Central Keighley was extensively remodelled in the 1960s and lost some historic buildings. However, the town has retained much its Victorian and Edwardian heritage on North Street and Cavendish Street and still has many fine examples of Victorian commercial architecture, emphasising the considerable industrial wealth of the town in the late 19th century.
Modern buildings such as the award winning Metro Bus Station, (opened in 2002), the Airedale Shopping Centre and the Keighley Campus of Leeds City College, (opened in 2010), contrast with the long Edwardian terrace of Cavendish Street with its 200 metre ornamental canopy. The local millstone grit gives these historic buildings a distinctive look. Perhaps surprisingly the recently refurbished high rise apartments at Damside, Ingrow and Parkwood are themselves dominated by dramatic wooded landscapes forming a hilly backdrop rising steeply behind the town.
East Riddlesden Hall, Cliffe Castle and the recently restored Whinburn Hall are very fine country houses. There is also a succession of gracious town villas along Skipton Road which contrast sharply with the rows of artisan terraces in the streets behind them.
Many of the town’s former mill buildings are still intact, and some are being converted to residential use. Keighley’s own model Hillworth Village, the Clough Houses and the Grove Mill complex are all in the process of receiving a new lease of life.
Keighley Public Library
The Central Library is an architectural gem in the Renaissance style. In 1899 Mr Andrew Carnegie, a great friend of the town’s then MP, Sir Swire Smith, offered £10,000 to the Borough Council which responded with an equal amount of match-funding to give Keighley the distinction of having the first Carnegie-funded Library in England which opened in 1904.
Alex F. Smith (1863 -1953) woodcarver, sculptor, plasterer & master craftsman was responsible for the outstanding artwork on its fine entrance. He was also responsible for much other exquisite work around the town. More recently Keighley Library has been restored sympathetically with its beautiful frescos revealed once again. A Local Studies section, with an archive section for the Local & Family Historian, internet access, fiche & film readers are also available.
Just beyond the town centre stands Cliffe Castle, holding the Town Museum. In 1874 Henry Isaac Butterfield transformed this former family home into a “modernised Tudor castle” by extending and altering the former Cliffe Hall built by Christopher Netherwood in 1833. Adding three extravagant towers, Butterfield changed the name to reflect the grandiose new buildings. It had conservatories, terraces and an ice house and there are two 19th century listed fountains in the extensive grounds.
Today the house is a wonderfully lavish museum and art gallery with a stained glass window overlooking the staircase to beautifully furnished Victorian rooms. The new “Keighley Stories” gallery holds many local bygones, pictures and artefacts from the people of Keighley. Here one can find such unlikely items as the “Hen Peck’d Clubs” famous wife-taming cradle, and many donated items which remind us of our childhood; dolls, toys and domestic items, which are visited and enjoyed by many. There is a wide variety of displays, including rocks, minerals and fossils, mounted birds and animals. Be amazed at the William Morris stained glass room.
You will also see the Timmy Feather exhibit, housed in a “Hand-Loom Weavers” house. Timmy was the last hand-loom weaver in the area, dying in 1910. The beautifully kept grounds include large greenhouses, small aviaries and a pets section for children.
East Riddlesden Hall is a 17th century manor house owned by the National Trust having been saved from demolition in 1933 by the Brigg family. The large fish pond is overlooked by the breathtaking beauty of the Starkie Wing façade. The Great Barn in the grounds dates from the 1600s. Many local events are staged at East Riddlesden Hall.
Keighley Station is an 1885 listed original Midland Railway Company building with many period features and three railway companies serving it. Northern Rail provides fast frequent electric train services to Leeds and Bradford and diesel train services to Settle, Carlisle, Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham Port. East Coast provides a direct morning train to London King’s Cross with an evening return journey.
Keighley & Worth Valley Railway
Keighley is also the principal station for the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, a heritage steam railway that links Keighley to Oakworth, Haworth, home of Anne, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, and Oxenhope. Ingrow Station is the first stop on the line. The original station was vandalised beyond repair, but a similar Midland Railway structure from Foulridge near Colne was moved stone by stone and rebuilt at Ingrow. Here you will find the imaginative and innovative Museum of Rail Travel, of interest to all families. The next stop is Damems Station, the smallest in England, with a station house, signal box and level crossing. Here you will find the Town Council’s Nature Site. Almost four acres of ‘wilderness’ has been reclaimed by the Town Council with a £10,000 lottery grant from the Breathing Places fund. This innovative project includes a 365 metre surfaced path, picnic area, seats and a custom-built viewing area from which to see K&WVR trains passing. The railway continues alongside the River Worth to reach Oakworth Station, made famous in the classic 1970 EMI film “The Railway Children”; this station retains its original Edwardian character. As the railway crosses Mytholmes Viaduct it leaves Keighley Parish on its journey to Haworth and Oxenhope.
