Our last stop on our weekend away was in the town of Skipton, which conveniently is on the way back to Lancashire. We pulled into a large car park just across from the high street, and set out to explore…
Status: Craven District, North Yorkshire, Town, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Skipton Castle, Town Hall, Craven Museum and Art Gallery, War Memorial, Holy Trinity Church etc
We passed through onto the high street itself, and immediately came face to face with the imposing statue of Sir Mathew Wilson Baronet (1802 – 1891, local MP and Landowner) who is stood guard outside the beautiful old stone façade of Skiptons Library. It recently (2010) celebrated 100 years since it’s opening, way back in 1910.
At the time many local councils wrote to Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919, who was a wealthy Philanthropist from Dunfermline in Scotland), including Skipton District Council in 1903. He granted them £3000, as he regularly gave funds for libraries around the world.
The library has remained open throughout it’s history and today is still a free library for the people of Skipton.
Looking back towards the other side of the street, a similarly grand stone building can be found. This is Skipton Town Hall, and it too recently celebrated a milestone anniversary (2012). 150 years previous, it was constructed on this site, in 1862. The balcony halfway up was regularly used to make public announcements such as after elections. A glass canopy once covered the entrance, sometime in the 1920’s, until the 1950’s after it was badly damaged by rust.
Originally used as a public function room, the main hall was enlarged in 1878. In 1895 when the administrative borders were changed and Skipton Urban District was created, the council moved into the building and made it the Town Hall in place of the original one on Sheep Street.
The first floor still contains the council offices, but also the Craven Museum and Art Gallery, which is open to the public. It contains a plethora of history about the town, and the main attraction, as one of the four Shakespeare First Folio’s is on display here. Visit the website to find out more.
Moving to the end of the street, we came across the impressive War Memorial, erected in 1922. Sculpted by John Cassidy, it was dedicated to over 350 men who died in World War I. The centre column is triangular, and 20 feet tall, topped by a bronze figure of “Winged Victory”. At the base sits a man in the nude, breaking a sword.
Directly behind the memorial is the tower of Holy Trinity Church. This beautiful old church dates back to 1300, replacing the earliest church from the 12th century. An extension was made in the 15th century, before the English Civil War came to Skipton and caused significant damage to the church. By 1660 repairs had been made, but more disaster would soon hit the church.
Whoever said that lightning doesn’t strike twice? I am sure the good people of Skipton would disagree with you, as the church was struck by lightning in both 1853 and 1925 (Setting fire to the roof and destroying the organ). Other extras have been joined on to the church in the last few decades, including the Lady Chapel in 1979.
The main attraction in Skipton is arguably the Castle, just up the road from the Church. The amazing round gatehouse marks the entrance, leading through to the main sections of the Castle.
It was built by Robert de Romille in 1090, as a motte and bailey Castle. It was replaced with a few hundred years with a stone Castle in case of attacks by the Scottish. It is a straight drop behind the Castle, making it the perfect place to have a fortification.
Once the Romille family died out by 1310, Edward II (1284 – 1327) gave the Castle to Robert Clifford (1274 – 1314, English Soldier from Herefordshire). He was killed only 4 years later in the battle of Bannockburn, near Stirling in Scotland so the Castle changed hands once again. By the English Civil War, Skipton Castle was the only Royalist Castle in the whole of the North of England, until things changed in 1645. The Castle came under siege, and after 3 years of fighting the Royalists made a deal with Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians and the roofs were removed. Supposedly sheep fleeces were hung up on the walls to lessen the impact of cannons during the siege.
The Clifford family retained the Castle during this time, until 1676 when the last in the line, Lady Anne Clifford (1590 – 1676), who repaired the Castle after the war. A courtyard at the centre of the Castle contains a Yew Tree that Anne planted before she died.
The Castle has remained in good order over the years, and the fantastic drum towers (6 in total) hold their positions around the walls. The Castle is open to the public, but we only had an hour or so in the town, so we didn’t go inside the Castle itself as you have to pay.
There are various buildings around the complex to explore, so see what you can discover. See their website here for opening times.
This brought our brief visit to Skipton to a close, but it’s a great little town with plenty to see, sat in a perfect location in the middle of the Yorkshire countryside.
Trains run from Skipton to Bradford, Leeds, Lancaster and Carlisle (via Settle), and the perfect way to enter the town is to take the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which runs through the town. Various main roads meet up here, including the A59 (Wallasey, Merseyside – York). The nearest airport is Leeds Bradford International, which destinations all over the world.
Skipton is a great place to unwind, and is full of history. North Yorkshire has some amazing countryside, fantastic cities in Ripon and York, and historic buildings all over the place, including Fountain’s Abbey, so it’s an amazing holiday destination.