|Ilkley is a town in the metropolitan borough of Bradford in West Yorkshire, England, built on the south bank and valley of the River Wharfe in Wharfedale.
Ilkley is a prosperous town with a resident population of 13,828, as measured by Census 2001.
The town has a thriving town centre. Much of the architecture of which is of Victorian design from a time when Ilkley was promoted as a spa town; consequently it is aesthetically pleasing, emphasised by the width of the main streets (Brook Street and The Grove), which - especially in the latter case - appear purpose-designed to enable visitors to promenade.
It has little else by way of industry or commerce, though it is the UK home of The Woolmark Company.
In 2004, Ilkley won the Britain in Bloom contest, in the category of 'Town'.
Rombald's Moor and Ilkley Moor, above and to the south of the town, are the location for a famous folk song, 'On Ilkla Moor Baht'at ("On Ilkley Moor without a hat").
The southern skyline is dominated by the millstone grit outcrops known as the Cow and Calf Rocks, which offer a number of rock climbing routes of up to about 15 metres in height.
The town is 700 feet above sea level and lies in a wide valley with the River Wharfe and pastoral farmland to the north, and Ilkley Moor, a bracken and heather moorland with rocky outcrops, to the south.
The river runs through the north extent of the town from west to east, and is crossed by four bridges, in order: a 16th-century three-arched stone bridge, now closed to road traffic; a 19th-century single-span wrought-iron bridge, a suspension bridge for foot traffic only (a set of concrete stepping stones) and a prefabricated steel arched box-girder bridge. The river is prone to flooding the sports fields (and a few houses) that occupy the watermeadows.
Nearby villages are Denton, Burley in Wharfedale, Bolton Abbey, Middleton, Addingham, and Addingham Moorside.
The town is within the travel-to-work radius of Leeds and Bradford, each about 16 miles away and with a railway connection offering about 35 trains to each destination per day. The railway, before the Beeching axe, also connected to Addingham, Bolton Abbey, and Skipton to the west, and to Otley, Pool-in-Wharfedale, meeting the main Leeds to Harrogate line at Arthington.
The area around Ilkley has been continuously settled since at least the early Bronze Age, around 1800 BC; cup and ring markings, and swastika carvings dating to the period have been found on rock outcrops, and archaeological remains of dwellings are found on the moor. The Romans built a fort in AD 79, which some suggest was named Olicana (although the name is not universally accepted), on a site now near the centre of the town, but with the exception of some few sections of wall, it is now covered partly by the Elizabethan Manor House Art Gallery and Museum and partly by All Saints' Church.
Three Anglo-Saxon crosses formerly in the churchyard of All Saints, but now removed into the church to prevent further erosion, date to the 8th century.
Although relatively inaccessible in the 17th and 18th centuries, the town gained a minor reputation for the efficacy of its water. In the nineteenth century it became established as one of the more fashionable spa towns, with the construction a mile to the east of the town of the vast Ben Rhydding Hydro or Hydropathic Establishment in 1843-4. Tourists flocked here to 'take the waters' and bathe in the cold water spring. The eastern part of the town is now called Ben Rhydding, after the Hydro, despite it having been demolished many years ago; the area was formerly known as Wheatley.
Development based on the Hydro movement, and upon the establishment of a number of convalescent homes and hospitals was accelerated by the establishment of a railway connections from Leeds and Bradford in 1865. Charles Darwin was undergoing hydropathic treatment at Wells House when his Origin of Species was published in 1859. Other famous Victorian visitors to the town included Madame Tussaud. Today, the only remaining Hydro is the cottage known as White Wells House, which can be seen on the edge of the famous moor over-looking the town.
In the 20th century Ilkley has become a relatively wealthy dormitory town for the nearby cities of Leeds and Bradford.
In 1967 Jimi Hendrix played at the Troutbeck Hotel (now a nursing home). However the show was cut short by the police. The local newspaper headline read: Pop Fans Ran Amok in Hotel: They ripped off doors, pulled out electrical fittings and smashed furniture after a police sergeant stepped on stage and stopped Hendrix half-way through a number.
Ilkley (and nearby Keighley) are thought by some to be a hotspot of UFO and paranormal phenomena, mostly due to the so-called 1987 Ilkley Moor Alien abduction case. Those so inclined imbue some of the prehistoric rocks on Ilkley moor with magical powers, and make much of an "unusual" radio transmitter situated on the moor, which is said to be related to the nearby Menwith Hill military camp near Harrogate.
There is also the spectral hound, known as the Barguest. This black dog has been reported seen on the moors above Ilkley and Otley since pre-gaslight days. Its main sightings on the moor have been near the Cow and Calf rocks, as it has descended from the moorland. This Baskervillesque hound has been well-disposed towards people but portends doom.
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