Facts about Ilkley
Ilkley is a spa town and civil parish in the City of Bradford in West Yorkshire, in Northern England. Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Ilkley civil parish includes the adjacent village of Ben Rhydding and is a ward within the City of Bradford. Approximately 12 miles (19 km) north of Bradford and 17 miles (27 km) north-west of Leeds, the town lies mainly on the south bank of the River Wharfe in Wharfedale, one of the Yorkshire Dales.
Ilkley’s spa town heritage and surrounding countryside make tourism an important local industry. The town centre is characterised by Victorian architecture, wide streets and floral displays. Ilkley Moor, to the south of the town, is the subject of a folk song, often described as the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire, “On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at”. The song’s words are written in Yorkshire dialect, its title translated as “On Ilkley Moor without a hat.”
The earliest evidence of habitation in the Ilkley area is from flint arrowheads or microliths, dating to the Mesolithic period, from about 11,000 BC onwards. The area around Ilkley has been continuously settled since at least the Neolithic, around 3000 BC; more than 250 cup and ring marks, and a curved swastika carving possibly dating to the period have been found on rock outcrops, and archaeological remains of dwellings are found on Ilkley Moor. A small stone circle (possibly a burial monument), known as the ‘Twelve Apostles’, was constructed 4,500 years ago, during the Early Bronze Age. Serious interest in the rock art of Ilkley began after the publication of the “Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley” in 1879 by Romilly Allen in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association.
The remains of a Roman fort occupy a site near the town centre. Some authorities believe it is Olicana, dating to 79 AD, but the identification is not settled. A number of Roman altars have been discovered from the reigns of Antoninus Pius, and Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla. Ilkley Manor House stands on part of the site in Castle Yard and is home to various Roman artefacts, including an original altar dedicated to Verbeia, the goddess of the River Wharfe.