Report - - Beneath the Royal Arcade, Keighley - June 2013 | Other Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Beneath the Royal Arcade, Keighley - June 2013


Regular User
Royal Arcade, Keighley - June 2013

Visited with Hidden

The existence of this underground Edwardian 'street' was uncovered by the owners whilst renovating the site in 2002. Very little has happened with it since, although it has had some national media coverage. Strangely enough, within about a week of me walking through the arcade and looking at some old renovation photos displayed on the walls, the current owner was on the front page of the Keighley News talking about how he plans to open the cellar spaces up to the public in some form or another. I made sure to get on the blower and give this fella a call to see if he'd let me come down for a look. He was sound enough to get back to me immediately and more than happy to open it up for us to have a gander. The site did not disappoint.



The land here was part of the Devonshire Estate until the middle of the 19th century when financial instability forced some land disposal by the Duke’s agents. The Low Street site seems to have been amongst the earliest to be affected and had been disposed of by 1860.

By the end of the 19th century the site was in the ownership of Turner & Fowlds who already owned a yard and showrooms on the opposite side of Low Street.

In March 1899, Turner & Fowlds applied to the local authority for permission to build a covered shopping arcade. While the older buildings on the site would be retained the other buildings would be demolished to make way for the new arcade.

As the full depth of the shops at ground level was given over to retail sales, merchandise storage had to be provided elsewhere. For the largest shops, the solution was to provide cellar space accessed by individual flights of steps from the shops above. Below the smaller shops the space was undivided and accessible only from a door and steps in the Low Street arcade. Further access to the storage cellar units was by corridors that lay below the arcade walkways.

The complex of shops, arcade and living accommodation above was completed by 1901 and formerly known as the Royal Arcade and Crown Buildings.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.












:Not Worthy



28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Why didn't this get more likes? Amazing find! Does anyone know what happened? Did it ever get developed?


Regular User
Why didn't this get more likes? Amazing find! Does anyone know what happened? Did it ever get developed?
Forum changed a few times since this was posted. Most comments and reactions were shaved and reset a fair few years ago I think for a server change.

Thanks, it was nice of the guy to let us down there, I think on reflection they'd tried to fill the place with antique memorabilia which perhaps cheapens the stuff they actually found down there like the posters, signage and stables ..

No idea what happened to it in the end but I imagine not a lot.

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