Cliffe Castle was originally the home of Victorian millionaire and textile manufacturer, Henry Isaac Butterfield. Completed in the 1880s the building was funded by the Butterfield family’s industrial empire which included wool textile mills and a shipping business that took British goods to Europe, America and China.
The completed house was a showpiece of international art and French decoration. It was the scene of many glittering social events. Butterfield family connections included the Roosevelt’s of America and members of the court of Napoleon III.
In the 1950s the Castle was bought by Sir Bracewell Smith, a local man who became Lord Mayor of London. Sir Bracewell used architect Sir Albert Richardson to turn Cliffe Castle’s gardens into a grand public park and remodelled the Castle to be a free museum for the people of the district.
In recent years Cliffe Castle has undergone a major restoration. Visitors can see sparkling Victorian rooms and furniture, paintings, and decorative art. Special galleries deal with natural history, archaeology and social history, all of which can be seen on your visit along with the internationally important display of stained glass by Morris and Co. The Castle also hosts changing exhibitions from our collections and the community.Family areas ensure that there is something for all ages.
The Airedale Gallery explores the fascinating geology of the district from the birth of Earth through to the formation of the underlying rocks that define the district and on to the shaping of the landscape during the last Ice Age. The gallery explores the Carboniferous Coal Measures and Millstone Grit that are famous for fuelling the Industrial Revolution that led to the birth of industrial towns & cities like Keighley, Bradford & Leeds. Throughout the gallery the visitor can view a myriad of ancient fossils from the familiar ammonites and ichthyosaurs of the Jurassic to the internationally important holotype of the early tetrapod Pholiderpeton scutigerum.
Our Molecules to Minerals Gallery explores the geology of rocks and minerals where visitors can learn how to identify different minerals and rocks or just enjoy the colourful beauty of what has been described by the former head of the Geology Museum as '...probably the best, as regards the range and quality of its minerals and its design, outside the major national museums’.
The museum's Natural History Gallery is at the heart of the visitor experience displaying a variety of traditional dioramas of mammals and birds and also exploring skeletons and the evolution of insects. This gallery has been a firm favourite with visitors of all ages since Cliffe Castle Museum opened in 1960.
We are pleased to announce that the bees from the popular display have returned to Cliffe Castle for the summer. They are ready for you to see in their observation hive on the first floor of the museum.
Outside visitors can enjoy spectacular parkland and gardens . There is also a large new children’s play- area.
Visitors to the Castle should be aware that the surrounding park is to be the subject of a major Heritage Lottery Funded restoration scheme. Work begins in mid June 2016 and will include the reinstatement of original glasshouses, water features, the creation of a new cafe and animal houses and improved landscaping. The museum remains open whilst the work takes place however there will be some reduction in car parking, closure of the park cafe and disruption to the wider park. The animals and birds will also be re-located to new homes during this time. We anticipate that the project will be completed by early summer 2017. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and hope you will enjoy the restored park in 2017.
For more visitor photos check out our Bradford Museums & Galleries flickr group