Arcade Chambers, Keighley, W. Yorkshire


The little, crescent-shaped arcade with two entrances on Keighley’s North Street is part of the larger Arcade Chambers building in this former grand Yorkshire mill town.

There is a hair salon fronting onto the street, but the main tenant in the arcade these days is surely RiRi’s Coffee House, with its stylish shop front painted black, its tables spilling out onto the arcade floor, and its cosy interior, with all sorts of vintage furniture and fittings. It even has a back door leading out on to Temple Row at the back of the arcade.

Many of the old shop units might be vacant now, but a lot of the shop doors and frontages are original, with old letter boxes, doorbells and decorative woodwork. The mosaic entrance on the floor also looks original.

The fierce faces looking down on the arcade from above are quite a feature, though I’m not sure whether these date from the arcade’s early years or were a later more recent addition (if anyone knows, do get in touch). Two polished granite pillars frame both entrances, and there is in between the arcade entrances a doorway into the Arcade Chambers upstairs, where the tenants were mostly white-collar businesses.

There is a plaque indicating that the local council renovated the arcade in 2013. It’s just a shame that not all the units are occupied today. There is a bathroom and kitchen design store, a barber’s in addition to those already mentioned, but it is the coffee shop which keeps this arcade alive today.

My favourite shop today

RiRi’s Coffee House not only serves up great coffee in Keighley, but has a selection of tasty cakes and pastries. It has seating out in the arcade, by the coffee bar and in a small snug room at the side, where apparently they often organise evening events, a reggae night being a current favourite, it seems.

My pick of the arcade’s past

The Keighley Arcade Chambers opened in 1899 as a space for mainly white-collar businesses.

An early tenant was Silverwood estate agents; another was Weatherhead solicitors. By 1910 a Mr Baggs, solicitor operating out of the arcade, was advertising for a ‘smart man’ to manage the picture palace in Keighley (the advert appeared nationwide in The Stage newspaper of 1 December 1910 below an ad for a theatre doorman in Croydon and above a request for a pantomime actor on the Isle of Wight.) And then in 1913, it was Baggs again who advertised for a manager of the new theatre house which is still open today in Keighley, though in those days the applicant had to state the wage he wanted, as well as potential starting date. Age was of course also demanded…

After the Great War, in 1919, the arcade opened up to more than just the initial white-collar professionals, with Stanworth & Bartle tailors opening, specialising in indigo blue and black worsteds and woollens.

At the start of World War 2 in early 1940, the caretaker of the arcade, Iveson Moorhouse, died suddenly at the age of just 46. He had lived with shrapnel in his chest and abdomen since fighting in the Great War, and the post-mortem revealed a bullet in his stomach, which had slowly caused septic poisoning. (Bradford Observer 20 February 1940). And there was further tragedy in the arcade when an accountant in his 60s collapsed as he left his office in the arcade a few months later.

This arcade in films or books

I’ve yet to find any, but please comment below if you know any or have seen the arcade somewhere.

What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

Have you seen Arcade Chambers in Keighley in any film or book?

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today? Or what’s been your favourite gig at the cafe in the arcade?

Is there a website for this arcade?

No website or social media as such (though the coffee house is active on Facebook). The company which designed the refurbishment of the arcade’s 41 windows in 2013 has a web page about the whole restoration project.

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