One group of buildings which plays a vital part in the artistic and cultural life of Ilkley is the Kings Hall Complex. For many years host to local concerts, theatre productions and art shows, this perhaps not immediately striking piece of architecture has an interesting history and must be considered when highlighting the town’s artistic heritage. Unlike other sites in Ilkley we have concentrated on, the appeal of the buildings lies in their “localness” – from the materials which were used to construct them to the craftsmen who worked on them.
In 1908 the town hall complex was opened after it became apparent that Ilkley, as a rapidly expanding town needed it’s own public offices and assembly hall. This elegant building is typical of Edwardian civic architecture – less ornate than high or late Victorian, Edwardian architecture is of a simpler style, with less decoration and clutter and a heavier feel to it.
The designer of the building, William Bakewell of Leeds won a competition in 1904 which awarded him the project – his plans were financed by a thirty year loan and interestingly a £3,000 donation from the American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who was responsible for funding many libraries throughout England at the time. Carnegie was a friend of local – born reverend Dr Robert Collyer who travelled to America as a Methodist preacher – Frances Darlington, a local sculptor was commissioned to make busts of the two men which were exhibited in the unfinished library when it was opened in 1907.
At a time of economic depression the mason responsible for the construction of the complex, local man George Smith was obliged to buy the stone from quarries on the moor and employ local men to work on the site. The building has a wealth of artistic detail – the figures on the front of the library represent literature and science and were made by another local man Charles Barrett.The medallions depict Minerva (art) and Apollo (wisdom).
Comedy and Tragedy are shown on the front of the Kings Hall part of the building.
Inside the Kings Hall the plaster busts on the balconies are by Oswald Lister and depict various artists, musicians and playwrights.
A bust of Edward VII sits above centre stage surrounded by Yorkshire roses.
The Council Chamber, now used by Ilkley Parish Council still retains original oak panelling and furniture from the time the building was built.
- Ilkley, Mike Dixon, 2002
- Ilkley, Kings Hall 1908 – 2008. Celebrating 100 Years of Ilkley’s Town Hall Complex, Alex Cockshott, Bradford Metropolitan District Council, 2008
THANKS To Alex Cockshott of Ilkley Civic Society