East Riddlesden Hall, Keighley

In 1631, James Murgatroyd bought the house from John and Richard Rishworth who continued to live at the house.

He had hoped to extend the house when the Rishworths died, but they survived him by 2 years.

The Lord of Riddlesden owned other property in Airedale, the rent for which Lady Ann Clifford of Skipton Castle demanded a boon hen. Murgatroyd refused to accept this custom and the Countess successfully brought an action against him at York. After the dispute was settled, the Countess invited Murgatroyd to the castle for dinner, and presented the hen at the table.

He remodelled and rebuilt a great part of it in 1642 for his son John.

Although it stands outside Keighley, the house is a typical example of a Halifax house.

The central hall is from the 16th century house. The main body of the house is that built by James Murgatroyd. Only the façade remains of the later Starkie wing which was added in 1692.

Both families moved here from Murgatroyd in 1643, at a time when the Halifax district was troubled by the plague.

Murgatroyd was a Royalist – as demonstrated by the carved heads of Charles I and his queen Henrietta Maria – and the inscription Vive le Roy on the battlements of the neighbouring outhouse – now the tea room and shop. See Battle of the Hollins.

When the Murgatroyd line died out, the property passed to Edmund Starkie – son of Nicholas Starkie and his wife, Grace, daughter of James Murgatroyd. After Edmund's death, some time after 1709, it passed to Nicholas, grandson of his brother, John.

The Starkie family moved to Suffolk in the early 1800s.

The house was rented out in the 19th century.

By 1909, the Hall was neglected, and there was a risk that the property might be stripped of its panelling and plasterwork.

In 1933, it was due to be demolished when it was bought by the Brigg brothers of Keighley.

In 1934, the Brigg brothers gave the property to the National Trust.

The house has two large barns, large gardens, a grass maze, a priest hole, a large pond, a water-mill (no longer extant) on the River Aire, and a bothy or milking shed (which was used for accommodation whilst Murgatroyd altered the main building, and is now the Reception and Shop).

This is discussed in the book The Old Halls & Manor Houses of Yorkshire.

Tradition has it that the name Riddlesden means Red Lion's Den – but that begs another question.

A story relates how, when they were discovered in each other's arms, the wife of the Hall's owner and her lover were taken away; she was locked in her bedroom and he was bricked up behind a wall. They both starved to death. She now appears as the Grey Lady on the staircase, and he stares out of a window.

The Hall and grounds are also haunted by a White Lady, a Highlander, and a coachman who walks on the surface of the lake looking for his sunken coach.

It is said that the River Aire changed its course and refused to flow past the Hall after the Murgatroyds had to sell the place – on account of the financial troubles caused when William Murgatroyd's employer failed

See Kershaw House, Luddenden and Oats Royd, Midgley

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 15:45 / 16th July 2023 / 6246

Page Ref: QQ_141

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