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Ilkley is a spa town and civil parish in West Yorkshire, in the north of Englandmarker. Ilkley civil parish includes the adjacent village of Ben Rhyddingmarker and is a ward within the metropolitan borough of Bradfordmarker. Approximately north of Bradfordmarker, the town lies mainly on the south bank of the River Wharfemarker in Wharfedale, one of the Yorkshire Dalesmarker. The parish has a population of 13,828 (Census 2001).

Ilkley's spa town heritage and surrounding countryside make tourism an important local industry. The town centre is characterised by Victorian architecture, wide streets and floral displays. Ilkley Moormarker, to the south of the town, is the subject of a folk song, often described as the unofficial anthem of Yorkshiremarker, "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at". The song's words are written in Yorkshire dialect, its title translated as "On Ilkley Moor without a hat."


Bronze Age markings at Hangingstone Quarry, above Ilkley
The earliest evidence of habitation in the Ilkley area are flint arrowheads or microliths, dating to the Mesolithic period, from about 11,000 BC onwards. The area around Ilkley has been continuously settled since at least the early Bronze Age, around 1800 BC; more than 250 cup and ring marks, and swastika carvings dating to the period have been found on rock outcrops, and archaeological remains of dwellings are found on Ilkley Moormarker. A druidical stone circle, the Twelve Apostles Stone Circle, was constructed 2,000 years ago.

The remains of a Roman fort exist on a site now near the centre of the town. A number of authorities believe that the fort is that of Olicanamarker, dating to 79 AD, but the identification is not settled. A number of Roman altars have been discovered dating to the reigns of Antoninus Pius (138 to 161), and Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla (211 to 217).

Three Anglo-Saxon crosses formerly in the churchyard of All Saints', but now removed into the church to prevent erosion, date to the 8th century. The site of the church as a centre for Christian worship extends back to 627 AD, and the present mainly Victorian era church incorporated medieval elements.

The Domesday Book, dating to 1086, records Ilkley (Ilecliue/Illecliue/Illiclei/Illicleia) as being in the possession of William de Percy 1st Baron Percy. The land was acquired by the Middelton family of Myddelton Lodge, from about a century after the time of William the Conqueror. The family lost possession through a series of land sales and mortgage repossessions throughout a period of about a hundred years from the early nineteenth century. The agents of William Middelton (1815–1885) were responsible for the design of the new town of Ilkley to replace the village which had stood there before.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the town gained a reputation for the efficacy of its water. In the 19th century it became established as a fashionable spa town, with the construction of Ben Rhydding Hydro, a Hydropathic Establishment at Wheatley, a mile to the east of the town, between 1843 and 1844. Charles Darwin underwent hydropathic treatment at Wells House when his book On the Origin of Species was published on 24 November 1859, whilst staying with his family at the nearby North View House (now Hillside Court). Tourists flocked here to 'take the waters' and bathe in the cold water spring. Wheatley today is called Ben Rhydding after the Hydro, which has since been demolished.

The Manor House, Ilkley

Development based on the Hydro movement, and upon the establishment of a number of convalescent homes and hospitals, was accelerated in August 1865 by the establishment of a railway connection, via the Otley and Ilkley Joint Railway, to both the Leeds and Bradford Railway and the North Eastern Railway. A further end-on connection was made in May 1888, by the Midland Railway, to Skiptonmarker via Bolton Abbeymarker.

Other Victorian visitors to the town include Madame Tussaudmarker. Today, the only remaining Hydro building is the white cottage known as White Wells House. The cottage can be seen and visited on the edge of the moor over-looking the town.

In the 20th and 21st centuries Ilkley has become an affluent dormitory town for the nearby cities of Leedsmarker and Bradfordmarker.


The lowest unit of local government is Ilkley Parish Council. The parish consists of four wards and 14 councillors: Ilkley North (3 councillors), Ilkley South (3), Ilkley West (4) and Ben Rhydding (4). The council raises a precept which is collected with the annual Council Tax to fund its running and to aid the development of local projects. The parish is a ward within the metropolitan borough of the City of Bradfordmarker and is represented by three Conservative councillors.

Ilkley is part of the Keighley UK Parliament constituencymarker whose seat is held by Ann Cryer, Labour MP. She was first elected in the General Election of 1997, and her late husband Bob Cryer held the seat between 1974 and 1983. Ilkley is in the Yorkshire and the Humber European constituency.

Before 1974 Ilkley was an urban district, a type of local government district. Ilkley Urban District Council shared local government responsibilities with the West Riding County Council. The Local Government Act 1972 dissolved urban districts and in 1974 Ilkley adopted its current status as a ward of the metropolitan borough of the City of Bradfordmarker. Services provided by the urban district council are now run centrally by the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council.

Until 2006 Ilkley civil parish consisted of Ilkley ward, which includes Ben Rhydding, and the north half of Rombalds ward. The latter ward housed the villages of Burley-in-Wharfedale and Menston. The population of the parish in 2001 was therefore considerably higher than it is today, consisting of 24,954 residents. In 2006 Burley-in-Wharfedale and Menston established their own parishes and today Ilkley consists only of Ilkley ward (13,828 residents).


