Front elevation of High Royds Hospital
Architect: Mr Edwards (1887-9)
Photograph: J. Ridsdale (2006)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
In the Victorian period, Ilkley became a favoured retreat from the polluted towns nearby. In 1844 a hydrotherapy spa was built; soon after sanatoria and convalescent homes were set up. And just outside the town, the largest health institution of all was built: the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, (High Royd’s), designed by a Mr Edwards (1887-9).
Victorian visitors approaching the hospital through its large grounds could not help but be impressed. From far off, the hospital’s striking roofline would have caught their attention, its many towers striking the sky. Dominating all was the great clock tower, its solid bulk, sparsely decorated with low battlements and heavy Gothic arches, shouting out this institution’s earnest nature.
On arrival, the building’s main façade could be inspected more closely. Its tight symmetry was relieved by a mix of materials. Half-timbered gables gave this a domestic air. Bay and oriel windows softened the front’s rigidity, and small sections of carving gave this a certain dignity. All proclaimed the pride of the hospital founders. What, though, would they think of its current appearance, shown here, the hospital closed and waiting conversion to housing?