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History of East Riddlesden Hall

Visitors looking at a tapestry in the Great Hall at East Riddlesden Hall
Discover the history of East Riddlesden Hall | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

East Riddlesden Hall, an intimate 17th-century manor house, was once at the heart of the agricultural estate of Riddlesden. With a history dating back over 1,400 years, the estate has been shaped by the contrasting influences of its many owners, agriculture, industry, civil war and peace. Discover the story of the hall and how it came perilously close to demolition before it was saved and donated to the National Trust.

East Riddlesden through the centuries

7th–11th centuries

Normans take over

A dwelling has existed on the site since the 7th century. Following the Norman invasion in 1066 and subsequent conquest, it’s believed that ownership of the site passed from an Anglo-Saxon family to the Norman de Montalt family.

Partial fragments of a Saxon cross were found on the estate, one part was found in 1959. A second part was found in a wall 30 years later, amazingly they fit together!

The Saxon cross is on display in the Great Hall.

The Hall showing the fireplace and part of the staircase at East Riddlesden Hall, West Yorkshire. The fireplace is decorated with thistles and terminal heads, and forms a structural part of the 1640s rebuilding of the east range. The oak furniture is early to mid-seventeenth century.
The Hall with fireplace and part of the staircase | © National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Murgatroyd remodelling

Of all East Riddlesden Hall's owners, James Murgatroyd made perhaps the biggest mark on the estate. Murgatroyd, who had made his fortune in the Halifax woollen cloth industry, bought the manor and 2,000-acre estate in 1638 for approximately £6,000 – around £6 million in today’s money.

Murgatroyd was a keen builder and East Riddlesden was intended as a home for his eldest son John. The property he purchased looked very different to the one we see today. James carried out most of the renovation work to the property and his alterations to the house were extensive and ostentatious.

A 17th-century vision

The south end was remodelled to create the current two-storey block, and changes were made to the original medieval hall. The Great Hall was built as a temporary weatherproof structure to link the new Murgatroyd block with the original medieval hall during the re-building programme. This ‘temporary’ building is still standing almost 400 years later.

James died in 1653 – before his alterations to the property were completed – but the architecture and external decoration give us an impression of his quirky sense of style even today.

Two adults and two children in the garden at East Riddlesden Hall
The facade of the ruined Starkie Wing at East Riddlesden Hall | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

The local heroes who saved East Riddlesden Hall

After years of neglect during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the historic East Riddlesden Hall sadly fell into disrepair. In 1905 the Starkie Wing was almost entirely demolished – only the façade survived.

By 1913 the estate was in the process of being sold. The trustees of the owner (the late Colonel Bence) sold several internal fittings including fireplaces, panelling and plaster ceilings. There was speculation at the time that the hall would be taken down stone by stone and reconstructed in America.

The Brigg brothers step in

The mayor of Keighley, William Brigg, and his twin brother John saw the importance of the property and paid £2,000 to buy back the fittings. They reserved their right of removal in the hope that public funding could be secured to retain them. But their plan proved unsuccessful and in 1914 and 1921 much of the estate was sold, including land, canal wharves and cottages.

The fate of the hall was discussed again in 1924 when the Borough Council considered buying it for the public. A few years later the Keighley Corporation showed some interest but eventually the estate was sold in 1933 to Harry Emmott from Keighley. He planned to demolish the hall and rebuild it elsewhere in Yorkshire, or to incorporate the stone into other buildings.

The rescue plan

Saddened by the news, the Brigg brothers stepped in again and purchased the hall and 12 acres of land for several thousand pounds. Emmott retained the rest for building and today the East Riddlesden Hall is surrounded by 1930's residential housing estates.

In 1934 the Briggs brothers donated the property to the National Trust. It was bequeathed on the understanding that it would be conserved and that the land surrounding it would be used for recreation by the local communities. Their passion for East Riddlesden Hall ultimately ensured that it would be saved for everyone, for ever.

Visitors looking at a tapestry in the Great Hall at East Riddlesden Hall

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