Site Records

Site Name: Keighley - Royal Arcade

Low Street
West Yorkshire
OS Grid Ref: SE061410

[Source: Nick Catford]

Nothing has emerged in documentation to show how successful the Royal Arcade was in returning Turner and Fowlds’ investment but it didn’t stay in joint ownership for long. Turner died in 1915; at that time the Royal Arcade was owned jointly with Hiram Faulds but by 1919 it was in the sole ownership of Turner’s sons Ernest and Wilfrid. As soon as they had taken control of the site, the Turner brothers began a piecemeal disposal of the property. By 1933 a large proportion of the arcade was owned by Frank Butterfield.

The Royal Arcade after closure in 1987
Butterfield had been a partner in Gott & Butterfield’s iron mongers who had been tenants at the arcade since at least 1919. Their shop was once described as an ‘Aladdin's cave’ selling household goods, bicycles and camping equipment and the whole arcade was popularly known as ‘Butterfield's Arcade’.

Frank Butterfield Ltd. continued to run the arcade but by the 1980s the business was in decline and the arcade was in a very poor condition and it finally closed in 1987. Although some of the flats above the shops remained in

occupation for some years after that, the arcade was largely derelict for 12 years until it was acquired by Kingfisher Developments in 1999. They proposed renovating the Grade II listed building to its former Edwardian splendour.

During the early stages of this renovation a clearance programme was undertaken including the cellars which by that time were almost completely full of rubbish. It was at that time that the true nature of the cellars was discovered for the first time. 

Photo:One of the underground shop fronts complete with glass windows,
front door, shop number and letterbox
Photo by Nick Catford

Once the cellars had been partially cleared it became apparent that there was a complete lower level arcade of shops below ground along both sides of an underground ‘street’. Some of the shops still have their glass windows intact, together with front doors, letterboxes and door numbers.

A number of enamel advertising signs were also found indicating that the shops were probably used from an early date, perhaps even from the opening of the Royal Arcade and Crown Buildings in 1901.

The accessible shops and cellars run around three sides of the plot of land bounded by Low Street, Fleece Street and the Royal Arcade. The original pedestrian entrances to the arcade was down stone steps in Hanover Street and to the rear of Fleece Street but these stairs have

Enamel sign used to block one of the windows (click)
now been sealed and the only access to the underground area is down a flight of wooden steps at the rear of the Royal Arcade and a flight of stone steps from an open yard in the middle of the site, this was originally the end of a short cart track used for deliveries to the shops.

Originally most of the cellars had wooden stairs up to the shops above; most of these have now gone although there is still access from one or two of the shops. The arcade was lit by ‘pavement lights’ set into the pedestrian walkways and streets but these have all now been covered over and the cellars are in darkness.

Photo:The restored arcade in 2006
Photo by Nick Catford

Once the restoration of the arcade had been completed it was officially reopened as by Keighley historian Ian Dewhirst on 27th June 2003.  The arcade consists of nine shops on the ground floor and 23 flats on upper floors and it quickly had 100 per cent occupancy.

There are no immediate plans to open the lower level of Edwardian shops to the public on a regular basis although part of the site has been made safe with occasional public open days. Seven of the shops can be viewed and this area now has low level lighting.  A further five shops have yet to be cleared and as yet there is no public access to this area.

Photo:Inside one of the shops showing the stairway up to the upper level of shops
Photo by Nick Catford

The main entrance for the public tours is down the wooden steps at the rear of the Royal Arcade. This opens onto the communal cellar area described above. At the end of this area there is a steel door leading through to the arcade.  Adjacent to the door there is a bread oven set into the wall.   Once through the door there is one shop on the right hand side then the walkway turns to the left through 90 degrees with a further three shops on the left and three on the right.  Beyond this there is a wooden door leading to steps up to the yard and a further five shops that have not yet been cleared.

A large enamel sign has been used to block one of the windows, it says ‘Use Hart batteries for motor car electric lighting and starting’.  There is also a large advertising hoarding for ‘Butterfield Iron Mongers and Tool Specialists’.


  • 'Structural Perspective' - An archaeological report on the Low Street site
  • Frank Brook - Kingfisher Development

For further pictures of the Royal Arcade click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated: 04 01 2011
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