The town lies between and above sea level and lies in a wide valley with the River Wharfemarker and pastoral farmland to the north, and Rombalds Moormarker, a bracken and heather moorland with rocky outcrops, to the south.

The Old Bridge, Ilkley
The river runs through the north extent of the town from west to east, and is crossed by four bridges, in order: a 16th century three-arched stone bridge, now closed to road traffic; a 19th century single-span wrought-iron bridge; a suspension bridge for foot traffic only (a set of concrete stepping stones) and a prefabricated steel arched box-girder bridge. The river is prone to flooding the sports fields (and a few houses) that occupy the watermeadows.

Nearby are the North Yorkshire hamlets of Middletonmarker ( ), Dentonmarker ( ) and Bolton Abbeymarker ( ); the villages of Addinghammarker ( ), Burley-in-Wharfedalemarker ( ) and Menstonmarker ( ); and the towns of Guiseleymarker ( ) and Skiptonmarker ( ).

The town is within the travel-to-work radius of Leedsmarker and Bradfordmarker, Leeds being away and Bradford by road, with a railway connection offering about 35 trains to each destination per day from Ilkley stationmarker. The railway, before the Beeching axe, also connected to Addingham, Bolton Abbey, and Skipton to the west, and to Otleymarker, Pool-in-Wharfedalemarker, meeting the main Leeds to Harrogatemarker line at Arthingtonmarker.


A person from Ilkley is called an Olicanian which is derived from Olicanamarker, thought to be the name of the Roman fort Ilkley is built upon. The ethnic make-up of Ilkley's population is 98.02% White, 0.74% mixed, 0.72% Asian, 0.37% Chinese or other ethnic group and 0.14% Black. The largest age group is 45 to 59-year olds (20.73%).


Ilkley compared
2001 UK Census Ilkley Bradford (borough) England
Population of working age 9,224 326,778 35,532,091
Full time employment 37.4% 37.7% 40.8%
Part time employment 12.6% 11.9% 11.8%
Self employed 11.9% 6.8% 8.3%
Unemployed 1.8% 4.4% 3.3%
Retired 20.0% 12.8% 13.5%
The town is a popular tourist destination and is used as a base from which to explore the famous moor and the countryside beyond. Ilkley is a shopping town selling everything from game to fine wine, expensive fashions and fine art. The Victorian parades of The Grove and Brook Street have collections of speciality shops. The town's original Victorian arcade has been restored as an indoor shopping walkway, complete with fountain and hanging baskets. Bettys the renowned Yorkshire tea room has a shop in the town.Ilkley has little by way of industry or commerce but employers include The Woolmark Company, Spooner Industries and NG Bailey.

According to the 2001 UK census, the industry of employment of residents aged 16–74 was 18.8% property and business services, 14.8% retail and wholesale, 13.4% education, 13.1% health and social work, 9.6% manufacturing, 5.7% finance, 4.8% construction, 4.8% public administration, 4.4% hotels and restaurants, 4.2% transport and communications, 0.6% energy and water supply, 0.5% agriculture, 0.1% mining, and 5.2% other. Compared with national figures, Ilkley town had a relatively high percentage of residents working in education and health and social work. The town had a relatively low percentage working in transport and communication and manufacturing. The census recorded the economic activity of residents aged 16–74, 2.2% students were with jobs, 3.7% students without jobs, 5.8% looking after home or family, 2.7% permanently sick or disabled, and 1.8% economically inactive for other reasons. Ilkley's 1.8% unemployment rate was low compared with the national rate of 3.3%. The City of Bradford has a relatively low proportion of people who were self employed compared to the whole of England, but Ilkley's rate of 11.9% was well above both the district and national figures.


Ilkley lies on the A65 road, which runs between Leeds and Kendalmarker. The nearest substantial motorways are the M62 at Bradford, and the M1 at Leeds, and the A1marker at Wetherby. The civil parish is served by two railway stations: Ilkleymarker terminus and Ben Rhyddingmarker. These are linked by the Wharfedale Line upon which trains run between Ilkley and Leedsmarker/Bradford Forster Squaremarker stations.

From Ilkley bus stationmarker services run to Bradford, Keighley, Skipton, Malhammarker and Otleymarker. The main operators are First Leeds, Jacksons, Transdev Keighley and District and Pride of the Dales.Ilkley's nearest airport is Leeds Bradford International Airportmarker.


Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, founded in 1880, hosts the Ilkley Squash Open which has attracted world-class players such as Peter Barker. Ilkley Golf Club is Yorkshire's third oldest golf club, founded in 1890, and was the club where Colin Montgomerie learnt the sport. Other clubs include Ilkley Harriers, Ilkley Cricket Club, Ilkley Rugby Union Football Club, and Ben Rhydding Hockey Club founded in 1901.

