Keighley (/ˈkθli/ (listen) KEETH-lee) is a town and civil parish within the City of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, 11 miles (18 km) north-west of Bradford, 11 miles (18 km) south of Ilkley, 13 miles (21 km), north of Halifax, 12 miles (19 km) south-east of Skipton, and 20 miles (32 km) north-west of Leeds at the confluence of the rivers Aire and Worth.[3] Historically in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Keighley lies between Airedale and Keighley Moors. The town is the terminus of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, a heritage steam branch line which has been restored and runs through the Worth Valley to Oxenhope via Oakworth and Haworth. At the 2011 census, Keighley had a population of 56,348.[4]


A view over Keighley
Location within West Yorkshire
Population70,000 [1]
OS grid referenceSE058412
Civil parish
Metropolitan borough
Metropolitan county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBD20, BD21, BD22
Dialling code01535
PoliceWest Yorkshire
FireWest Yorkshire
EU ParliamentYorkshire and the Humber
UK Parliament


The name Keighley, which has gone through many changes of spelling throughout its history, means "Cyhha's farm or clearing",[5] and was mentioned in the Domesday Book as "In Cichhelai, Ulchel, and Thole, and Ravensuar, and William had six carucates to be taxed."


Henry de Keighley, a Lancashire knight, was granted a charter to hold a market in Keighley on 17 October 1305 by King Edward I.[6] The poll tax records of 1379 show that the population of Keighley, in the wapentake of Staincliffe in the West Riding of Yorkshire, was 109 people (47 couples and 15 single people).[7]

From 1753 the Union stage coach departed on the Keighley and Kendal Turnpike from what was the Devonshire Arms coaching inn on the corner of Church Street and High Street. Rebuilt about 1788, this public house has a classical style pedimented doorcase with engaged Tuscan columns in the high fashion of that age. The original route towards Skipton was Spring Gardens Lane – Hollins Lane – Hollins Bank Lane.[8] Keighley was to become an intersection with other turnpikes including the Two-Laws to Keighley branch of the Toller Lane – Blue Bell turnpike (1755) from Bradford to Colne; the Bradford to Keighley turnpike (1814); and the Keighley—Halifax turnpike.

The town's industries have typically been in textiles, particularly wool and cotton processing. In addition to the manufacture of textiles there were several large factories making textile machinery. These included Dean, Smith & Grace, George Hattersley & Son and Prince, Smith & Stell. The first of these operated as a manufacturer of CNC machine tools, particularly precision lathes, until 2008.

The 1842 Leeds Directory description of Keighley reads "Its parish had no dependent townships though it is about six miles (9.7 km) long and four miles (6.4 km) broad, and comprises 10,160 acres (4,112 ha) of land (including a peaty moor of about 2,000 acres or 800 ha) and a population which amounted, in the year 1801, to 5,745."

The town was incorporated as a municipal borough on 28 July 1882 under the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act 1882 in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In 1938 the boundaries of the borough and civil parish of Keighley were expanded to include the former urban districts and civil parishes of Haworth, Oakworth and Oxenhope along with the parish of Morton from the abolished Keighley Rural District and a small part of the Bingley urban district.

On 1 April 1974 Keighley borough became part of the City of Bradford Metropolitan District in accordance with the Local Government Act 1972 in the newly formed county of West Yorkshire. The merger caused a lot of bitterness among Keighley people who resented being 'taken over' by Bradford and accused the city's council of neglecting the town.[9] Civil parish status was restored to Keighley in 2002,[10] providing it with its own town council. The council's 30 members elect a mayor from amongst their number once a year. The parish boundaries are based on but not identical to the pre-1938 borough boundaries.

The town has a local history society, Keighley and District Local History Society, and a family history society, Keighley and District Family History Society.[11]


Keighley lies at the confluence of the rivers Worth and Aire in Airedale, in the South Pennines. Its northern boundary is with Bradley and its southern limit is the edge of Oxenhope. To the west, the town advances up the hill to the suburb of Black Hill and in the east it terminates at the residential neighbourhoods of Long Lee and Thwaites Brow. The outlying northeastern suburb of Riddlesden is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a separate village but is part of the town.

Past Black Hill and via Braithwaite Edge Road lies Braithwaite village which leads to Laycock, which was mentioned in the Domesday Book. Laycock is a conservation area which overlooks the hamlet of Goose Eye.

