By Kingfisher Visitor Guides
Art and history buffs rejoice in West Yorkshire! Just walking around historic towns helps you step back in time, let alone the wealth of galleries and museums to discover.
Named after Barbara Hepworth, one of the most important artists of the 20th century born in Wakefield, The Hepworth Wakefield hosts major exhibitions of the best international and contemporary art. Dedicated galleries explore Hepworth’s art and creative processes. As well as changing exhibitions, it’s home to Wakefield’s art collection featuring modern British works from the likes of Ben Nicholson, Patrick Heron, LS Lowry and Eva Rothschild.
Bradford is a true city gem for contemporary art exhibitions. Impressions Gallery opened in 1972 as one of the first specialist photography galleries in West Yorkshire. Pop in to see the thought-provoking works of revolving exhibitions. Cartwright Hall Art Gallery showcases a permanent display dedicated to the work of Bradford-born David Hockney.
Named after Barbara Hepworth, The Hepworth Wakefield art museum hosts major exhibitions of the best international and contemporary art in the world
Former textile mill, now art gallery, shopping centre and restaurant complex, Salts Mill also boasts a big collection of work by David Hockney. Check out paintings and photo collages with changing visiting exhibitions. While you’re there, the Early Music Shop offers the world’s largest selection of medieval, renaissance and baroque musical instruments, along with sheet music and accessories.
Mad about museums
For an unusual historical experience, visit the Mental Health Museum on Wakefield’s Fieldhead Hospital site, where people are still treated today. Bradford Police Museum provides a unique insight into the history of policing and the development of crime and punishment in the area. On the flip side, Bradford Peace Museum is believed to be the only one of its kind in the UK. You’ll hear stories of peacemakers and social reform.
The Tolson Museum in Huddersfield paints an intriguing picture of the district. Admire Roman finds, pieces from the Luddite rebellion, items from the suffragette movement, and its famous Bird Room. Kids and big kids alike love the Ilkley Toy Museum. The collection dates from 350BC and features exquisite teddy bears and dolls. Another top pick for kids is Eureka! National Children’s Museum in Halifax.
For an unusual historical experience, visit the Mental Health Museum on Wakefield’s Fieldhead Hospital site, where people are still treated today
For a total immersion in history that built much of the county, head to Colne Valley Museum. Four converted weavers’ cottages display working looms and re-enactors. Run almost entirely by volunteer enthusiasts, Calderdale Industrial Museum houses a collection representing the wide variety of industries that developed in Calderdale during the last 250 years. Working exhibits evoke the spirit of the Industrial Revolution.
When it comes to stunning architecture there’s nothing like the great Yorkshire stone buildings of this county. You’ll admire endless mill terrace rows and the mighty colonnaded and Grade 1-listed Huddersfield Train Station. Here, train travellers step out onto the fabulous St George’s Square, flanked on all sides by towering stone buildings and overlooked by the impressive statue of Britannia.
In Wakefield, the Grade 1-listed cathedral building was constructed on the site of a Saxon church. At 247ft, its spire ensures it’s the tallest church in Yorkshire. Look closely to see fine medieval carvings that include animals, and see the world’s most complete collection of stained glass by Charles Kempe. Another fascinating piece of religious architecture is The Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin. It’s one of only three surviving bridge Chantries in the country.
Look closely to see fine medieval carvings that include animals, and see the world’s most complete collection of stained glass by Charles Kempe
Across the road from the Chantry Chapel sits a thoroughly modern building designed by David Chipperfield Architects. The award-winning Hepworth Wakefield opened in 2011. Little Germany in Bradford is worth exploring for its impressive buildings in the heart of the business district. The names of the streets give you a clear indication of the area where the German Jewish population arrived and set up business. Bradford Cathedral is the town’s oldest building, as a site for Christian worship since the 8th century.
There’s the unmissable Yorkshire Sculpture Park and amazing architectural treats from Huddersfield’s St George’s Square to Halifax Piece Hall to feast your eyes upon. Yorkshire Sculpture Park is set in 500 acres of stunning fields and formal gardens. Huge pieces strike you from afar and you’ll stumble upon hidden gems. For many of the works, it’s fine to succumb to the urge to touch or even sit on them, and new work is always being added. With a cafe and restaurant, it’s easy to stay all day and picnic in the park.
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