Culture and attractions

Cow and Calf rocks
Ilkley town centre is a tourist attraction with a high proliferation of small independent shops. Of particular note is Lishman's of Ilkley, an award-winning butcher shop whose owner, David Lishman, became one of Rick Stein's superheroes in 2003. Ilkley is one of five towns to feature a Bettys tearoom and is home to the Michelin-starred Box Tree restaurant where Marco Pierre White trained. In 1991 Ilkley won the Entente Florale and in 1990 and 2004 the Britain in Bloom contest in the category of 'Town'. In 2006 Ilkley became a Fairtrade Town.

The Manor Housemarker, one of the town's oldest buildings, houses a museum and art gallery. The museum contains prehistoric artefacts and documents the Roman fort of Olicana - remains of which are exposed at the back of the building - as well as the rise of Ilkley as a Victorian spa town. Ilkley Toy Museummarker has a collection of toys dating from 350 BC and a collection of English wooden dolls.

The Grove, Ilkley's principal shopping street, designed with wide pavements for promenading
Ilkley's rural surroundings attract walkers and cyclists to the area. The landmark Cow and Calf rocks, which overlook the town on Ilkley Moormarker, consist of a large outcrop, which allegedly imitates a cow, and a boulder, which imitates a calf. The site is also visited for its rock climbing routes. The Old Bridge just outside the town centre is the official start to the Dales Way, an walk through the dales to Bowness-on-Windermeremarker in the Lake Districtmarker.

Ilkley's Lido, constructed in 1935, is one of only four public open-air swimming pools in Yorkshire and is a tourist attraction during the summer holiday season. Darwin Gardens, to the south of the town, is a Millennium Green which commemorates the town's links with English naturalist Charles Darwin. The Green features a maze, whose design was influenced by the Swastika Stonemarker carving, and includes monuments with an evolutionary theme.

Ilkley is home to the largest and oldest literary festival in the north of England, the Ilkley Literature Festival. The 1984 British comedy film A Private Function, written by Alan Bennett, was filmed in Ilkley and Ben Rhydding. The town was also one of the locations used for the 2003 British comedy film Calendar Girls. The Ilkley Gazette is the town's weekly newspaper.

Since 1969 Ilkley has been twinned with Coutancesmarker in Francemarker.


Higher education

In 1975, David Gayle founded the Yorkshire Ballet Seminars which brought distinguished names in dance, like Alicia Markova, to Ilkley College of Education. In 1978, Ilkley College of Education merged with Bingley College of Education to become Ilkley College. In 1982, Ilkley College merged with Bradford Collegemarker to become Bradford and Ilkley Community College. In 1999, the Ilkley campus of Bradford and Ilkley Community College closed despite opposition. The campus had occupied a site at Wells House, which was sold for housing after its closure.


A free school was first established in Ilkley by a Mr Marshall who in 1608 bequeathed £100 for its endowment. Current schools include four primary schools, All Saints C of E Primary School,Ashlands Primary School,Ben Rhydding Primary School,The Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, Ben Rhydding;two preparatory schools,Moorfield School for Girls,Westville House School, Middleton;and one secondary,Ilkley Grammar Schoolmarker.


All Saints' Parish Church
According to Census 2001, 75.64% of Ilkley residents are Christian. The second largest group are people with no religion who account for 15.53% of residents. 7.48% did not state their religion and 1.34% fall into a variety of other religious groups.

Places of worship

Ilkley's medieval parish church All Saints', largely reconstructed in the Victorian era, houses artefacts of the site's ancient Christian heritage including three Saxon crosses and today operates within the Anglican Communion. An expanding congregation in the 19th century triggered plans in 1873 for a second church which became St Margaret's Church, designed by Richard Norman Shaw and completed in 1879. Worship at the church is conducted in the Anglo-Catholic tradition and in 2005 was led by David Hope, Baron Hope of Thornes. When the Archbishop of York resigned he became vicar at Ilkley until his retirement in 2006.

Other places of worship in Ilkley include Ben Rhydding Methodist Church (Methodist), Christchurch (Methodist/United Reformed), Ilkley Baptist Church (Baptist), Kingdom Hall, Ilkley (Jehovah's Witnesses), St John's Parish Church, Ben Rhydding (Anglican), The Church of the Sacred Heart (Roman Catholic) and The Ilkley Society of Friends (Quaker). Churches Together in Ilkley exists to encourage co-operation amongst member churches.

See also

References and notes

  1. The ONS also reports an estimate of 13,978 for 2002.
  2. Shaw, Thomas (1830). The History of Wharfedale, Otley: William Walker, p.70
  3. Shaw, Thomas (1830). The History of Wharfedale, Otley: William Walker, pp.72-5
  4. Butt, R.V.J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations, Sparkford: Partrick Stephens limited. ISBN 1-85260-508-1, page 126.
  5. Casserley, H.C. (1968). Britain's Joint Lines. London: Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-0024-7, pages 159–160.
  6. Ilkley UD on Visions of Britain
  7. West Riding on Visions of Britain
  8. The Railways of Wharfedale, Peter E. Baughan (1969) David & Charles (Publishers) Ltd
  9. National Rail Enquiries - Station Facilities: Ilkley (ILK)
  10. National Rail Enquiries - Station Facilities: Ben Rhydding (BEY)
  11. National Rail Enquiries - Named Railway Lines

External links

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