The River Aire passes through north eastern Keighley, dividing the neighbourhood of Stockbridge and running roughly parallel to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The Worth links up with the Aire in Stockbridge and runs south-westerly, dividing eastern Keighley from central and western districts of the town. The Worth is lined with abandoned, semi-derelict industrial sites and tracts of waste ground dating from the period when Keighley thrived as a major textile centre.

Parts of Keighley are prone to flooding and the town was particularly badly hit by floods in 2000.[13][14] Since then, millions have been spent on strengthening flood defences.

Other outlying villages around the town are Oakworth, Cross Roads, Haworth, Stanbury and Oxenhope. The two main settlements to the north are Silsden and Steeton. Although these villages are often referred to as separate places they are part of the wider Keighley area. These areas add a total of 22,669 to the Keighley area, taking the population of the wider Keighley area up to 74,098 (2001 Census).

To the north east is Rombalds Moor which contains many signs of stone age and bronze age occupation including cup and ring marks,[15] and as it drops back down into Wharfedale and the town of Ilkley, approximately five miles away, becomes the more famous Ilkley Moor.


Census population of the ancient parish/civil parish of Keighley
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891
Source: Vision of Britain – Keighley AP/CP: Total Population.[16]
Census population of the municipal borough of Keighley
Year 1901 1911 1921 1931 1939 † 1951 1961 1971 2011
Source: Vision of Britain – Keighley MB: Total Population.[17]

The 1939 population is estimated from the National Registration Act figures.[18] The 1941 census did not take place because of the Second World War.


Much of the town centre has been pedestrianised. Keighley has three large supermarkets, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Asda. The Airedale shopping centre, is a large indoor shopping precinct which houses most of the town's high street retail chains. There are several budget supermarkets situated in small retail parks around the town. Keighley benefits from an electrified railway service with connections to Leeds, Bradford, Shipley, Bingley, Skipton, Carlisle and Morecambe. The Keighley and Worth Valley railway is a heritage steam railway, which links the town with Haworth, Oakworth, Oxenhope and the Bronte Country. Keighley has one cinema, The Picture House on North Street which was restored from derelict condition in 1996 by Northern Morris Associated Cinemas.[19]


Keighley has a parish church Keighley Shared Church[20] and is home to many Christian denominations. It has churches and places of worship for Anglicans, Methodists, United Reformed, Mormons, Quakers, Salvation Army and Jehovah's Witnesses. Keighley has a significant Roman Catholic minority re-established following the repeal of the penal laws. The Catholic population was boosted in the mid-19th century with the arrival of Irish immigrants escaping the 1840s potato famine who came to work in the textile and weaving industries. Keighley has two Roman Catholic churches (St Anne's – 1840 and St Joseph's – 1934) and four Roman Catholic schools (St Anne's – 1857, St Joseph's – 1922, Our Lady of Victories – 1960 and Holy Family – 1964).

The first spiritualist church in Britain was founded at Keighley in 1853 by David Richmond,[21] who although not originally from the town, stayed for many years and helped to establish the movement throughout the country. Spiritualism was at its height during Victorian times and Keighley Spiritualist church remains open.

Muslims make up the second largest religious group in the town. According to the 2011 census there were more than 12,400 Muslims in Keighley in March of that year. Most had started coming to Britain in the 1960s from the Mirpur region of Azad Kashmir, in Pakistan, and the Sylhet region of Bangladesh. As of 2013 there were eight mosques in Keighley, including the purpose-built Markazi Jamia Masjid ('Central Community Mosque') in Emily Street, the Ghosia Mosque, in Cark Road, the Shahjalal Jamia Mosque, on Temple Row, and the Bait al-Aman Ahmadiyya Mosque, at the junction of Worth Way and Longcroft.

There is a Buddhist centre on Lawkholme Crescent, in the town centre. The Keighley Kadampa Buddhist Centre is used by lay and ordained Buddhist practitioners and also runs day and evening classes for newcomers to the faith.


Like many other British towns and cities, Keighley was extensively remodelled in the 1960s and lost many historic buildings. However, the town managed to retain some of its heritage and has many Victorian buildings. The local millstone grit gives many of the buildings a distinctive look.

East Riddlesden Hall, Cliffe Castle Museum and Whinburn Mansion are fine, country houses. There are large town houses along Skipton Road which contrast with the cramped rows of terraces in the streets behind them.

The town's central library was the first Carnegie library in England opened in 1904 with a grant of £10,000 from Andrew Carnegie.[22] The library has undergone refurbishment which was completed in 2007. Many of the town's former mill buildings are still intact.

