Cliffe Castle is a museum located in Keighley, in a former stately home. Keighley is not too far from Bradford, and it is on the way to Haworth, the famous village of the Brontë sisters. Keighley is quite a large town, similar in size to Halifax and Wakefield, but it is not the nicest place in Yorkshire, the town centre being quite bland and deprived. As a matter of fact Cliffe Castle is the only real point of interest around – with the exception of Old Riddlesden Hall, another historic house which is located on the northern edge of town.
Cliffe Castle is in the middle of a large park north of the town centre. It is a 20min walk from the train station but some buses serve the neighbourood. Free entry, closed Monday, see website for details.
The house itself is quite interesting. It was built around 1830 and enlarged around 1870. It was the home of the Butterfields, a wealthy family who owned several textile mills and a sea transport company. They were among the richest individuals in Yorkshire, and they even friends with the Roosevelts. Cliffe Castle was transformed into a museum in 1950. Unfortunately, a large part was demolished, leaving an asymmetrical building, with a very modest appearance. All the interiors on the upper floors were lost, as well as the servants’ quarters, replaced by wing built in concrete. It is now quite hard to figure out that at its height, Cliffe Castle was crowned by several towers and many gables which made it look like Balmoral.
Thankfully, the most interesting rooms downstairs were not demolished and they kept their original decoration. There is a large Victorian hall and a string of lavish reception rooms. Cliffe Castle Museum is quite a potpourri, with a wide range of interests. It is very typical of the Victorian museum – natural sciences, industry, ancient history, geology, local crafts and European art being under the same roof. The most interesting part is probably the zoology exhibit, which shows the local fauna with dozens of stuffed animals. Other highlights include the small Egyptian display and the rooms dedicated to local life in Victorian times.
Around Cliffe Castle:
East Riddlesden Hall