THE 60th anniversary of Ilkley’s Manor House Museum will be marked with events this month.

Local historians Alex and John Cockshott have written a piece outlining the museum’s story.

They said: “In the 1890s a movement arose to find somewhere to store and exhibit the many artefacts, particularly Roman ones, being found in the Ilkley area. The Manor House - then known as The Old Castle - was considered but at that time the price was thought too high. A museum was established in the old Wesleyan Chapel on Skipton Road. In 1908 it was moved to a room above the Carnegie Library by the Town Hall.

“The Old Castle was at that time divided into five dwellings but it was decaying. By the 1940s it was owned by Percy Dalton, a local businessman. Wondering what he might make of it, he canvassed ideas and the idea of it as a museum came back. In the 1950s, the building was condemned for human habitation and in 1959 Ilkley Urban District Council accepted the gift of the building from Percy Dalton. In 1960 it was refurbished and on July 8 1961 Percy Dalton opened it as the Manor House Museum.

“The first curator was Elsie Fletcher who had played a major part in the project. The second curator was Arthur Kitching who became a well respected artist specialising in Yorkshire themes. Under his lead it became the Manor House Museum and Art Gallery. He also set up the Friends of the Manor House. The Friends became quite a sizeable organisation which commissioned art works and organised fund raising events. These events over the years have included talks, concerts and art exhibitions.

“The Manor House moved with Ilkley UDC to become part of Bradford MDC in 1974. People visited the Manor House as before, though now entry became free. Bradford wanted to focus on the education aspect and in the 1980s purchased three of the cottages adjacent to the Manor House for that.”

The Manor House has good relations with other organisations in the town. Ilkley Literature Festival previously had its office in one of the cottages and organised many events at the Manor House. The Playhouse and charities such as LS29 have also been involved. Ilkley Parish (later Town) Council has helped with funds.

With the advent of austerity Bradford decided to concentrate on its larger museums. In 2015 the Manor House was closed and many of the smaller artefacts were removed for safe keeping. But in 2018 the Ilkley Manor House Trust emerged and took on a long tenancy. The grand re-opening was performed by patron Alan Titchmarsh. Considerable investment and refurbishment of the cottages and house followed.

Alex and John said:”The first gallery on the top floor became the Solar Gallery, a showcase for local artists. Exhibitions, talks and concerts began again. The Heritage Gallery has seen several school visits and the courtyard has hosted several family friendly activities.”

With the relaxation of Covid restrictions, the Manor House is open again and can be visited on most Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4pm.

On Friday, July 30 John will host a coffee morning zoom on 60 years of the Manor House. Visit to register.

The couple said:"Also, on July 31, Ilkley Civic Society’s Local History Hub will be looking at sixty years of the Manor House. To be part of that, you can contact the Society via Do come along and share if you have memories of the Manor House and activities you have experienced there.”