrontĂ«s.

This often-mythical view will be compared to the perceptions of those who knew or met Charlotte and her family, including her friend Ellen Nussey, her publisher George Smith and the people of Haworth. The talk is on Thursday March 14, 2pm at the Old School Room.

* The Brontes and the 19th Century Art World: Talk looking at what art was being made at the time of the Brontes, specifically by female artists. It will discuss how important art was to the BrontĂ«s’ lives, and how they utilised art in the novels Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The talk takes place on Thursday, April 18, 2pm, at the Old School Room.

* For the full programme of events go to