Spotlight on Silsden

by Laura Storey


An industrial town, the Silsden stretch of the Leeds & Liverpool canal began construction in 1769, resulting in workers from all over the world arriving to help with construction, it was likely this small Yorkshire town was not prepared for the arrival of dozens of young men and, according to the Silsden History Group, at least one hostelry was closed down due to “riotous” behaviour. More trouble occurred in April 1911 and led to police officers cowering under their desks when several hundred locals attacked the police station in protest at the arrest of a popular young man.

The town wasn’t nicknamed Cobbydale for no reason, hearty and lively, Silsden has a past rich in the chartist movement, with its nail makers amongst the first to demand rights for the working class.

Today, Silsden is a small, pretty town with both the River Aire and the Leeds & Liverpool canal running through it. Hints of its industrial past are still very much present, with old mills still standing, yet now more likely to be used for apartments. Many businesses in Silsden have been in the same family for generations, Jackson’s of Silsden was founded by Thomas Jackson in 1904 and is now owned and operated by the third and fourth generation of his family, offering carriage masters, funeral services, coaches, and even school buses to their local community.

Silsden has a lot to offer for those who prefer destinations off the beaten track

Whilst in the past, the canal transported vast amounts of produce, nowadays they are cruised by holidaymakers in rented houseboats. A well-known route for those who take their holidays on the canals, many visitors will only catch a fleeting glimpse of Silsden as they drive by to Skipton or Haworth.

However, there’s no need to travel far for local amenities, with local businesses such as Silsden Laundry, a laundrette and dry-cleaning service, ideal for busy folks and J S Pressure Washing Services, perfect for creating envious neighbours when they see your sparkling clean driveway, both located in Silsden. For those of you who are in need of an eye test or swanky new glasses then Silsden Opticians, based in the town’s thriving centre is the perfect place to stop off for a quick eye test or brand new look.

Less of a tourist trap than Skipton and Haworth, Silsden has a lot to offer for those who prefer destinations off the beaten track, with plenty of pubs, independent shops and cafes.

Photo by Steven Feather

Take a look in Whitakers Hardware on the corner of Bridge Street and Briggate to ramp up that home DIY project or for gift ideas. The independent hardware store sells everything you need to make your home beautiful.

After a shopping spree, that’s lots of other activities Silsden has to offer. Yorkshire often attracts people seeking adventure, with the rolling hills and endless views enticing locals and visitors alike to grab their walking boots and get out in the outdoors. The Yorkshire Dales is only a short drive away from the town, but there’s beautiful countryside within walking distance too, as well as some interesting landmarks.

Just outside of Silsden lie the Doubler Stones, a pair of toadstool shaped stones at the crest of the hill. The Doubler Stones are unusual landmarks. If you make it up the steep hill and observe them up close you may see what some believe to be prehistoric markings on the rocks. Once you’ve taken a look at the stones, take a breather and have a look at the view. On a clear day you can see as far as Pendle Hill.

Silsden Town Hall is still very much the heart of the community and the intimate venue hosts live music throughout the year.

The Doubler Stones aren’t the only stones of interest at Silsden, however, head towards Riddlesden and you’ll discover a poem by Simon Armitage carved into two standing rocks as part of Ilkley Literature Festival.

Treasure hunters may well find what they’re searching for in Silsden too. In 1998, a hoard of coins was discovered by Jeff Walbank who was using a metal detector in a field. He discovered 27 gold coins dating from the 1st century. It is thought they were buried by English refugees fleeing the Romans. Just remember to ask landowner’s permission before digging up a farmer’s field in search of a treasure chest.

If after all that exploring you’ve worked up an appetite, there’s plenty of choice for food. The Old Post Office Café Bar has plenty of choice for lunch from soups to paninis as well as luscious deserts if you fancy a treat. The bar is a nod to the café’s past as Silsden’s post office, with the old counter repurposed with beer pumps, perfect for an afternoon pint. If you arrive later in the evening on a Friday or Saturday, the cafe bar also offers pizza and Prosecco in its intimate surroundings.

Doubler Stones – Photo by Majorshots

Grab a delicious dinner from Isherwoods Butchers, with the beef and lamb grown on Isherwoods farm only one mile from the shop, check out their weekly deals at Or pick up a picnic and visit Silsden Park, a beautiful open grass area perfect for lazy afternoons, bring a ball to entertain the kids or get fit with a run, or watch the world go by with fish and chips.

If that sounds a little sedate, a trip to Silsden Town Hall may be in order. The town hall has been the thriving centre of Silsden since 1894. In the past, villagers were able to borrow books, read the news, go to evening classes, take part in noisy public debates and listen to musical concerts.

Silsden Town Hall is still very much the heart of the community and the intimate venue hosts live music throughout the year. Get tickets to see Voodoo Room on the 23rd of April and rock on to the music of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Cream, or enjoy Laurel Canyon Union with songs from Jackson Browne, Neil Young, the Eagles and more.

Silsden is the perfect location not just for its local community but also the surrounding ones too. A place where you can easily spend an hour or even a lifetime for that matter!

Craven&ValleyLife Spring 2022