The first house on the site was called Cliffe Hall and was built from 1828 - 1833. In 1848 the property was bought by the Butterfield family who had made their money in the textile industry, owning three mills in Keighley. Henry Isaac Butterfield (1819 - 1910) inherited the house in 1874, and began to transform the house renaming it Cliffe Castle in 1878.
Henry Butterfield's son Frederick (1858 - 1943 was Mayor of Keighley 1916 - 1918) inherited Cliffe Castle in 1910. He took a less extravagant approach to the building than his father and by the 1940's the building was falling into decay. In 1950 Sir Bracewell Smith bought the property and presented it to Keighley as a new public museum. You can take a 360 degree view of the castle and grounds here...
The museum houses displays of local fossils and geology; crystals and minerals; natural history; local bygones, stained glass, pottery; furnished Victorian rooms and temporary exhibitions.
There are many cases of stuffed animals in the museum some of which are a legacy from the Victorian era when protection of wildlife was not an issue. Today, the museum's approach to taxidermy is not to deliberately kill wildlife, any animals used are ones accidentally killed such as on roads.
The museum has archaeological displays that look at the resources in our local area such as coal, sandstone and peat. There are displays of local crafts and the objects that were made such as chimney pots and cast iron work. Timmy Feathers loom is in the exhibition, more about Timmy Feather and weaving here...
You can find out about minerals and how they grow and about their chemical elements. Some of the exhibits came from the collection of local businessman George Hinchcliffe.
In the upper gallery there is a room with stained glass. They came from the Temple Street Methodist Chapel in Keighley which was dedicated in 1921. They were made by Morris and Company of London.
The museum has a small shop, outside in the grounds there is a café, aviaries, greenhouse and children's play area.