Keighley is a market town in West Yorkshire with a population of over 50,000. Made a borough in the 1880s, the town lost its independence when forced to merge with the City of Bradford in 1974.
The merger caused a lot of bitterness. Resentment grew when local people realised they were getting a raw deal from the city council and a campaign was launched to make Keighley a civil parish. Despite widespread opposition from city councillors, the campaign was successful and Keighley obtained a town council in 2002.
The town council recently acquired Keighley’s old police station and former magistrates’ court which are being converted into a civic centre and a museum. Alan Parry, special projects officer for the town council, said the development is expected to attract visitors from all over the UK.
The ground floor will house an inter-active police museum complete with Victorian cells and an 1892 horse-drawn black maria.
West Yorkshire Police scenes-of-crime officers have created two gruesome crime scenes for children of different ages to solve and actors in costume will take visitors round the museum.
Diaries, kept by police officers between 1887 and 1889, have been recovered from the library and will be on display in the museum. There will also be exhibits of crime detection from the Victorian era to the 1980s and a chance to read graffiti scrawled by real prisoners in the tiny outdoor exercise yard.
As well as civic offices and a meeting room for the council, the building will contain a coffee bar, a gift shop, debt management and housing advice centres, a police contact point, a community meeting room and a visitor information centre. It will also have corporate function facilities, a high-class restaurant with a bar and a forensic science education centre – the only one of its kind in the country.
Schools and colleges will be able to hire the space to learn about the latest evidence-gathering techniques and will have access to materials provided by West Yorkshire Police.
Alan Parry said: “It is a great asset for Keighley. We will have the only visitor centre that facilitates the study of forensic science in the country. We will attract schools and colleges from all over the country and bring the benefit to the people of Keighley.
“We are doing what we can to bring back the facilities we feel we have lost in Keighley over the last few years. The whole scheme is designed to support the community.”
He went on to say that a theatre management company would manage the museum, the education centre and the eating facilities, adding they would pay the running costs and had agreed a profit-sharing deal with the town council.
Photograph by Tim Green licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.
As regular readers of posts on this site know, the Phoenix Trust supports the campaign which has recently been launched to give Fenton a town council. “Keighley shows what a town council can do” is the first in a series of occasional posts looking at the work of town councils throughout the country. Future posts will give an account of the services town councils provide and highlight their achievements.