The Apothecary, Thornton: artist to open a gallery in the Victorian pharmacy in Bradford where the Brontës shopped

The pharmacy was run by a single family, the Waddingtons, for more than 150 years before falling into disrepair and decay – and at its height Patrick and Maria Bronte are said to have been among its customers in the early years of their marriage, when the father of writers Charlotte, Emily and Anne was the Reverend of Thornton Chapel and the family lived at 74 Market Street, where the children were born.

Now a traditional writer has helped restore the glory of the Grade II listed building’s facade and engraver Patrick Whitehead is to open it as an art gallery named The Apothecary in honor of its origins.

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Mr Whitehead grew up in Bradford before leaving for art school and a teaching career in London, and hopes his project – which will showcase the work of local artists – will regenerate Thornton, a poor relative in the Bronte village of Haworth with regard to literary tourism.

Patrick Whitehead has opened a gallery in a former Bradford apothecary

However, the house where the sisters were born is only a few meters from his gallery and he even has the original safe from the shop in the basement, dated 1795 and too heavy to be moved. Old bottles from the apothecary were donated to the Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds and today it’s easy to imagine Maria Bronte buying basic remedies for her young family’s ailments from the store with its impressively detailed frontage cast.

“I lived in Bradford until I was 14 and spent 10 years in Leeds in my twenties, and after my dad fell ill I reconnected with old friends and he seemed like a good idea to come back here.I lived in an old mill in Apperley Bridge until I saw this building on the market by chance.It was only used as a home by the last owners and accommodation is substantial. In addition to the 1820 facade, there is an 1870s extension,” Mr Whitehead said.

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“It was an apothecary for 150 years and then a pet shop but ended up empty and closed for about 10-15 years. Bradford Council supported my request for a change of use as it brings it back to its original function as a commerce and enhances the street.

“I brought in a traditional writer and he wrote the name of the gallery in Victorian script. Other businesses and people in the village were very positive.”

He hopes to work in conjunction with the nearby South Square Arts Center as well as the Haworth Parsonage Museum, whose staff he hopes will “make more of” Thornton’s connection to the Brontës.

“Patrick Bronte would certainly have come to the apothecary – he was in Thornton from 1815. We have the blue plate and the carving stone. This shop had the largest storefront and was quite a substantial building.”

The apothecary will include a studio and living space for Mr. Whitehead, and he will showcase his own work alongside that of guest artists in four-week rotating cycles. He plans to hold small workshops in the future and will offer self-printing services.

“Bradford has a very thriving arts scene, and with the City of Culture 2025 bid there is a strong focus on bringing the arts together. This should have a really positive effect on Thornton and the Bronte connection. The store has been closed for 15 years old and it was pretty sad – now we’ve lifted it. When I think back to what Haworth looked like as a kid, it was pretty tired and now it’s thriving. I have high expectations.

The Apothecary launch and open house will take place on June 11. Artists interested in exhibiting at the gallery can contact Mr. Whitehead at [email protected]

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