Echoes of Thornton – A Celebration of Heritage and Community

A new interactive artwork is helping people to find out more about the area’s history and highlight the importance of community.

Thornton village is famous as the birthplace of the Brontës, as well as its 20-arch viaduct and the former workers’ cottages which form South Square which were rescued from demolition in the 1980s. Those cottages became an arts and heritage centre, exhibiting art, offering classes like knit and natter and yoga, as well as providing a friendly cafe and bar.

Broadbents today. Main images shows Broadbents in 1955.

Classes continued right through the pandemic, by Zoom, and art works have been displayed online. Residents of local care homes have been entertained from their gardens. Now, the new artwork is safely encouraging people to venture out in the run up to the re-opening on 4 June. 

‘Echoes of Thornton’, created by local artists Lucy Barker and Lucy Courtney-Clegg, is an audio-visual walk that combines stories collected from former residents of South Square’s cottages with images from Thornton Antiquarians Archive of key buildings now and then. There is comfort and familiarity for many in the everyday stories told through videos and vignettes.

Mary Lou Jones’ mother Mary Jennings with her siblings.

Project Manager Alice Withers:

“We already had some stories thanks to the archives, but we also put a call out for former residents of South Square cottages and found several including Mary Lou Jones who now lives in Australia. Mary Lou’s family – the Jennings – lived at South Square from 1911. She was full of stories that have made the final piece and she shared some wonderful photos with us. We also met Derek, who lived here as a child in the late 1960s. He has given us an 8mm cine footage film of him in the garden, his birthdays, and a visit from Father Christmas! It’s been such a fascinating process.”

Mary Lou Jones

A Discovery Map guides visitors around key sites in the village, looking at them as they were then, and the stories and historical facts are shared via their smartphone.

Alice: “Echoes is not only of interest to our immediate community but to West Yorkshire as a whole. It’s such an important part of the region’s heritage and we’re really looking forward to welcoming visitors from further afield.”

The Discovery Maps are available to pick up from outside South Square Centre at any time. Visitors can start the walk at any point they choose. A smartphone is needed, and headphones are recommended.

For those who are unable to venture out there is an online version that can be viewed from the comfort of home.

For more information and to check opening hours of the Gallery, Plenty at the Square cafe and The Watchmaker bar, visit here.

Echoes of Thornton is funded by National Heritage Lottery Fund & Arts Council England

Featured image: Broadbents Circa 1955, a confectioners and bakers, previously a stationers, printers and post office.

Helen Morgan

Helen's interests are wide-ranging, from food to music to art and comedy.   She is especially keen on writing about local charitable activity and events as well as the opportunities the City Region has to offer to those with hidden talents.

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