The town centre contains modern buildings such as Leeds City College and examples of Victorian commercial architecture, including the long terrace of Cavendish Street with its 220-yard (⅛ mile/a furlong) ornamental canopy. There is an award-winning bus station which opened in 2002 near the Airedale Shopping Centre.[23][24] There are several tower blocks in Parkwood Rise, Holycroft and Ingrow and a central multi-storey car park.

Amongst the modern houses in Laycock, 2 miles (3.2 km) outside Keighley town centre is a 17th-century three-storey manor house (which is said to be the former wing of a much bigger property), converted barns and 18th-century cottages.

Local attractions

On the outskirts of town is Cliffe Hall, also known as Cliffe Castle, now Keighley Museum.[25] Keighley is the location of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, a heritage railway that passes through Haworth (part of the Brontë Country, home of Anne, Charlotte and Emily Brontë) and terminates at Oxenhope. At Ingrow is the Museum of Rail Travel.

Top Withens and the Brontë Waterfall are within walking distance of Stanbury, a mile and a half from Haworth. East Riddlesden Hall is in Riddlesden. Keighley Police Museum is in the Keighley Civic Centre opposite the Town Square. It is the old police station and has many pieces of police memorabilia, including a Victorian horse-drawn Black Mariah.


Local high schools are University Academy Keighley in Utley,[26] Oakbank School,[27] Parkside School in Cullingworth [28] and the Holy Family Catholic School.[29]

Keighley College, the local campus of Leeds City College, formerly known as Park Lane College, is situated near Keighley railway station on Bradford Road.[30] In 2010, the college opened this new £30 million campus, moving away from the former site on Cavendish Street which was in need of repair, and has since been demolished. The college includes an Industrial Centre of Excellence and a nationally acclaimed Star Centre facility,[31] designed to encourage more young people to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). This features a mock mission control centre, a planetarium, a simulated rocky planet surface and many other space-related items.

Sport and entertainment

Keighley Cougars RLFC are a semi-professional rugby league team based at Royd Ings Avenue, they play in the Co-operative Championship continuing a recent history of promotion to and relegation from this league over the last 3 years. The ground's historical/traditional name is Lawkholme Lane but has more recently been named Cougar Park. Keighley RUFC are based at Rose Cottage, Utley and play in Yorkshire league one.

Keighley is home to Timothy Taylor Brewery, the makers of CAMRA, Champion Beer of Britain award-winning ales Landlord and Boltmaker (previously known as 'Best Bitter'). They also brew Ram Tam, Golden Best, Dark Mild and a new French style blonde ale, Le Champion, which was first brewed for the Tour de France in 2014 and has been brewed for the Tour de Yorkshire in 2015 and 2016.[32] They also own many pubs in the area, including the Albert Hotel, Boltmakers Arms, Lord Rodney and Royal Oak in Keighley.

Keighley has a popular local music scene. There have been various venues where local bands play. Most notable was the now defunct CJ's bar (also known as Chrome, VW's, Cheese and Trumpet) that played host to many popular touring bands. Examples of local bands are the Sailmakers, the Undecided, Foxes Faux, Random Hand, the Get Guns, Eyesore Angels and Dead Message who recently parted ways after 9 years. The British rock bands Skeletal Family and Terrorvision were also originally formed in Keighley.

Keighley's Picture House, a cinema on North Street opened in 1913 making it one of the oldest in Britain. A brief closure in the mid-1990s prevented it from being listed as one of the oldest in continuous operation – a record that goes to the Curzon Cinema which opened in Clevedon, Somerset in 1911.

The Airedale Shopping Centre houses the 12-foot (3.7 m) tall statue of the giant Rombald holding a boulder above his head. It was moved to a different part of the centre when a glass ceiling was added to the whole complex. A public consultation favoured placing the statue on the Beechcliffe roundabout on the A650 road approaching Keighley from the east.[33] According to local legend the giant Rombald threw a giant rock at his enemies (or in some versions of the tale his wife) killing them. The rock is the "calf" of "cow and calf" rock fame which can be seen today at the top of Rombald's Moor on Ilkley Moor.