Here you will find our beautiful Shared Church of St Andrew’s. This building was consecrated in 1848, although there has been a church at this site since the twelfth century. The architect was R.D. Chantrell. Hattersley Crescent, originally built in the 1890s to disguise Richard Hattersley’s engineering works, has been restored to its former splendour. The area now plays hosts to markets, fairs and art events.
Keighley Market Cross
Now stands to the front of the Shared Church; it is actually not a cross at all. The head resembles those Templar’s lanterns carved in stone which adorn the gables of farms, such as Beck Foot, Bingley, indicating that formerly the property was held by the Order of Crusaders known as Knights Templar. When the cross was built it is hard to say but curiously enough the first record of it is in the following, which is quoted from the Parish Register:- “1655 The intencon of Mariage Betwixt John Law & Ann Phillip were published att the Markett Crosse in Kighley, July iith itt being the ffirst time.” Between 1655 and 1657, there were many such entries, for the commonwealth Government had authorized that all banns of marriage should be announced at market crosses. It is more than probable that when John Wesley came to Keighley in 1742, he preached from this historical spot, originally thought to have been at the north east corner of the Devonshire Arms Inn, where in 1786 the Keighley to Kendal Turnpike was begun.
Keighley Market Charter
Keighley was granted a Market Charter in 1305 by King Edward I to Henry de Kighley. The original has long been lost. The surviving document is from the reign of King Henry VIII, dated 18 June 1540. This is an official confirmation of the original Charter. Today the market continues to thrive in a covered hall containing a wide variety of independent family businesses.
Cavendish Street is our premier shopping street of Edwardian shops. Look up to see the beautiful carvings on the apartments above, each one unique, marvel at the long glass canopy which was donated by local mill owner Prince Smith. On the corner of a local shop stands a blue plaque to the Keighley born poet, playwright and art collector, Gordon Bottomley (1874 – 1948). Cavendish Court to the rear was originally the Midland Railway Company stables for their many cart horses, and now offers a courtyard of shops all under cover.
The Airedale Centre
The Airedale Centre houses the shopping centre of Keighley; look around for mosaics and sculptures which immortalise Keighley’s history. Here you will find a statue of the legendary Giant Rombald who holds a huge boulder ready to throw at his enemies. The rock in question is part of the Cow & Calf rocks at Ilkley.
Keighley Bus Station
Keighley Bus Station is the hub of a dense network of frequent local and inter-urban bus services linking the town with Burnley, Nelson, Colne, Skipton, Silsden, Ilkley, Bingley, Saltaire, Shipley, Bradford and Leeds, operated by Transdev Keighley & District, Transdev Burnley & Pendle, TLC Travel and Jacksons of Silsden. All companies use modern low floor, easy access buses.
Town Hall Square
Town Hall Square was created from an earlier Corporation stone yard which stood on this site. Our beautiful Cenotaph, unveiled in 1924, a symbol of local pride and respect for the Fallen of the Town, is surrounded by pleasant gardens and hanging baskets of flowers. The Town Council now has responsibility for the Cenotaph and Town Hall Square. The recently renovated Cenotaph and protective railings together with new flower beds and refurbished street furniture make the area once again a pleasant and relaxing place where one can sit in quiet contemplation.
During renovations of the arcade in 2003 a lower level street was discovered dating from the Edwardian period. The ground level was occupied by sales shops so it can only be assumed that storage was needed and the solution was to provide space at an underground level accessed by stone or wooden flights of steps from the shops above. Tours of the underground shops are occasionally arranged. The arcade is one of the many places of historical interest in the town.
This part of Keighley retains much of its original Georgian character with its beautifully setted street; Keighley’s first Methodist Chapel was built here in 1754. Now walk along the setts of Chapel Street /Chapel Lane and look at what is thought to be the oldest part of Keighley. There is a stone plaque on the back of this old building, showing the date 1660. This whole area is designated a conservation area.