Cliffe Castle: Paris in Keighley

This above is a lump of wealthy Victorian merchant/mill owner/trader house.  There are many of them around England because the Victorian era, the time of the industrial revolution, created a lot of new wealth.  Those benefiting from the wealth wanted to build themselves a home; they also built public parks, mill houses for their workers, and their grand designs got grander and grander.  So much so that many of their houses are too large to be manageable in the modern world.

The fate of many of these houses is often sad.  Many are now civic buildings.  This one (which I could never quite get into one frame) is a museum and part of the house alone is preserved.  It does have a great barrel ceiling though in what would have been the great hall (now full of stuffed animals).

I was visiting Yorkshire and suggested we go for a walk at the National Trust’s Hardcastle Crags.

D was wary of the weather.  I suggested East Riddlesden Hall, nr Keighley.

D said there’s another place in Keighley that had often been driven past: ‘something castle’.  Hudson’s suggested a Cliffe Castle and D agreed ‘Yes, that’s it’.

I turned to Simon Jenkins’ England’s 1000 Best Houses and learned that this once home of a wealthy Yorkshire Victorian is now a museum (housing a variety of subjects appealing to schoolchildren, such as stuffed birds), but has also kept a suite of rooms from the original house.

It was described as Paris in Keighley.

That was enough to say we HAD to go.  Paris in Keighley?  Really?  Is that possible?

Well, apparently so.

I give you Cliffe Castle.  Admission is free (it’s a council-run museum) so you too have no excuse not to visit!

This little gem, recently reacquired, is right next to the front door.  In 1948 the contents of the house were sold during an auction and a local teacher had bought this pot.  It has found its way back to Cliffe Castle.

The rooms do really belong in another town, somewhere in Paris.

The atmosphere is very, “love long lost” but the rooms give a glimpse of how lavish life must once have been for the owners who had previously lived in Paris and wanted to recreate a corner of it in Keighley.

They liked chandelliers

The stairs are very Victorian, reminding me of my uncle’s pile of Victoriana in Scotland.

The bird cases

The gardens (now a park) are on a steep slope.

This lamp post outside the front door is just like those on the Embankment, which I photographed when walking along it in the snow in January.

And because it’s Victorian, there’s a whole load of weird stuff inside too, including faked specimens, a bee hive, a history of the universe, some 1950s bathrooms and lots of local history information.

When visited: February 2012

House * out of 5 (the Paris bit): ****

Garden * out of 5 (now a public park): **

Theme tune: something Parisian…


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