On 6 July 2014, Stage 2 of the 2014 Tour de France from York to Sheffield, passed through the town. It was also the location of the stage's intermediate sprint after 42.6 miles (68.6 km). The 20 points for the Points jersey was claimed by Blel Kadri of AG2R La Mondiale.[34]

In film

Keighley was the setting for the film Blow Dry starring Josh Hartnett, Alan Rickman and Bill Nighy. Blow Dry opens with the announcement that the small town of Keighley will host the year 2000 British Hair Championships. Keighley's mayor (Warren Clarke) is thrilled about the news, but when he announces it to the town's press, they all yawn disapprovingly. The film although set in Keighley was shot in several locations.[35]

The 2004 documentary Edge of the City, about the City of Bradford Social Services, and the people and problems they deal with, was partly filmed in Keighley, and concerned sexual abuse of underage white girls by some Asian men.[36]

Most of the 2004 film Yasmin was shot in Keighley. Written by Simon Beaufoy and mostly filmed in Lawkholme, it tells the story of a British Muslim woman who has her life disrupted by the impact of the September 11 attacks on America. Beaufoy said the film was originally set in Oldham, but "worked its way across the Pennines".[37]

The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (KWVR), running steam trains from Keighley to Haworth and Oxenhope, has been used in several films, including The Railway Children, Yanks, the film of the Pink Floyd musical The Wall and an episode of the long-running situation comedy, The Last of the Summer Wine.[38] A Touch of Frost starring David Jason was also filmed at the railway line close to Ingrow West.[39]

A great part of the 2004 BBC television drama North and South was shot on Keighley, with Dalton Mill being one of the serial's main locations.[40]

The 1950s set British feature film Between Two Women (2000) was filmed extensively in and around Keighley and its mills, in particular around the railway and close to the main town railway station.[41] The same director's next film The Jealous God (2005) also featured Keighley railway station and nearby streets.[42]

The film God's Own Country about the young life of a sheep farmer was filmed in Laycock and also at Keighley bus station[43]

Christopher Ingham

Utley Cemetery contains the grave of Christopher Ingham, a veteran of the conflict against Napoleon. He was a member of the Duke of Wellington's elite 95th Rifle Regiment and fought in ten battles against the French in Spain, France and Belgium including the Spanish Peninsula War and the Battle of Waterloo, for which he was awarded several medals, including the Peninsula Medal. He died in 1866. Some local historians believe Mr Ingham's heroism may have inspired the author Bernard Cornwell's saga about Major Richard Sharpe.[44] The TV series episode Sharpe's Justice, which focuses on the roots of the title character, is set in and around Keighley.

Hindenburg parcel

On 22 May 1936, the Zeppelin Hindenburg crossed Yorkshire in a diversion of her normal route between the United States and Germany.[45] As the airship passed over the town, a parcel was dropped and landed in the High Street, where two boys picked it up. The parcel contained a bunch of carnations, a small silver and jet crucifix, some postage stamps, a picture postcard and some Hindenburg notepaper.[46]

The note was written by John P Schulte, who called himself the first flying priest. The note requested that the carnations and crucifix be placed on the grave of his brother, Lieutenant Franz Schulte, who died as a Prisoner of War in the Keighley area, and who was, at that time, buried at Morton Cemetery 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Keighley (though the letter states he is buried at Skipton, this was incorrect).[47]

To the finder of this letter. Please deposit these flowers and the cross on the grave of my dear brother, Lieutenant Franz Schulte, I. Garde Regt zu Fuss. Prisoner of War in Skipton Cemetery in Keighley near Leeds. Many thanks for your kindness, John P Schulte, the first flying priest. N.B. Please accept the stamps and picture as a small souvenir from me. God bless you![48]

Hindenburg note, 22 May 1936

The carnations were placed on the grave and the two boys kept the postage stamps and the postcard. The crucifix was placed in St Anne's Church to avoid it being stolen.[48]

Notable people

The following people were born in Keighley, have lived there in the past or are currently resident in the town.

Opinions about Keighley

The town was mentioned in the John Cooper Clarke poem, "Burnley": "I'll tell you now and I'll tell you briefly, I don't ever want to go to Keighley."

In 2003, The Idler magazine set up an online poll to decide which were the 50 worst places to live in Britain. The results were published in the book Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places to Live in the UK. Keighley came in at number 40. Keighley's local newspaper, the Keighley News, reported the reaction of Councillor Andrew Mallinson, chairman of Keighley Town Centre Management Group: "On the positive side, it's nice to know that out of all the towns in the country, Keighley has got a mention! But on a serious note, as a group, we take any complaints or concerns seriously and are always striving to improve the town centre's image."


Keighley is represented in the House of Commons by Labour Member of Parliament (MP) John Grogan, who won the seat at the 2017 general election. Grogan had a majority of just 249 over the previous incumbent, Conservative Kris Hopkins.[55]

In 2015, Hopkins won the seat at the 2015 general election – securing a second term. Hopkins increased the Conservatives vote share in the area from 41.9%[56] in 2010 to 44.3%[57] in 2015. The Conservatives won the seat in 2010, taking over from Ann Cryer who had been in office since 1997.

Keighley was contested by the British National Party (BNP) in the May 2005 general election when the party's leader Nick Griffin stood for Parliament. He was defeated by Ann Cryer, one of a small number of Labour MPs with an increased majority. In March 2006, the town's mayoress, Rose Thompson, announced she had joined the BNP.[58]

In June 2006, the leader of Bradford District Council, Conservative Councillor Kris Hopkins, was quoted in the Craven Herald & Pioneer as suggesting it might be a good idea for Keighley to become an independent authority once again.[59]

Keighley has had a town council since 2002.[10] In 2015, a police probe launched the previous year had developed into a fraud investigation following an external audit report – highlighting a number of financial weaknesses and poor governance in the council's 2012/12 accounts.[60]

A turf war between local drug gangs resulted in the murder of four Asian men in a 5 12-month period, from September 2001 to February 2002. Those killed were Yasser Hussain Nazir, Yasser Khan, Zaber Hussain and Qadir Ahmed. Qadir, was stabbed and beaten to death near Victoria Park after being ambushed and chased by rival gang members. The killings sparked a police investigation leading to the arrest of a number of men who were given jail sentences.[61]

Town twinning

Keighley has the unique record of having the first recorded town twinning agreement in the world entering an agreement with Poix-du-Nord, France in 1920.[62][63] This actually followed an even earlier sister city arrangement with two communes on the outskirts of Paris, France – Suresnes and Puteaux – starting in 1905.[62][64]

Local books of interest

  • The life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
  • William Grimshaw, incumbent of Haworth, 1742–63 By Robert Spence Hardy
  • History of Bradford, and its parish By John James
  • The History and Topography of Bradford, (in the county of York,) by John James
  • Babbage Report, Haworth, 1850
  • The master spinner; a life of Sir Swire Smith
  • Ancient Bingley: or, Bingley, its history and scenery (1897). Author: Turner, J. Horsfall
  • Robert Collyer Methodist preacher and blacksmith
  • Haworth – past and present: a history of Haworth, Stanbury & Oxenhope
  • A Century of Yorkshire Dialect: Selections from the "Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society"
  • A History of Keighley by Ian Dewhirst
  • Gleanings from Victorian Yorkshire by Ian Dewhirst
  • Gleanings from Edwardian Yorkshire by Ian Dewhirst
  • In the Reign of the Peacemaker by Ian Dewhirst
  • Keighley and District in Edwardian Photographs by Ian Dewhirst
  • Keighley at War by Ian Dewhirst
  • Keighley in Old Picture Postcards by Ian Dewhirst
  • Keighley in the 1930s and '40s by Ian Dewhirst
  • More Old Keighley in Photographs by Ian Dewhirst
  • The Story of a Nobody: A Working Class Life, 1880–1939 by Ian Dewhirst
  • Old Keighley in Photographs by Ian Dewhirst
  • Scar Top and other poems by Ian Dewhirst
  • The Handloom Weaver and other poems by Ian Dewhirst
  • Yorkshire Through the Years by Ian Dewhirst
  • You Don't Remember Bananas by Ian Dewhirst
  • Victorian Keighley Characters by Ian Dewhirst
  • Keighley's Darkest Secrets – Malcom Hanson
  • The History of Lees Methodist Church by Maurice Baren
  • Keighley Murders and Other Tales by Lewis Parker
  • Tales of Old Airedale: A Miscellany by Lisa Firth


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  31. "STAR centre may be leading light in next space race". Keighley News. 2 March 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2009.
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  34. "Tour de France Stage 1". Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
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  42. "Jealous God a reel cinema hit". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. 19 September 2005. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  43. Knights, David (29 April 2016). "New movie God's Own Country filmed at Keighley bus station". Keighley News. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  44. "Woman pays tribute to Sharpe hero". Telegraph & Argus. 7 November 2003. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  45. "The Day The Hindenburg Visited Yorkshire". Yorkshire Air Museum. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
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  48. Dewhirst, Ian (1974). "10". A History of Keighley. Keighley: Tempus. p. 135. OCLC 41722645.
  49. "Campbell cashes in his chips". Scotland on Sunday. 31 August 2003.
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  51. "Sat[sic] Wars giant returns". Telegraph & Argus. 2 May 2003. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
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  53. Yorkshire and Lincolnshire: The Price of Justice? BBC News
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